One profile to serve them all: how a unified customer view drives mar-tech bliss

Full disclosure, I am a big The Lord of the Rings fan. But trust me – there is nothing dark or malevolent about the “one profile” as in this case; conferring with the often invisible data, is only intended to increase the relevance of our business-to-consumer interactions.

I am of course referring to a universal customer profile that can give you the power to personalize user experiences in real-time, using all the data available in a single view. With Black Friday almost upon us and retail growth forecast at just about 4 percent this season, the pressure is on retailers to drive better results this year.

So how can retailers vie for a slice of the highly competitive holiday pie?

We know digital will be growing in importance, even with the lion’s share of retail buying still occurring in brick-and-mortar stores. Deloitte researchers, for example, forecast that digital interactions this year will have a bigger impact on spending, influencing 64 percent, or $434 billion in retail store sales. That’s up from 50 percent last year. Deloitte also reports that about 80 percent of shoppers indicate they engage via digital channels in advance of going to a store. And now we learn that three-quarters of shoppers use mobile devices while shopping in-store, according to a new report from InReality, supported by additional research conducted by comScore.


How will retail marketers respond?

Feeling the pressure, its likely many marketing teams will mash away on their siloed applications and data sets to get as much engagement with consumers as possible. But what’s clear is that same old approach isn’t going to drive big increases in revenue or assure happy customers. Indeed, it is a big problem that most marketing vendors still develop profiles of their customers based on behavior in single channel only-siloed data, driving siloed marketing actions.

Why not consider transforming your marketing with a universal customer profile based on omnichannel data that creates a full portrait of the individual as he or she naturally moves across in-store and digital landscapes? Leveraging a universal customer profile is the only way you can personalize marketing. If you know someone is spending a lot of time on your mobile app and buying in-store, for example, a profile will give you the data and insight to treat them as a higher-value customer on your website as well.

Universal customer profile defined

As I stated at the beginning, all this goodness starts with unifying and stitching together all available data. Enterprise tag management makes it possible to collect rich, first-party data, from typically siloed digital domains without help from IT. Mar-tech innovation gives us the ability to connect into off-site and offline data in the form of:

  • Display ad impressions
  • Email opens
  • Video interactions
  • CRM updates
  • The voice of customer surveys

The profile also may draw from other marketing technologies including data management platforms (DMPs), used to support digital advertising, and analytics solutions, used to measure results and develop predictive scenarios.

So, rather than basing marketing activities on single-channel profiles, we need to stitch together profiles from all of these data sources. We need to unify data from different devices, applications, and channels, even when they are based on disparate rules and definitions, into a single data layer. This is the quickest path to launching personalization.

Think of it as the difference between a grainy picture and one with high-pixel resolution; you get to see the unique interests and behaviors of an individual, not a hypothetical segment built from an amalgamated set of data. That’s the key to getting the right message, to the right person, at the best time, and best location.

Pragmatically speaking, let’s consider this simple use case

A traveler planning a vacation first visits an all-inclusive travel website to browse rates for airfare and hotels, clicking on an airline’s promotional banner ad or simply watching a travel video with an embedded ad. Those impressions are captured, and when he or she visits the airline homepage or mobile app, they are recognized, and their behavior to date is stitched together.

CRM data, such as frequent flyer information, further enriches the profile to ensure any content in the form of ads or offers is indeed relevant to our would-be traveler. The brand may even activate a live chat window or a voice-of-the-customer survey, targeting high-value customers with more timely and personalized engagement.

All this occurs very quickly and the information is added in real-time to the universal customer profile, which depends on data collected; segmented, enriched, and distributed out in real-time to other marketing applications or partners. The profile essentially enables a network effect across all your existing mar-tech investments, improving how each fulfills its purpose in customer engagement – just like magic.


The universal profile is indeed the lynchpin to optimizing the customer journey. So, in that spirit, I’ll conclude with my very own verse, inspired by the great Tolkien: “One Profile to serve them all, One Profile to find them, One Profile to engage them all, and with relevance, convert them.

Article images via Flickr.

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