An address is the key to a single customer view

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If you are like the majority of retailers, you already know single customer views are powerful tools that enable you to understand, target and communicate with your customers in more meaningful ways. Today's multichannel environment provides consumers more options for purchasing, complicating the creation of a consistent view of your customer.

The question then is: How do you collect information from numerous points of entry so that it can be compared and merged to create a true single view? Managing front end data collection is the key to matching data from multiple channels.

A wide variety of information about your customers, from buying habits to demographic facts, is available. So the first step is to think about what pieces of data are commonly collected at all points of entry. Phone numbers are not always accessible since the advent of do-not-call lists. Names can be confusing if your customers occasionally use their nicknames. The foundation of the file therefore lies in the addresses. While addresses can change, many tools, data and processes exist to aid in the process of capturing and maintaining them.

The next step is to decide on rules for what customer contact information should look like and how to enforce these rules so that data is entered in a consistent manner. You may already be using a data hygiene tool or an outside vendor to clean and standardize addresses after they have been entered. A better approach is to manage address data collection at the point of entry, where the enforcement of data standardization rules occurs immediately. Front-end address verification makes certain that vital address elements, such as apartment numbers, aren't missing. This enables accurate matching.

The benefits of collecting accurate address information don't end at creating a true single customer view. If your company uses the collected facts to analyze, profile and target specific customer needs, accurate addresses are essential to your tactical communication efforts.

For instance, clean data allows for precise segmentation of customers by channel or by lifetime value. Valid addresses then allow you to maximize the number of opportunities you have to reach specific groups. Think about the value you could derive from ensuring the deliverability of personalized communications to your top-tier customers. Such opportunities are created when you have accurate addresses and an understanding your customers' buying habits.

In today's multichannel environment, it has never been more important to manage front-end data collection efforts efficiently to create an accurate picture of each client and maximize opportunities for targeted customer communications.

Joel Curry is vice president of business development for QAS, an Experian company in Cambridge, MA. Reach him at joel.curry@qas.com.

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