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Big brands struggle with single customer view, reveals SAS and Henley Business School

Study reveals lack of skills and capital investment means organisations are not using big data to gain a single customer view

08 November 2012 - Businesses are yet to get to grips with big data to gain a single customer view – a term used to describe the ability of companies to capture all the interactions a customer has with a company or organisation, regardless of the channel used by the customer – according to a study by Henley Business School commissioned by business analytics leader SAS.

Despite the Centre of Economic and Business Research estimating that big data could add £216 billion to the UK economy by 2017, the study reveals that most organisations struggle to manage large data sets, let alone big data, to gain a single customer view.

The majority of information held by organisations is unstructured with an estimated 80 per cent of data non-numeric. At the same time, the current economic and regulatory climate means that priority is given to compliance projects. Another added pressure is that most organisations are 'product' focused, creating siloed departments, rather than organised by customer.

This presents significant challenges for customer-centric organisations looking to implement a single customer view, and a lack of skills and capital investment are the biggest barriers according to respondents.

However, those organisations, which are committed to a single customer view strategy - and see it as more than an IT project - are seeing returns. These include improved customer segmentation with more targeted marketing campaigns. One financial services company has seen a tenfold increase in response rates.

The study looked at business-to-consumer, business-to-business and financial services organisations. The findings show:

  • Business-to-consumer organisations are the most advanced in their approach, considering the individual customer and capturing data through schemes like loyalty cards and point of sale.

  • Business-to-business companies are less developed since the ‘customer’ is another company. This means that data volumes are lower and the focus is on the information within customer relationship management systems and performance against key performance indicators (KPIs).

  • Financial sector is the most varied. Regulatory requirements often mean that information crucial to gaining single customer view is held by the regulatory department with no cross over with the marketing departments’ efforts towards a single customer view.

Dr Charles Randall, Solutions Marketing Manager at SAS UK & Ireland, said: "It's surprising to see that big companies are still struggling to get to grips with large data sets – never mind big data. While a lack of in-house skills and securing funding continues to be a challenge for organisations, there are options. Flexible solutions such as analytics-as-a-service or cloud-based offerings mean companies can buy in specific expertise to meet their needs without having to train up existing staff or commit to a large upfront investment."

Professor Moira Clark, Henley Business School, says: "While the concept of a complete single customer view is seen as a useful aspiration, the fact is that not all companies see it as achievable or desirable. The most common strategy is to move incrementally towards this goal, each step being dictated by the cost/benefit analysis and the availability of scarce analytical skills. However, a large majority of companies do at least have a project underway to move towards a single customer view, even if achieving it is still some way off."

About SAS

SAS is the leader in business analytics software and services, and the largest independent vendor in the business intelligence market. Through innovative solutions, SAS helps customers at more than 60,000 sites improve performance and deliver value by making better decisions faster. Since 1976 SAS has been giving customers around the world The Power to Know® .

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