Getting the perfect SCV may not be achievable, but getting one that boosts sales certainly is

I came across an article recently that attributed to Camelot insight chief Nick Bonney a view that, in the era of so-called Big Data, seemed on the surface self-defeating. A Marketing Week article contended that Bonney “does not believe a true Single Customer View (SCV) will ever be within reach”. My fear is that some companies actually think that this matters.

Bonney is quoted as saying at his Marketing Week Live 2014 presentation, Joining The Dots, that the true 360-degree customer view is not possible: “I don’t think we will ever get there. Consumers are starting to say ‘we do not want you to take my behaviour and know everything about me’.” The article goes to quote him as saying: “Someone looking at the data will only get a partial view. You need to be realistic about the amount of data you are able and need to collect.” He adds that some customers are now not even bothered about swiping their loyalty cards.

My hope is that Bonney is actually making the point that, while creating an unquestionably true and 100% complete Single Customer View can be tricky, there is no reason you shouldn’t strive for it. Certainly something that provides individual insight and guides campaign decision-making is not only achievable but being done by many companies – we are doing it right now for many of our clients. You may not get perfection but you can certainly get something that helps you achieve an incremental lift in sales and profits.

Our own research has shown that customers are only really content to give a brand data if they get something back for it, and this is where the wrapper of a loyalty or customer relationship programme comes in. The research revealed that, in fact, 78% of customers are only happy to provide information to a company if they belong to its loyalty scheme. And we know from the high penetration we achieve with our schemes that, if customers are engaged in a loyalty programme, they will ensure they swipe the card.

The point that isn’t covered in this brief article – I don’t know if it was in the speech – is that an SCV is more about bringing all the data sources together than just getting 100% from one source and then knowing everything there is to know about the customer from that. For instance, more often than not companies fail to recognise good in-store customers when they go online – and thus fail to interact with them in a relevant way – because they haven’t bought the data together. That’s the more important thing.

In reality, consumers today expect marketing to be highly targeted and, if done effectively, these campaigns should actually be welcomed by most people because they accurately address genuine needs – based on the insight gleaned from analysis of the data. Uninformed and untargeted direct marketing is simply a waste and ends up alienating more customers than it wins over.

What’s more, if something happens to trading patterns, the database is the first and often the only place to go to find out what and why. As Bonney also quite rightly points out, social media seldom holds the answers and should be ignored until the real data is analysed. Too often it is simply a sounding board for a minority of customers and adds little of real value to the SCV – especially if it cannot be consistently captured.

So you better keep striving to build a useful SCV by bringing together all the data you can get. I agree totally that a 100% complete and accurate SCV is probably unobtainable, but 98% just might be – and that is more than good enough to make better decisions and improve profitability.

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