The tracing of a consumer's journey across the shopping journey is as much a guessing game as it is a sure bet. The idea of creating a 360 degree view actually requires making a lot of guesstimates. To help think thru the idea I look at several different layers of the problem.
- Anonymous - the bottom of stack where we know something happened, but have few (if any) signals that can help us link things together. Online this could be visitors with cookies blocked; offline it is store browsers.
- Recognized - there are enough signals present in an interaction to begin thinking about profiling, segmenting or linking them. Web visitors, device IDs, shopping baskets, etc. form the basis of recognition.
- Credentialed - a semi-persistent identifier exists that increases the odds of knowing it is the same person. Account information such as email, log-ins and tokenized credit cards fit this model.
- Identified - the persistent identifiers, e.g. name, are known and usable.
Digital marketers tend to understand this stack quicker than the traditional database marketing crowd. The common ground between these two worlds is the use of segments. While done for very different reasons (eliminate PII vs. allocate scarce resources) the marketing thinking is very similar - find a homogenous group that responds similarly to marketing messages.
In fact, shipping segments will get you to an integrated view faster than trying to work at the lowest level where natural constraints about what you can and can not do throw up roadblocks.
An interesting exercise would be to think about mapping and modeling consumer vs. customer segmentation schemes. (More on that in a bit.)