Obtaining a single customer view has become something of a holy grail for marketers, however its achievement is extremely problematic.

An ever-increasing number of customer touchpoints and data sources make it near impossible for marketers to correlate all this information in one place.

Econsultancy’s new report, The Path to Unified Marketing, examines the difficulties that brands face in obtaining a single view of their customers, as well giving an overview of the state of the industry.

Published in association with Tealium, the report is based on a survey of 313 client-side marketers in Q2 2014. Here’s a summary of four main talking points:

1. Data is varied, fragmented and hard to use

Advances in marketing technologies means that brands can access a wealth of customer data, but making that data easy to use is still a major obstacle.

Almost three-quarters of respondents (72%) reported problems with data fragmentation, which can slow or stall processes and call validity into question.

Getting disparate data sources working together to provide a single customer view is hugely powerful and allows marketers to deliver timely, personalised interactions, however for many this is still only a pipe dream.

What specific data issues does your organization currently encounter? 

This is understandable when you consider the number of data sources that marketers have to contend with.

Even for those without multiple customer databases, marketing tools alone account for an average of more than four data inputs, with many companies contending with seven or more. 

The knock on effect is that fewer than 20% say they have a strong capability in viewing and using data from their marketing channel applications. 

2. Single customer view driving the priority of unification

As mentioned, the unification of data tools is vital if marketers are to gain a single view of their customers.

However only 14% of respondents reported a strong capability in this area, despite the fact that as a priority it ranks second only to building on the organization’s ability to financially justify marketing activities. 

3. Key benefits of unified marketing

The new report investigates the key benefits having a unified approach to marketing.

Those that have made steps toward unification see benefits strongly suggesting that the priority is sound, and the investment justified. The top three benefits cited in the study are: 

  • The ability to better identify and optimize for specific customers.
  • Improved customer service.
  • Better ability to identify, manage and market to customer segments.

4. State of the industry: haves and have-nots

Overall the Path to Unified Marketing Report shows that there is some way to go until marketers have a unified approach.

Even among the largest organizations, only 16% are where they want to be, having connected all of their applications to the point where they share key operational and customer data.

At the other end of the spectrum 42% of small companies and 28% of those over $50MM in revenue have no current program in place to consolidate their user and application data. 

However there is some good news, as a vast majority of respondents said that they are working towards unification.

Only 3% of companies with revenues over $50MM and 20% of smaller organizations say they have no plans to move in this direction.