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The Age of the Customer: The Key to the 360° View

The evolution of modern technology in the past 10 years is astounding: our mobile phones are becoming smarter by the second, our online behavior is revealing more about human nature and our wearable technology knows more about our general well-being than our family doctor.

This adoption of technology into almost every facet of our life will surely define this epoch as the digital era. We have been talking about the Internet of Things (IoT) for many years now, these “things” being all sorts of connected devices. Gartner predicted that, by the end of this year, 5.5 million new devices will be connected to the Internet. And each device is creating data at an exponential rate (2.5 quintillion bytes every single day in fact!).

The Potential of IoT

This is an exciting time for the technology user: in the near future, we can expect autonomous driving to become part of our automotive experience (with  Tesla’s autopilot systemalready taking a huge leap in this direction). Built-in connectivity as well as vehicle-to-vehicle communication will become standard features.

Tech giants like Samsung and LG have already created Wi-Fi controlled smart appliances with other home appliance companies likely to follow suit. Imagine being able to unlock your door with just a swipe on your smart phone, or your smart fridge suggesting a recipe for your dinner according to the ingredients you have in your kitchen – and now, imagine this possibility 10 years ago!

With That Potential Come Expectations...

The more we evolve in the digital-era, the more we will expect as the customer. There will become a point where it will not be enough that our wearable technology tells us how many calories we have burnt or how many steps we should take to stay on top of our target. We will expect our wearable technology to provide us personal exercise plans that fit around our current schedule, our eating habits and our preferred type of exercise (having already connected and synced up with our online agenda and our smart kitchen of course.)

From a business perspective, this is a challenging time. As Brian Hopkins, Principal Analyst at Forrester explained, “It’s the age of the customer. The rising level of customer expectations is the driving force of business today”. In order to stay ahead of the game, they need to have a 360-degree view of the data of each and every customer in their database.

In the past, many companies relied on their CRM systems and their data warehouses to give them insight into their customers. It has become clear in recent years however, that these old methods of collecting and analyzing data are not sufficient to support the growing interactions occurring outside of these systems. For example, unstructured data sources such as social media, email interactions and other apps are not accounted for in traditional data architectures and therefore result in a less than complete view of the customer.

Companies have therefore turned to current technologies like data virtualization specifically to help them build a more complete view of their customers. Data virtualization permits the aggregation of data from CRM systems, data warehouses, unstructured sources, smart analytics and any other source which may house supplementary information about your customer. All this data is then available to the data consumer in real-time from a single data layer.

As IoT continues to expand with the adoption of smart appliances and connected devices (with each device continuing to produce data at an exponential rate), companies that want to be smart should adopt data virtualization to create 360 degree views of their customers in order to keep them satisfied.

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Comment by Amy Flippant on May 11, 2017 at 11:39pm

Hi Raj,

Previously relying on the data in CRM system and extracting data from data warehouses using ETL for example were sufficient - but now that there is so much more data available, most importantly in different formats (i.e. structured, unstructured, from the cloud, social media etc.) tools need to be able to integrate new sources, to the existing sources already in place. Furthermore, the need for speed is multiplying and previous tools like ETL take longer to produce results (and are costly!) 

Tools such as data virtualization are not only able to connect to all these additional sources (needed for a true 360 degree view) but it also delivers the results in real-time. Since the data is virtualized rather than physically moved (like in the case of ETL), data virtualization is actually cheaper and more agile tool.

For a more in depth explanation of how data virtualization works, take a look at this YouTube video: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9rSi65N6_Q]

I hope this helps!

Thanks,

Amy

Comment by Raj Salecha on May 11, 2017 at 10:15am

Interesting.. What are the possible and successful tools deployed to achieve this till now ?

Comment by Amy Flippant on May 11, 2017 at 7:06am

Hi Papil,

Thank you for your message!

As highlighted in the post above, it is no longer sufficient to rely only on the data in your CRM systems to create a complete view of the customer - this is because the data is now not only produced internally (within your organization) but externally, from data sources outside the CRM. Relying on the CRM alone to try and provide the best customer service you can is pointless - they expect more, they expect to be offered solutions/products etc. before they realize they need it!

In MDM terminology, this is the idea of moving beyond the "master record" of your customer and creating the "golden profile" - i.e. a multi-faceted view of the customer, the core of which is taken from your CRM systems but then supplemented by cloud data, your partner's data, Hadoop, billing systems, inventory, data warehouses (for historical data, to give context to your customer). All this contributes to an idea of their buying pattern, how they are feeling, what they want/need and ultimately painting a better picture of them as an individual, rather than just a generic "buyer profile".

So why is data virtualization a key technology for creating a single view of the customer? It can pull together data from a multiple different systems - combine and transform it to make it consumable from one layer. Furthermore, this data can be delivered in real time.

Take a call center agent, for example, with data virtualization they can have all the possible data at their fingertips while on a call to a particular customer. Further predictive analytics going on in the background can predict what this customer might want in a couple of months down the line by analyzing their buying pattern, their previous transactions, their lifestyle habits etc.

I hope this explanation helps explain a little more the need for the customer 360 and how data virtualization can help achieve it. In this webinar, "The Power of a Complete View of the Customer" there is a data virtualization platform product demo which explains in detail how to create these views. Also, here's a link to the only free data virtualization software currently on the market.

Please let me know if I can help in any other way or whether you would like to be put in touch with a data virtualization expert.

Many thanks,

Amy

Comment by Papil Patil on May 11, 2017 at 4:18am

What are the possible ways and which tools will help to achieve this ?

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