To deliver hyper-personalized experiences with relevant content, marketers need to have an understanding of customer needs and behaviors. A single data point, such as entry channel or campaign, won’t cut it. Personalization requires robust engagement data that gives actionable insight into who customers are and what they’re interested in. Marketers often refer to this understanding as having a 360-degree view of a customer, meaning they can see and act on the customer’s entire history of interactions with your brand — past and present.

As organizations strive to achieve this 360-degree customer view, it’s important to understand what that really means, the benefits you can expect to gain when seeing the customer relationship from all angles, and how to go about collecting data to compile that 360-degree view.

There are various ways a company can learn about its target customers, including collecting explicit data from forms, tracking website visits and purchases, or gathering unstructured data, like contextual information from social channels. While there are different ways to paint the complete picture of a customer, the most important thing to note is the need to aggregate this data in a centralized location. The more data you have in one place, the easier it is to understand an individual customer’s behavior and deliver personalization to meet their specific needs.

Once you have a complete picture of the available customer information, the next step is to ensure it’s accessible to all relevant departments throughout the company. This way, anyone who interacts with the customer will understand what’s happened already and how the customer likely feels about the current situation. By sharing customer data and insights seamlessly across the organization, you remove friction, allowing for faster responses and better customer service.

Data classification: What exactly is the difference between structured data and unstructured data, and why do you need to understand these classifications?

Structured data includes information that can easily be placed in predefined fields such as age, contact information, and numerical ratings.    Unstructured data doesn't fit neatly into the rows and columns of a spreadsheet, but it does offer critical details for understanding the customer. Examples of unstructured data include social media insights, Voice of Customer (VoC) research, and email correspondence.

It’s critical to capture and analyze both types of data to understand not only the facts of a customer interaction but also the sentiment and emotion behind engagement.

(You can learn more on this topic in this video by Forbes Contributor, Bernard Marr.)

Benefits of a 360-degree customer view

There’s no question — seeing a customer from all angles is helpful in crafting marketing strategies. But it’s also essential to look at the value this 360-degree view can provide from a business perspective. What’s the value to your organization of increasing efficiency, lowering costs, and gaining a better understanding of customer trends? Let’s take a closer look at the potential business benefits, when you execute well on a 360-degree strategy:

  • Operational efficiency: Give marketing, sales, and customer support access to the same 360-degree view of a customer, and the company can respond to inquiries and resolve issues more quickly, without asking customers to repeat information they already provided through another channel. This kind of omnichannel efficiency leads to increased customer satisfaction and reduced churn.
  • Higher engagement and brand loyalty: A 360-degree customer view helps you make the right offers or present the right content at just the right times, so you can delight your customers with personalized experiences they’ll remember for a very long time. Show how well you know each individual (without being creepy of course), and they’ll reward you by engaging more often.
  • Predictive analysis: With a complete view of the customer, you can better anticipate demand, drive opportunities to upsell and cross-sell, and increase the lifetime value of the relationship. Ultimately, the goal is to provide the best possible experiences to all of your customers.

How to achieve a 360-degree customer view

Once you’ve identified the 360-degree customer view vision as a top priority, you’ll want to consider the technology and business factors that make for a successful execution. Let’s look at the technology piece first.

Your mission is to gather all available data — structured and unstructured, current and historical — into one central place, and then establish a process to capture, analyze, and respond in real time to the various channels of communication. It’s critical to layer in the contextual or unstructured data that’s extracted from social, voice, and digital channels so you get a complete picture of the situation. Easier said than done?

A powerful customer experience platform that combines customer data, analytics, and marketing automation capabilities is an efficient way to meet the technology demands of your 360-degree strategy. In our experience, the alternative of connecting many disparate point solutions adds considerable time and cost to the effort.

Barend Emmerzaal, Sitecore MVP and Business Consultant for Macaw explains: “While individual tools may seem like a good choice, they make it harder to achieve the 360-degree customer view and a truly data-driven strategy. You end up with multiple data sources that are hard to combine and take time to connect to all your other sources, assuming that’s even possible.”

Whatever approach you choose, make sure it will empower your team with a solution that is collaborative, flexible, and agile. Once you’ve sorted out the approach to technology, it’s time to get the business onboard, and doing this requires considering the people part of the equation. Check out this two-part series on digital experience organizations by SBOS Marketing Consultant Elain Bair:

Examples of creating a 360-degree customer view

Many companies in the Sitecore community have successfully executed on their Customer strategies. For example, Open Universities Australia worked with consulting partner Avanade to build a Sitecore platform that enables simpler, more seamless interactions with university partners and students while also creating a 360-degree view of the student base.

Similarly, Bluegreen Vacations rebuilt its online presence to improve the transactional elements of buying timeshare properties, and also to serve up specialized content and vacation recommendations to each individual. This dramatically reduced call-center hours, saving an anticipated $3 million a year. Now, customers who do chose to call in are served by agents with a 360-degree view of their journey — across mobile, desktop, and call-center channels. Between its improved online and call-center channels, Bluegreen projects $10 million in revenue increases related to upsells, additional nights booked, resort stays, and improved activation rates.

When marketers have a 360-degree view of their customers, they can deliver truly personalized experiences that drive revenue and strengthen customer loyalty. It all comes down to knowing what’s happened in the past, what pain points and motivations the customer is feeling now, and where you want the relationship to go in the future.

For many organizations, starting a 360-degree project can open the door to a full digital transformation. Learn more about launching a digital transformation initiative in “The definitive guide to digital transformation.” For more tips on making your 360-degree customer view vision a reality, check out Sitecore partner Salesforce’s on-demand webinar, Master Your Marketing: How-to Transform Consumer Experiences with Your Customer 360 Guide.

Jill Grozalsky is a Product Marketing Director at Sitecore. Find her on LinkedIn and Twitter.