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What Is a Unified Customer Profile?

A unified customer profile is a record that gives you a comprehensive view of your users (visitors, customers, prospects, and subscribers) based on every interaction, online or offline, they have with your company. [Nuthawut Somsuk / Getty]

When companies don’t have a single record of customer activity, interactions are impersonal, disjointed, outdated and, often, just plain annoying. Here's how to avoid that.

Have you ever been asked to write a review of an item you’ve already returned? Or been offered a discount on an item you bought last week? Or gotten solicitations for pet food despite never having owned an animal? 

These are just the kind of irksome scenarios that a unified customer profile can help your business avoid. 

What is a unified customer profile?

A unified customer profile is a record that gives you a comprehensive view of your users (visitors, customers, prospects, and subscribers) based on every interaction, online or offline, that they have with your company.  

It gives every business team a single view of every customer. All customer data, from any system, channel or stream, is harmonized in real time and powered by AI to give you insights and the power to make personalized recommendations. 

How does real-time data even work?

Real-time data is continually collected and translated into usable information, the minute it is generated or received by an organization. Batch data processing occurs less frequently, on a set schedule, and is dependent on a series of sequences to process batches of data at set intervals.

The case for change

  • Organizations use an average of 1,061 apps to run their business. 
  • Only 29% of these are integrated.
  • This disconnect means that leaders cannot generate meaningful insights from all their data; in fact, there’s a huge gap between the personalized services businesses think they’re delivering, and what they are actually delivering. 

    The customer view

    When companies don’t have a single account of customer activity, interactions are impersonal, disjointed, outdated and, often, just plain annoying. But consider what happens when you have a unified customer profile, updated in real time: 

    • Casey’s, the third-largest convenience store chain in the U.S., used MuleSoft to connect customer data across multiple systems and third-party apps, segmenting customer data into unique groups based on in-store and online activity. And it acts on that in real time. 
    • For example, it tailors offers based on type and quantity of goods purchased; if a customer usually buys a single pizza, it can send offers for free accompaniments via SMS. 
    • It also tailors promotional emails to customer’s in-store, online, and mobile purchase history, and adapts send times to individual customer behavior.
    • The result: personalized, timely offers resulting in a 16% increase in the number of people who made a purchase.

    “Everything we know about a customer is unified in Data Cloud,” said Art Sebastian, Casey’s vice president of digital experiences. “If we see groups of customers shopping in the mornings, we can tag them as ‘breakfast shoppers,’ making it very easy for marketers to create segments and communicate a value proposition.” 

    Why it’s important for you to have a unified customer profile

    The ways that customers interact with you are varied, numerous, and growing constantly. Each interaction not only triggers a different way to collect, process, and act on that data, but also creates a separate customer profile — for the same customer! 

    Which of these profiles is right, newest, and most complete? It’s impossible to know unless they are aggregated into a single record, and updated in real time. When you don’t have this complete picture of your customers: 

    • You send offers they don’t want or need
    • You miss opportunities to send offers they do want and need 
    • You annoy customers by asking them to repeat information you should already have

    AI-powered unified profiles give you real-time visibility into all customer interactions (online, offline, mobile, social, etc.) so you can give them what they actually want, when they want it, instead of guessing.

    “Effective journey orchestration with unified customer profiles that track user data in real time as they engage with various touch points can have a profound impact on customer satisfaction, dramatically reduce churn, and increase conversion,” notes a white paper from Tata Consulting, an IT consulting and services company. “In this digital age, a customer’s profile can never be complete since new behavior traits keep emerging continually.” 

    How to build a unified customer profile

    Start by connecting your data sources — marketing, sales, service, commerce — into a single record. How? Mulesoft uses a combination of APIs, cloud-based integration principles, and robotic process automation (RPA) to pull data from all sources, including legacy systems. A customer relationship management (CRM) system where the apps that each team uses are connected gives you better visibility into customer activity. 

    Another important step: storing the new masses of customer data in a data lake. An integrated CRM system that connects easily to a data lake stores and harmonizes data, and sends relevant information back to the customer’s profile. 

    This is very different from conventional approaches, which Tata Consulting says “are incapable of capturing customer data from all systems and channels, cleansing, matching, merging and enriching customer profiles in real time.” 

    Because customer data comes from all corners of your company — marketing, sales, service and more – maintaining the unified view should be everyone’s responsibility. 

    According to a KMPG article by Brad Jenkins, managing director of enterprise innovation, “Each group approaches the customer from a unique vantage point, each is focused on different cross sections of customer interactions, each generates data and insights that contribute to a unified view of the customer.” 

    He says that KMPG is uniting all vantage points to create rich, comprehensive, easy-accessible profiles. “We then integrate those profiles with downstream systems, used by sales and marketing, to drive relevant, unified customer experiences.” 

    How Formula 1 connected its customer data – and achieved 88% fan satisfaction

    The company’s customer data now lives in one place, enabling it to connect in-person interactions with digital ones to draw the right insights and reach fans in the moment.

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