Time for the Single Product View?

Let’s start with the customer…

The concept of the Single Customer View (also known as “SCV”, and sometimes referred to as “Single View of Customer”) has been with us for nearly twenty years, and has evolved from an aspiration of the data warehouse pioneers, to a legal necessity of the financial services industry.

To paraphrase Wikipedia:

Single Customer View is an aggregated, consistent and holistic representation of the data known by an organisation about its customers. The advantage to an organisation of attaining this unified view comes from the ability it gives to analyse past behaviour in order to better target and personalise future customer interactions.

In the past few years this has evolved into the Single Individual View (recognising that we’re often interested in people who have yet to buy from us), but the principle is the same;

Can we identify an individual across all of the data sources which hold useful information about that individual, so that we can understand and predict his/her behaviour?

In order to achieve the SCV, organisations have turned to various technologies, from the early days of ETL (Extract, Transform, Load), through Data Quality and Master Data Management, to the emerging market for Data Virtualization; many of the software leaders in these sectors cut their teeth addressing the Single Customer View.

… but don’t stop there

For me, and my business, our clients’ customer is often a large retail business. Much of our work is with consumer goods companies, from startup would-be brands to global corporates. Managing customer data is not a particularly challenging data task, if you sell to a relatively small number of large retailers, but a new problem emerges when it comes to product data; despite 40 years of the Universal Product Code (aka barcode, EAN, GTIN etc.), product data management and matching remains a significant cost of business.

The Single Product View

A few months ago I met with Matthew Tod of PWC and, in discussing experiences working with supply chain and sales data in the FMCG/grocery retail sector, he stopped me to clarify the (overly verbose!) point I was making… which he summarised as:

So, you mean to say that you are creating and exploring a Single Product View?

To which the answer was:

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying… can I use that phrase please?!

Why have products been overlooked in the race to build a consolidated view of an entity? Certainly customers are the lifeblood of every business, but for many (most?) those customers are buying products… and a great many businesses are struggling to track product performance at a granular level. So to pose the earlier question in this light, we would ask:

Can we identify a product across all of the data sources which hold useful information about that product, so that we can understand and predict its behaviour/performance?

Can we? Well, I think we’re making good progress at Atheon Analytics, but the lack of relevant results when Googling “Single Product View” (as of November 2013!) suggests that we’re on something of a lone journey.

On a mission

My aim is simple; to raise the profile of the Single Product View as a worthwhile exercise – a worthy cause. All journeys start with a single step…


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