Table of Contents
What is customer 360?
Customer 360 is a master data management approach in which a company builds a comprehensive customer profile with all information about that customer.
Customer 360 is commonly referred to as a “unified profile” or “360-degree customer view,” among other terms. Each profile integrates data and insights from every source across the customer’s journey and can include:
- Core details - The customer’s preferred name, contact details (which can include multiple email addresses or phone numbers), IP addresses, age, gender, and location
- Purchase history - Data on all transactions like orders, returns, products purchased, and total dollars spent
- Marketing and sales engagements - A history of the customer’s marketing and sales engagements, like demos held, calls taken, or links clicked on email
- Social media activity - The customer’s activity across social media channels
- Support interactions - A record of recent service or support conversations
Until recently, it has been challenging and costly for businesses to achieve a 360-degree view of a customer. Given the many integrations (sometimes hundreds) that are needed, it takes months to build a customer 360 solution from scratch. This is further complicated when stitching together incomplete, outdated, and unstructured data.
How did we arrive at customer 360?
Marketing and sales teams more than five years ago relied on limited customer data to create general personas and customer groups. It is now much easier for organizations to collect customer data at every interaction and use it to deliver hyper-personalized and effective services (often using artificial intelligence).
Customer 360 is increasingly necessary given that the average business uses more than 371 applications, which means that customer data is siloed and spread across literally hundreds of different sources. Some of these applications can include a company’s:
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Email service provider (ESP)
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
- Payment or invoicing software
- Sales platform
Customer 360 is more than a buzzword, it is the solution for organizations that want a single source of truth to deliver fulfilling experiences.
Which marketing channels are involved with customer 360?
Customer 360 pulls from every customer touchpoint spanning online and offline marketing channels.
Every source provides key insights for organizations to tailor their services and improve the overall customer experience. This comprehensive view also helps teams provide a consistent experience across channels, which customers increasingly expect.
Customer 360 enables a successful omnichannel approach, in which customers receive seamless and high-quality experiences that reflect their engagements and preferences across channels, regardless of the channel they are currently on.
The following are the common customer 360 channels and relevant details:
Offline and in-person channels
- In-store - Information on in-store purchases and activities like locations visited.
- Phone calls - Details about the customer’s phone orders or phone support sessions, or phone orders they placed through third-party partners or resellers.
- Direct mail - Recent mailers the customer received, which may include coupons or special offers.
- Events - Conferences or trade shows that the customer attended and their interactions with the organization, either at its booth or during its conference sessions.
Online and digital channels
- Website - How the customer engages with the brand website, including the date of the last website visit, page(s) viewed, and content they read or downloaded.
- Mobile applications - Whether the customer uses the brand’s mobile app and their activity on it.
- Social media - The customer’s social media channel(s) and recent activity, with a focus on identifying brand mentions or relevant personal insights.
- Email - Recent email interactions with the customer, including their engagement with a brand’s email marketing and which email(s) they are subscribed to.
- Advertising - Information on ads or offers the customer has been receptive to in the past.
- Virtual Events - Virtual events or webinars that the customer attended, including actions they may have taken, like downloading the presentation or a piece of content shared at the event.
Why does customer 360 matter?
Recent studies show that 71% of consumers expect companies to personalize their interactions, and 76% get frustrated if a brand shows or recommends things that aren’t relevant to them. The stakes are high for businesses that fail to deliver on their customer needs — 32% of customers would stop shopping with a brand they otherwise love after just one bad experience.
Gaining a complete view of a customer is the only effective way to provide personalized and consistent services.
Benefits of customer 360
Customers expect businesses to remember their preferences and personal details, send personalized offers and product recommendations, and seamlessly switch between mobile, online, and in-store experiences — all of which customer 360 enables.
Customer 360 empowers the organization to leverage up-to-the-minute customer details and the customer’s history with the brand and product or service. This helps them provide personalized support, communications, and offerings that reflect the customer’s preferences and respect their past interactions — which is proven to increase their loyalty, maximize the likelihood of driving repeat purchases, and unlock undeniable business advantages:
- Companies achieve 1.7 times greater year-over-year revenue growth and more than double their customer lifetime value by focusing on the customer experience compared to companies that don’t
- The likelihood of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, whereas selling to a new customer is only 5-20%
- 66% of organizations that invest in building better customer experiences cite improved customer retention rates
The majority of marketing, IT, and other enterprise leaders want to achieve customer 360, because it drives personalized customer experiences, improves customer satisfaction, and streamlines business processes.
Customer 360 use cases
Companies across industries can benefit from customer 360, with clear advantages for all departments or functions:
Members of a marketing team can benefit from a comprehensive customer view for advanced audience segmentation, personalization, and ad optimization. Email marketing, for example, can see what products a customer is typically interested in to deliver personalized recommendations (retailers can learn how to deliver data-driven promotions in this blog post). Product marketing, as another example, can learn a customer’s preferred resource type and offer a demo, customer testimonial, or discount based on their stage.
Sales representatives must understand a prospect’s history with the brand to approach them with appropriate offers or messages. It will likely hurt the customer relationship if they receive messages that treat them like a stranger. Hospitality brands, for instance, can reference customer 360 profiles to promote destinations based on a customer’s past booking, and sales reps can mention a customer’s past destinations in their outreach.
Customers expect brands to engage with them after making a purchase. Customer success representatives can activate customer 360 insights to give customers relevant materials and personalized communications. For example: Healthcare brands can send new members onboarding packets and welcome videos that explain how to access care and address common questions about getting started. These brands can send existing members updates on their preferred facilities and personalized information based on the services they’ve received.
Customer 360 gives business leaders a clear understanding of their customer and prospect behavior, which helps them better forecast sales, channel their resources, and generate revenue. This free webinar replay explains how customer 360 data can empower marketing teams.
Challenges of customer 360
Customer 360 presents inherent technology challenges, as well as data management and governance considerations. The primary challenges are connecting and standardizing data from the sources, which span a few hurdles
- Definition consensus - Teams must agree on what a customer 360 profile includes to decide which data feeds into it. This definition will guide what to build and how to measure its success.
- Data quality - Incomplete, missing, or inaccurate data creates confusion when building a unified customer profile. This often happens because of inconsistent governance and requires employee training to address the ongoing issue. A composable customer data platform (CDP) or first-party data platform can alleviate some of the challenges associated with fragmented data.
- Identity resolution - Customers often have different information in different systems, which makes it challenging to confirm their identity across profiles. For example, “Cameron Parker” could be listed under the nickname “Cam Parker” in one system and not have their last name listed in a different system. Learn how to manage identity resolution in this whitepaper.
- Enterprise requirements - Large companies and enterprises typically follow strict data management protocols that can create hurdles for accessing, managing, or migrating customer data.
- Internal metrics -Every organization has metrics it is tracking internally and some of these metrics are tied to the number of customers. Because customer 360 may aggregate multiple profiles into one profile, it's important to set that expectation that the number of users might actually decrease. Instead, set up alternative metrics like emails subscribed, store visits or purchases.
How to implement customer 360
Achieving a 360-degree customer view requires an initial setup and testing phase, and then ongoing data hygiene to ensure the system presents complete and accurate customer details. To start, teams need to align on the customer 360 strategy.
Customer 360 strategy kickoff
Identify which teams should collaborate to kick off the customer 360 strategy. Include stakeholders from all customer-facing teams, including marketing, sales, and customer success, as well as members of the engineering team and C-suite leadership.
During the initial conversation:
- Explain the importance of customer 360 and why the organization wants to implement it.
- Ask each leader about the data challenges their team faces and what they expect from a customer 360 profile.
- Collaboratively identify blockers to your success, such as identity resolution or data preparation challenges (explained in the section above).
Steps for customer 360 implementation
There are a few common steps to implement a customer 360 strategy. After the initial setup, many of these steps will repeat in a cycle, or happen in tandem as new data sources arise and teams manage the data.
- Data source identification -List all the software or systems that store customer data. Note the data types and formats.
- Data storage - Choose where to store all the customer data, ensuring it is secure and can scale with the data volume.
- Data collection - Gather all the data from the identified sources. This collection is often orchestrated through integrations or data aggregation tools like Google Looker or Tableau (among countless others).
- Data integration - Combine the information to create a unified customer profile. This step is where teams often realize issues with data quality and consistency. Most large enterprises like Dell Technologies, Microsoft, and Oracle offer data integration tools, and Gartner offers this ranking of the top data integration tools.
- Data cleansing - Scrub the data by identifying errors, removing duplicate entries, and finding missing information. TrustRadius shares customer reviews for popular data cleansing tools (like DemandTools and Dataloader.io from Salesforce) for you to compare.
- Data analysis - This is where teams realize the full potential of the data management efforts. Analyze the customer 360 data and segment audiences to inform marketing and sales campaigns. Stitch shares 24 data analysis tools you can consider in this post, which can include manual methods like Excel or Google Sheets.
- Data governance - The ongoing to-do for a successful customer 360 approach is consistent data practices. Ensure that team members know how to create and manage customer data, and establish practices to review and clean that data regularly.
Start with a small batch of data sources to test how the data integrates and assess the data quality. After overcoming the initial challenges, finish the integrations and finalize the customer 360 implementation.
Challenges with implementing customer 360
When implementing a customer 360 approach, follow these best practices to overcome the challenges companies commonly face:
- Prioritize data hygiene - Create and enforce data entry standards across teams. Establish protocols for entering, reviewing, and updating customer information, including how to spell customer names and whether or not to store nicknames. Regularly verify that your data is accurate by looking for discrepancies or integrating with data validation tools (like these options spotlighted on Solutions Review).
- Remember the business goals - Align the customer 360 strategy with the business goals. This will ensure the strategy will enable business success and help decide what each customer profile should include. If a business aims to expand its footprint in new markets, for example, customer profiles should include geographic details to help businesses more quickly identify and understand its potential customers in specific markets. If a business goal is to improve customer retention (which will support ongoing business success), then the customer profiles should include satisfaction scores or reviews so representatives can resolve issues and try to repair the relationship with customers who may be dissatisfied.
Customer 360 tools
Customer 360 requires a comprehensive view of all customer data, so teams must assess where to store and manage the customer data. It’s vital to revisit the organization’s customer 360 goals and assess what tools already exist in the organization to consider how the following tools might fit in the strategy:
- Business intelligence (BI) solution - BI tools analyze and visualize company data so decision-makers can make informed decisions. A BI tool can connect to a data warehouse to enable customer 360, but this could require a significant investment or ongoing access to skilled developers.
- Composable customer data platform (CDP) - Composable CDPs exist to help organizations activate customer 360 for marketing and sales activities. Composable CDPs can leverage data in real time and are extremely customizable.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) system - CRMs are a popular tool for companies to manage relationships with all customers and prospects, making them vital for customer 360. A challenge, however, is that many CRMs may not offer advanced analytics or robust integrations to transfer the data. Further, CRMs typically focus primarily on marketing and sales data.
- Data warehouse - A data warehouse is required to store the customer 360 data. Teams can connect a composable CDP to the warehouse to activate that data across different channels, such as a CRM or ESP. A business intelligence tool can connect to the warehouse to analyze the data and provide key insights.
When evaluating potential tools and deciding if they are valuable for the company’s customer 360 strategy, research how much each tool costs, the volume of data it can hold (and how that may affect pricing), what integrations it offers, the level of customization it can provide, the user experience, and what support its team offers for setup and maintenance.