The Two Biggest Failings of the Single Customer View

The Single Customer View (SCV) is an aggregated way of looking at all information you hold about customers.

Essentially you track metrics such as sales, products purchased, revenue, emails sent, phone calls made, etc. for each customer who interacts with your business through any channel in a big database.

It allows marketers to quickly find juicy groups of people to target their next campaign at.

And the more segmented your audience, the more likely you are to deliver a targeted message which inspires them to buy your stuff.

You’ve got to do tons of integration work to get each data source talking with a single repository (a problem that becomes increasingly complex with scale, both in terms of number of customers and number of data sources), but the benefits are obvious.

The benefits

  • A decrease in the amount of time your marketing team spend messing about in Excel trying to consilidate multiple data sources.

  • Less strain on IT resources who are constantly hassled for data dumps from multiple databases around the organisation.

  • An increase in the time they have to identify customer groups worth pursuing.

  • The ability to more finely segment your audience due to a rich set of data about them.

  • A single source of ‘the truth’ that anyone in the organisation can look at.

  • More targeted marketing campaigns and on-site personalisation resulting in improved customer life time value, better retention and less churn.

Where it falls down

Failing 1: It only tracks customers

95-99% of people who visit your website don’t convert. The single CUSTOMER view is only going to help you once a person has already shown some loyalty towards your brand by becoming a prospect or purchasing.

What about the vast majority of people who don’t convert?

The ideal system should track interactions of all people on your website.

Remember – you don’t need to know who a person is in order to segment. For example, segment by number of visits, location, traffic source, types of product or service viewed and types of interaction performed on the site.

Targeting them is a little trickier – you can’t email, phone or flyer them. But you can use:

  • on-site banner and content retargeting

  • display ad retargeting

  • paid search retargeting

Much of this information can already be gathered from web analytics tools such as Google Analyitcs, Adobe SiteCatalyst, MixPanel and KISSmetrics.

So why collect it in your own system?

Because you want a central repository that holds information about the person just in case they become a customer in the future.

Doing so will allow you to:

  • see what someone did on your website before they became a customer.

  • use that knowledge to predict who is likely to become a customer in the future.

  • upsell to known customers based on what they looked at on the site prior to becoming a customer.

  • refine your marketing acquisition strategies to acquire high value customers.

Failing 2: It only tracks ‘people’ type data

There are many other factors that affect how well your marketing campaigns perform and who is buying what. For example, the TV schedule, the current weather, your stock levels, the season, the economic climate.

Imagine you sell winter clothing in the US. You might create a customer group that has bought winter coats something in the past 12 months, and now want to sell them a pair of gloves and a hat.

A simple strategy would be to email that group as a whole.

A more sophisticated strategy would be to segment the group into sub groups based on the weather in their region.

If a cold spell is predicted in New York in the next two weeks, send them the email. There’s no point in emailing everyone, especially if they are having a mini heatwave in their region.

Or maybe one of your warehouses in the north has an oversupply of gloves and a warehouse in the south has too many hats.

Wouldn’t it be handy if the system knew that type of information too?

Weather and stock levels don’t fit neatly into the SCV.

Evolving the Single Customer View

The Single Customer View is great, but it can be improved. And in order to do so we need to move away from calling it a Single Customer View.

We need a system that tracks everything relevant to your business, not just information about customers.

The current buzzword for such a system is a DMP (Data Management Platform), which seems to have evolved out of the ad serving space.

Either way, the DMP’s I’ve seen are still heavily focused on customer centric data.

In my opinion, a DMP should:

  • be able to handle any type of unstructured data.

  • enable quick and easy integrations of different data sources.

  • be easy to query, be that via a custom build user interface or programmatically.

  • have some logic in it to connect related events, people and patterns.

This is where I believe the future or data driven business lies. Some people are calling it ‘Data Virtualization’.

Platforms such as Splunk, Datashaka, Platfora, Doma and Composite are already springing up to assist in the area of ‘Big Data’ (cringe). They go some way to fullfilling the needs of the ideal DMP and will be interesting to watch in the future.


  • Don’t just think in terms of customers. 95% of people who visit your website don’t convert.

  • Let’s move away from the Single Customer View and towards a Data Management Platform.

  • The Data Management Platform must be able to handle any type of data your business will throw at it, including non-customer centric data.

  • There are some interesting companies playing in the DMP and Data Virtualization space. Keep an eye on them.

Ed Brocklebank (aka Metric Mogul) is an analytics and digital marketing consultant. He helps business of all sizes become more data-driven through measurement, strategy and activation. He works as a Strategic Analytics Director at Jellyfish in London, as well as delivering training on behalf of Google and formerly General Assembly.