Achieving a single customer view is a goal for companies across every sector, as brands push towards delivering a seamless, personalised experience. The ability to harness the behavioural insights offered by customer data is becoming ever more essential for marketers to communicate with consumers to best effect.
However, true data clarity is being hampered by fragmented organisational structures that split marketing teams by channel, rather than customer. According to a global survey of 1,100 marketers by Experian, channel-focused structures create ‘siloisation’ of information, making it difficult for businesses to obtain an in-depth customer view.
The biggest barriers
According to the survey 81% of marketers see developing a single customer view as a challenge, yet despite the difficulties 97% recognise the importance of having a truly holistic understanding of customers.
The fact technology does not always allow customer data to be integrated in real time is the biggest barrier for 54% of respondents, followed by the inability to integrate multiple data sources (49%) and the struggle to access data across the organisation (48%).
Tom Blacksell, Experian managing director of marketing services, UK & Ireland, argues that these data challenges result directly from fragmented internal structures.
“The single customer view needs to use all your insights from every channel and every touchpoint, otherwise you’ll never be able to offer a seamless experience,” he says. “If a single channel is separate, how are you going to be able to communicate with the customer as a brand in anything but a disjointed manner?”
Bigger businesses have more issues
The data shows 29% of respondents work in a company where marketing teams are broken down by channel, with 41% operating in teams described as only ‘somewhat integrated’. However, less than a quarter (23%) of those surveyed see overcoming internal silos as one of their top three challenges when creating customer-centric programmes.
When splitting out responses by business size, the research shows that silos are more prevalent in larger, enterprise level businesses, where 59% of marketers work in teams broken out by channel.
Experian classes enterprise level businesses as those with a turnover of more than $1bn (£767m), which due to their maturity have often grown up in the offline world and evolved into multichannel structures over time.
As a result, larger businesses are 31% more likely to encounter issues. But, encouragingly, eliminating internal silos is a top priority for 42% of C-level executives at these companies.
The smaller the company, the less likely teams are to be split out by channel, as 26% of marketers in mid-market companies are divided this way, which drops to 19% for small businesses.
According to Experian, mid-market organisations – those with a turnover of $25m (£19m) to $1bn (£767m) – exhibit similar challenges to larger businesses but on a smaller scale. However, they often have fewer resources to solve the problems. Having grown up in the multichannel world, smaller market companies – those that turn over less than $25m (£19m) – are often characterised by a natural agility and lack of organisational silos.
“Big brands need to change the way they operate in order to put the customer experience first,” argues Blacksell. “Small companies are naturally swifter and more flexible. Often their marketing teams are fully integrated simply because they are a single team already. It’s a painful process, but big brands need to do what they can to break down those channel barriers.”
Financial services is the least integrated sector
Looking at specific industries, financial services is the least integrated sector, according to the study, given that 44% of marketing teams continue to be split by channel. More than a third (35%) of media and entertainment teams are broken out by channel, while 33% of marketers working in travel and hospitality work in silos.
Conversely, the most integrated marketing teams are likely to be found in agency and marketing services businesses (37% of which are fully integrated and 33% somewhat integrated), followed by consumer electronics companies (31% and 38%) and retail and ecommerce businesses (31% and 47%).
When looking at the data by region, the UK lags behind in its level of marketing team integration, with only 31% of those surveyed working in fully integrated teams. This compares unfavourably to South America (42%) and North America (38%).
Blacksell argues the goal of achieving a single customer view is being held back by the sheer level of internal change companies need to implement across their departments.
“The single customer view affects not just marketing, but operations, customer relations, IT and more. Because of this we’re talking about reorganisations across multiple channels and multiple teams,” he concludes.
“Customers don’t see individual channels, they see a single brand. When they tweet you, they expect you to know and understand who they are. In order to deliver relevant experiences, you need to be able to communicate with them as a single brand having a conversation with an individual. The holy grail of marketing is one-to-one interactions.”