Why building a single customer view isn’t as easy as you might think

We all know why a single view of your customer is important, especially if your business operates through several non-integrated brands, platforms and sales channels, so we’ll say no more on that.

So why don’t enough businesses have a proper single customer view?  What excuse could possibly be good enough?

Whilst the excuse “it’s too hard” is never going to cut the mustard in the long-term, in the case of single customer views, it could be considered reason enough to have not developed one ‘yet’.

And here’s why.

Firstly, there’s an awful lot of thinking to be done about how exactly you define ‘a customer’.  Are they defined by unique email addresses?  Perhaps, but what about all of those people that share an email address (janeandbob@thevincents.com).  They’re separate customers, so should be treated as such.  Do you define a person as a combination of elements of their name and address?  Almost certainly, but you need to build into your logic the fact that names change (marriage for example), or can be spelt differently (Dave Vs. David).  It’s a minefield, but it’s necessary to get it right.  You’ll generally end up with a complex set of 5 or 6 criteria, some of which will be ‘fuzzy’ criteria, using regular expressions,  that are applied in turn to identify ‘a customer’.

Secondly, they are quite simply devilishly computationally expensive (they require masses of computer power to build, and are likely to take a very long time).  This is because the list of customers that you are loading into your warehouse needs to be iteratively referenced back to itself, based on the complex rule set outlined above, to check whether it recognises that customer among the rest of the records.  If it does, then your extract, transform and load (ETL) process needs to pick up the ‘metacustomerid’ for that customer, otherwise it needs to create a new one.

Throw in several brands and channels, and all of a sudden you’ve got a process that can take many hours to complete.

It’s at times like this that it’s essential to get it right from the point of a ‘blank sheet of paper’ design, all the way through to building the data structures and processes.

You won’t be surprised to hear that we’ve got a great deal of experience building single customer views for our clients.

If you’d like to discuss ways in which we can help you ‘get it right’ then please get in touch.