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Is a Data Management Platform (DMP) a Single Customer View (SCV)?

  • Acxiom

Created at February 19th, 2016

Is a Data Management Platform (DMP) a Single Customer View (SCV)?

The reason I’m asking this question, is because on a couple of occasions recently I’ve heard DMP vendors talk about how their platforms enable their clients to create a Single Customer View. The most recent time was at the Adobe Summit in London, which was excellent in many ways but this claim concerned me. In the last year or so, the disciplines of CRM/Direct Marketing and Digital Advertising have started to move closer together and overlap. Having a common definition of terminology is essential to avoid confusing the marketers coming together. Historically these teams have tended to work in their separate silos within many brands.

It is true that a DMP can aggregate information about how individuals behave online. This information can then be supplemented with offline insight from retail store systems, call centres and many others. However, does this mean a DMP is an SCV?

I would suggest that an SCV is actually something distinctly different and it isn’t determined by specific software and types of database technology. A SCV is the most accurate and complete view of your customers. It contains all customer data that is relevant to your brand in one place with the data structured around the individual. Hence the ubiquitous diagrams with a consumer at the centre with various data points connected to them. 


The SCV itself needs to be able to accept and process a variety of data sources. It needs to maximise the quality of the data in order to consistently recognise the customer. It then acts as a source of information, but the SCV itself doesn’t actually need to be able to do anything!

  • It won’t automatically tell you what your business segmentations should be, however it will be a key information source for your analysts to do their magic to work this out.
  • It won’t decide to email your best customers, it will however be a key data source for the operational campaign management systems that will do.

The SCV has always helped brands to understand their customers as well as getting the right information into the operational systems which in turn manage the customer interactions. Many of these operational systems also store or access a lot of information about the customer, for example, campaign management tools like IBM Campaign. However they use an optimised version (or subset) of the SCV for performance and usability reasons. They are not in themselves an SCV and for the same reason neither is a DMP.

DMPs were conceived to help aggregate digital behavioural data and to then fulfil operational needs of the business. Two of the most common being to personalise the online experience and to target online Ads to specific people or segments as opposed to everybody visiting a web site.  As they have evolved to gather more data and in some cases share behavioural segments between brands they have started to consume more information. However, this is still being done primarily to fulfil an operational need and has significant gaps when compared to everything the brand knows about their customers. Surely an SCV would know the customer’s name, birth date, the different places they’ve lived or the email addresses they’ve used.

In the future DMPs will evolve as indeed will our expectations of an SCV. DMPs are already key components of Digital Marketing Clouds for vendors like Adobe and Oracle. The anonymous digital data collected in a DMP can now be connected to an individual (using technology like Acxiom’s LiveRamp Connect), which makes it easier exchange information between a DMP and an SCV. However, the DMP still serves a different purpose so it is not the same thing as an SCV, for now anyway.