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The False Promise of a 360-Degree Customer View

By Frances Russell | April 07, 2020 | 1 Comment


Experienced marketers who have run test-and-learn experiments with personalized content know they don’t need more data; they need the right data (see Part 1 of this blog series: How to Use Customer Data for Personalization). 

Still, marketers fear the unknown: uncovering a personalization use case that requires a set of data points on their customers that they don’t have or haven’t been tracking. CDPs and other customer data management technologies promise a 360-degree view of the customer that prepares you to address scenarios of the future. If they don’t say “360,” they’ll say “single view” and “unified” or allude to it through concentric circles that put the customer at the center of many, many data sources. 

So let’s set the record straight. No single customer data management technology can provide you with a 360-degree view of your customer. My colleague Lizzy Foo Kune writes about this in her note What Marketers Need to Know About Customer Data. She also summarizes the point in the graphic below:

While it’s true that CDPs can bring together a good swath of customer data (if we’re looking at the graphic above, we’d call it a “180-degree view”) that matches both first party behavioral data and first party identity data, even if they did provide a 360 degree view, marketers shouldn’t seek to collect that view “just in case” of a future, unknown use case for personalization.

Why? Preparing to surface future, unknown problems that require customer data to solve is a must-do, but preparing to address all possible future, unknown problems is unnecessary. 

Let’s use an analogy to illustrate this point. Consider your at-home medicine cabinet. Knowing you may get sick in the future, you’ve probably stocked it with some over-the-counter medications made available at your local pharmacy. But have you bought every bottle of pills made available on the shelves so that you’re prepared for any illness “just in case”? 

If so, hopefully you’ll be able to remember where exactly the one medication you ultimately need is across the multiple cabinets you’re storing them in. And, hopefully you’ll keep track of when each item expires so that you can restock to ensure that the one medication you ultimately need will still work. And, most importantly, once you fall ill, the amount you’ve spent on these medications will hopefully not be equivalent to (or more than) what it will cost to fix the one disease you actually have once you catch it if you catch it.

In other words, the returns on achieving a 360-degree view of the customer are highly questionable. This is one of the reasons why Gartner is seeing technologies that promise more data and 360-degree views of the customer to enable personalization falling into the trough of disillusionment on Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Digital Marketing and Advertising 2019 and things like personification moving up.

Rather than chasing a 360-degree view of the customer, marketers should seek to collect the right set of data points and stop there. Doing so will save time, money and resources that they can use to get the data points they need when they ultimately need them if they ultimately need them. Meanwhile, marketers can invest in the technologies they need now to overcome the barriers they’re facing to personalization already. For more on that, read my next (and final) blog in the series: Marketers Invest in Content Ops for Personalization.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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1 Comment

  • Diago Fern says:

    Enjoyed reading your article. Thank You.