VentureBeat presents: AI Unleashed - An exclusive executive event for enterprise data leaders. Network and learn with industry peers. Learn More

Before it was obvious this is a multi-channel or even omni-channel world, “convergence” used to describe how those separate modes of digital communication would come together.

Now, as articulated by two speakers this afternoon at VentureBeat’s GrowthBeat conference in San Francisco, the big convergence challenge is just figuring out how to integrate all of a company’s different views of a customer.

For American Eagle Outfitters chief digital officer Joe Megibow, whose company caters to a younger demographic, “there is no offline [because] they’re always online — even when they’re in my stores.”

But even this always-online mode doesn’t give him a consistent view of the customer, he said. There’s one view obtained via mobile marketing and SMS, another through credit card transactions, another via social interaction, and so on.

And that’s just the online part. The vast majority of retail sales still takes place in brick-and-mortar stores, he pointed out, so there’s the self that actually walks into a store.

It’s a huge amount of effort “just to get a single view of the customer,” Megibow told the GrowthBeat audience. A variety of customer relationship and marketing platforms promise to provide a “360-degree view of the customer,” but at best they offer integrated profiles utilizing different data sources. But customer behaviors differ in a real store, on Facebook, in text messaging, and in other environments, so a single profile might not capture the different dimensions.

As just one example, he pointed to a test American Eagle did with beacons. It put several hundred beacons in its stores, measured tens of thousands of customers, and compared a control group against a test group.

The test group received a minor reward worth about ten cents if they tried clothing on in a store, Megibow said. If the integrated profile really knew the customer across all the dimensions, it could have provided indications of what to expect.

Instead, the results were a surprise.

“We saw an over 100 percent [increase] in fitting room business,” he recalled. This is huge for such a retailer, he said, since American Eagle has two primary objectives for customers — getting them into a store, and “getting them to take their clothes off” in a changing room.

“There isn’t a single customer journey,” he said.

For Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley, customers are the aggregate of where they go in the real world through his company’s auto-locating app and its anonymous tracking of 50 million active users.

He presented a graphical visualization of aggregated Foursquare data used in the company’s Pinpoint ad targeting product. It showed colored data points on a map of San Francisco growing and receding over time, in response to events like a popular food truck’s appearance.

While marketers fret about which ads or marketing efforts should get credit for driving a customer into a real world store, Crowley offered his company’s data as one possible solution. The idea is that, if users see mobile ads for a specific American Eagle Outfitters store, for instance, and then a short while later Foursquare shows a boost in foot traffic to that location, the attribution can be made.

“Every single venue has this [data] fingerprint associated with it,” he told the audience. “It’s like crack for advertisers and marketers.”

If Foursquare can fulfill its ambition to act as “the location layer of the Internet,” it could go beyond being metaphorical crack. It could help to bind together the Rashomon-like multiple views of customers that companies have obtained through a variety of real-world and digital lenses.

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.