No doubt, you’ve heard of it.

It’s called by many names: the golden record; the single source of truth. However, it is most often referred to as customer 360. What all these terms are referring to is a holistic view of a customer’s data, covering every single touchpoint and interaction with your company as well as incorporating third-party data sources that give a more complete view of the customer. Ideally, this data is available consistently across the enterprise, actually providing a single source of truth for applications from product innovation to media to next-best-experience marketing.

Initially, customer 360 was a catch-all term to mean one-to-one personalization, constructing a 360-degree view of your customer as a necessary step to activate direct communication at the customer level. In most cases today, however, we find that it is either an analogue for various forms of segmentation or a way to leverage data in customer journeys.

So Where Are We With Customer 360 Today?

It depends. You might find yourself among the fortunate few with robust first-party data, well-developed insights processes and infrastructure, and a data-championing executive who is totally bought in on the need for customer 360 and a willingness to cut a big fat check for the necessary tools and resources to enable it.

More likely, you’re amongst the majority with bits and pieces of the customer 360 puzzle and a long roadmap of incremental steps to get closer to actualizing a golden record. Unfortunately, no matter what vendors say, there is no technology panacea to this problem. Like all the most difficult challenges in business, it requires alignment between partners, practices, platforms, and data.

The Road To Customer 360 Is Paved With Question Marks

The term customer 360 suggests a complete picture of your customer. But let’s face it, that’s neither necessary nor practical. The truth is that nearly all real-world implementations will necessarily fall short of customer 360 — and that’s OK.

Believe it or not, an exhaustive view of every single aspect, attribute, and interaction of your customer might not be necessary to deliver personalized messages or next-best experiences. The right approach will always depend on your maturity and your use case. You might not need to spend the money, effort, and time on building a comprehensive view of your customer if you can meet your objectives with less. In other words, you don’t need to build an airplane for a trip to the grocery store.

Whatever your aim may be, your customer 360 strategy will require answers to various questions across a framework of partners, practices, platforms, and data:

  • Partners. How do I get buy-in from leadership? What staffing is required to run our program? Which teams in our organization will serve as enthusiastic recipients of these insights?
  • Practices. Which analytical methods should we leverage? What’s the update frequency? Does it need to be real-time?
  • Platforms. Should we build something in house or buy from an outside provider? Which features do we prioritize to meet our objectives? Will we need to consolidate, integrate, or do away with existing platforms to make room for new ones?
  • Data. What data do I already have? Is our first-party customer data ready to use, or will we need to clean it? Do I need to acquire third-party data such as web/mobile experience data or transactional information? If so, which vendors should I use?

These are some of the questions that I seek to answer through my research. If you are currently working on enabling customer 360 for your company and have success stories or ongoing challenges, I’d love to hear from you!