Who first came up with "360 degree view" and when? This buzzwords feels mid-Bronze Age, like "1-to-1." Not quite paleolithic like "customer centric," but certainly old enough to have helped power the growth of billion-dollar businesses in ETL, data quality, systems integration.
For the uninitiated, "360 degree view of the customer" is about creating and providing access to a comprehensive collection of information about individual customers. It's the corporate memory for customer interactions. Without it we're like the character in Memento with no short-term memory, doomed to continually re-acquaint ourselves to customers, unable to differentiate between customers we've known for years and prospects we've never met. If we don't have data on our customer, we cannot know them, respect their preferences, develop new offerings they will value, etc.
Mature principles, tools, and practices underpin customer data warehousing, so organizations that haven't yet laid this steppingstone to customer-centric marketing can proceed with confidence. But if "360 degree view of the customer" is a worn-out buzzword, why is it still alive and kicking here and many other places? Probably because it's a moving target. Our digital economy produces a growing flood of types, sources and volumes of data that will keep our partners in IT running up the down escalator in perpetuity. For example, even obviously important data like on-line customer behavior was missing from more than four fifths of customer databases when Forrester last conducted their "State of the Customer Database" survey. Hence the "350 degrees" in today's title, which is a more realistic goal than a full 360. Openness and flexible data access on the part of marketing systems is the key to surviving and even thriving with this constant change. You don't want to be stuck waiting for IT to integrate any and every source of data you may need.
But now that creating the 350 degree view is largely a solved problem, providing access becomes the limiting factor to organizations fully harnessing customer data to drive customer-centric marketing. Generally speaking, only specialists in database marketing, analytics, and similar functions work directly with customer data. Some leading companies use EMM software to serve individual customer insight to real-time touch points like web, POS and call center. But the complexity of customer data and the tools used to access it prevent the majority of marketers from being able to make decisions based on their own analysis of customer data. Business intelligence vendors may claim to offer tools for "business users" to do their own analysis, but the truth is that the vast majority of marketers do little more than view canned reports.
The situation described by the head of customer insight for one of our customers, a leading West Coast retailer, is typical. They have a great customer data mart (one of the 18% will click stream data fully integrated) and implemented best-in-class OLAP technology to provide ad hoc analysis capabilities. But in the end merchandise managers and other marketers still email query requests to the customer insight team rather than leverage customer data themselves. Why can't they just slice and dice to their own answer to how many blue sweaters were sold in New England last quarter, I asked? "Well," he replied, "what is blue? Is 'aqua' blue? Our product hierarchy is huge and complicated, so marketers can drown in the data." The analysts understand the data. And, even the best OLAP tools are still just rows and columns. That may be fine for business users in finance, but it's not the way most marketers think about customers.
Unica has learned from our web analytics product, Affinium NetInsight, that data analysis can be democratized if marketers are given the right data, specific to their domain and questions, and the right way to look at it, through visualizations specific to marketing. We've just launched Affinium Insight for more general cross-channel customer analysis. We believe it will help IT and analytics teams derive more value from the 350 degree customer view they've worked so hard to create by extending access to non-specialists. After all, how customer-centric can marketing be if only a few marketers hear the voice of the customer?