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What is Customer 360

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What is Customer 360

by Arturo Mendiola


The digital marketing industry continues to be obsessed with the concept of Customer 360 (aka a 360-degree view of the customer).

Customer 360 not only aggregates multiple sources of customer data — giving you a complete understanding of who your users are and what they want — it turns this data into actionable insights you can leverage to engage your customers and guide them along the path to conversion. In the long run, if you're able to create better experiences for your customers it becomes a competitive advantage for your brand and fosters higher customer lifetime value.

We wrote about Customer 360 a couple years ago, underscoring the five main types of customer data: demographic, transactional, environmental, behavioral, and social you need to activate this view. Since then, the buzz around this Holy Grail has only intensified as personalization strategies and AI technologies have given digital marketers more firepower than ever before.

But despite the enormous benefits of this holistic view — not to mention all the dollars companies are throwing toward this goal — Customer 360 continues to elude businesses of all shapes and sizes. Let’s find out why.

Why do companies struggle to achieve Customer 360?

It’s not for lack of trying. Or a lack of data — most enterprise companies are already sitting on a wealth of customer data. The struggle usually comes down to multiple teams working in vacuums with different aspects of the customer journey they're responsible for. For instance, your digital experience team might own the brand website or ecommerce destination, while your email marketing team plans and activates campaign sends, and your media team (or a third party) runs mass media ad buys.

We see this happen time and again in large organizations — disconnected teams and departments working in siloes as they collect different customer data points across multiple channels, touchpoints, and devices. And when customer data lives in different places, stitching it together requires a lot of manual effort.

The outcome: Teams end up leaning on educated guesses to determine who their customers are. Sometimes they hit the target — but all too often disconnected data leads to disconnected experiences.

Does this sound all too familiar? Don’t worry. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Where do I start?

Start with the customer! At Horizontal, our Experience-Forward mindset puts customers and their needs at the absolute center of everything we do. Because when you put people first — when you focus on the experience you're creating for customers — you take the first step toward creating lasting relationships with them.

Once you take stock of your product and service offerings and plot out the perfect omnichannel customer journey, it’s time to leverage a customer data platform (CDP) to aggregate your data. CDPs offer built-in capabilities (think connectors and data visualization dashboards) to help jumpstart the process.

Read more: How do you optimize customer journeys in the experience economy?

To unify your data and achieve true Customer 360, you’ll need to go through four key phases.

Phase 1: Assess your data sources

In this phase, you’ll determine which customer data points are being captured, where they're being stored, and who has access to it. If you're like a lot of organizations, the data is spread across a wide range of disparate systems: POS, OMS, business intelligence and analytics, ecomm, CSR/service platforms, accounts, mass marketing campaigns, marketing automation, and social engagement.

Phase 2: Structuring and modeling your data

Once you’ve analyzed your data sources, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate things at the enterprise level. This involves the business processes, organizational structures, and business goals. You’ll also want to take a look at the security and compliance of the data you’re capturing — specifically how it flows through different systems and which integrations are required. From there, you’ll need to define how the data within the CDP should be structured and modeled to build the customer profile. To create a holistic view of your customers, you’ll want to include data points and attributes like:

  • Transactional data
  • Engagement interactions
  • Paid media
  • Onsite behavior
  • Personally identifiable and demographic information
  • Account details
  • Loyalty rewards points and eligibility
  • Device data

Phase 3: Matching individual identities and accessing records

At this stage, you'll consolidate individual customer profiles, (eliminating duplicate records for each customer so you end up with a clean and efficient system of record).

Once the data is cleansed, you can set up the proper access and workflows within the CDP for your teams to view the data and take action based on it. Today's CDPs have dashboards, reports, and even automated machine learning features that help marketers provide contextual and enhanced personalization derived from key customer attributes and data points.

Phase 4: Segmenting your audiences and activating your data

After your data is unified and integrated, you can cluster customers into audience segments to develop targeted messaging and campaigns to drive awareness at scale. You can also create 1:1 personalized interactions on digital destinations, such as your brand site and commerce experiences.

Phase 5: Embrace a data-led culture

Gone are the days of relying on gut instinct or "but this is how we've done it in the past" to know exactly who your customers are and what they need. Today’s marketing, IT, and business teams are being held to higher standards of evidence-based outcomes. Embracing a company culture that is data-led will help your organization leverage intel in the right ways for the sake of building better customer experiences.

Which CDP is right for my organization?

Today’s organizations have an abundance of options. Recent acquisitions of CDP solutions, along with custom built offerings by major marketing technology players allow companies to seamlessly connect with their existing CMS platforms they have in their tech stack. If you’re already using Acquia, Salesforce, or Sitecore to enable customer journeys, these three options are worth considering:

  • Acquia CDP via the Agilone acquisition (now Acquia CDP) in late 2019.
  • Salesforce Customer 360 Audiences – a homegrown solution that entered the market in October of 2020.
  • Sitecore’s purchase of Boxever CDP to round out its full end-to-end digital experience and omnichannel personalization capabilities in 2021.

Considering your path to digital transformation via a Customer 360 approach and a CDP? Horizontal can partner with you during the mission-critical strategic planning and execution phases to successfully drive your holistic CX forward.

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