As retailers maneuver to compete and survive in today’s digital landscape, progressing out from channel and functional driven silos, creating a single view of the customer (SVC) is the most critical foundational capability. With it, retailers can deliver personalized service, achieve higher conversion rates, and drive brand loyalty. Without it, customer expectations, sales, loyalty and ultimately customers themselves, will be lost. Creating a single view of the customer must start with a 360° view of the customer. This is the biggest blind spot for retailers dealing with the disrupted marketplace.
I recently spoke with Dave Cherry, Executive Advisor for Cherry Advisory, LLC to discuss how retailers can address this challenge.
Gary Drenik: Let’s start by defining SVC. What is it and why is it so important?
Dave Cherry: First, it is important to note that SVC is a concept – not a process, product or database. It is a “platform” that presents a structured, clean view of customer data, linked seamlessly to create a comprehensive and consistent view of the customer across the organization. SVC means that the organization has a complete picture of the customer that is accessible and actionable. It means more than mining internal customer transaction files, and recognizes that external data needs to be fused with internal data for an accurate view of customers.
SVC is critical to enable retailers to meet rising customer expectations. Customers expect that retailers know their preferences, order history, contact history and all interactions with the brand – both for the specific customer and their household. Without SVC, retailers may make costly mistakes that negatively impact service, conversion and loyalty.
Drenik: What is included in SVC?
Cherry: The specific elements of a SVC are slightly different for each retailer, and should be driven by decision modeling approach that identifies critical data elements necessary to improve confidence in decision making. That said, SVC can be broken down into 3 categories:
Drenik: What are some of the challenges facing retailers as they look to create SVC?
Cherry: The first and most important challenge that retailers face is related to the decision modeling approach that I referenced earlier. Most retailers don’t know what data they actually need and utilize to make critical business decisions. They get stuck in the trap of “big data”, trying to accumulate (and govern) as much customer data as possible, as opposed to the preferred approach of “smart data”, whereby one gathers and governs only that data that has direct applicability and influence on decision-making or business actions.
The second challenge is that most retailers are too inwardly focused on their data gathering approach. They have great volumes of POS and e-commerce transactional data as well as some demographic and behavioral data. However, most fail to take advantage of the tremendous value of external data– from economic indicators to customer spend at competitors and so much more. This data does not exist internally and can be best obtained through direct interaction with customers and non-customers via surveys.
Finally, they data that most retailers do have is not easily accessible or consumable by those that need it. It is often housed in various transactional data stores with duplicate records, inconsistencies and various levels of completeness, making it hard to link data to create a single view of a customer across the organization.
Drenik: So how would a retailer go about solving these challenges?
Cherry: Solving the SVC challenge begins with defining a strategy to deliver complete and accurate customer data in a timely and consumable fashion – knowing what data to leverage and sourcing it from both internal and external systems. Retailers should create a roadmap to enable SVC, using prioritized use cases (e.g. marketing promotions; customer service; order status inquiry) as the guide. It is not necessary to build a complete SVC at once – implementing by use case will enable the quickest path to value.
New technology is required, but this does not mean a wholesale re-architecture of the IT environment or a custom data storage solution. Existing transactional systems and data stores can and should be leveraged, minimizing data movement, storage, and duplication. Fusing of internal data with external consumer data is the only accurate way of getting a 360° view of a customer base. Several vendors now exist that can help retailers connect their existing data stores in a business user-friendly interface, thereby enabling self-service analytics.
SVC is the most critical foundation of a customer-centric approach to retail. Achieving this will result in an improved customer experience, improved employee experience, cost savings, revenue growth and increased customer loyalty.