The relationship between brands and consumers has shifted: long gone are the days where brands could define the message and pre-determine the pathway of the customer journey. Consumers’ embrace of multiple devices as interaction points has eliminated the simple journey model. The journey still exists — it remains a real requirement to build and understand, but has evolved into a multi-dimensional, omnichannel one. This new omnichannel journey means customers can appear at any time and in any channel – the path to conversion is up to the customer. It always was, really, but technology has unleashed a number of additional possible touchpoints.
Customers expect their experience with your brand to be consistent regardless of channel. The fragmented technology stack most marketers operate with makes that all but impossible because you can’t react at the speed of the customer across all channels. A fragmented technology ecosystem also leads to fragmented customer data, further complicating the goal of providing a consistent brand experience to the omnichannel customer. There’s never been a greater need to connect and centralize data from all touchpoints, where each customer’s personal journey can be accommodated, typically in real time and with in-line analytics.
The growing need to counteract the fragmented marketing stack and channel-specific silos has given rise to customer data platform (CDP). With a dedicated section on Scott Brinker’s MarTech Supergraphic, the CDP has emerged as a key enabling solution that not only has its own institute but is also anticipated to become a $1 billion market by 2019. Before adopting this solution, it’s important understand what it does and how it works.
CDPs integrate data across functional and channel-specific silos into a central location, allowing you a single point of data control and visibility to make better decisions about providing contextually relevant interactions to customers at the point of engagement. The data integration capabilities of a CDP will be even more vital in the coming years as more channels arise and the customer journey becomes even more complicated. From analysts to councils, the implementation of the CDP has become a new priority across organizations for orchestrating optimal interactions.
CDP is purpose-built to accept data inputs from a variety of online and offline engagement systems, such as Facebook, CRM, email, ecommerce, data management platforms (DMPs), call center, and in-store POS – among other sources of customer data. Because of how a customer data platform integrates data into a central location, they are often conflated with enterprise data warehouses, commercial CRM solutions or more generic data lakes, but the reality is that CDPs differ in that they are customer-centric. One of the hallmarks of a CDP is that it makes customer-centric data accessible to business users from across the enterprise. Because it is designed this way, it allows greater freedom to create data models than possible with a centrally managed data warehouse or data lake.
Think of a CDP like the “brain” of your customer data ecosystem. Solutions that interact with customers, like a DMP, CRM, or social media tool, collect separate yet equally valuable data about customers within their defined sphere. The problem is that each of those point solutions locks the customer data it collects within its defined scope and doesn’t “talk well” with the other customer engagement solutions. A CDP sits at the back-end, ingesting data from all those point solutions, combining it, allowing you to view all the data that each solution collects about your customers – kind of like how your brain collects data from your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and fingers to tell you about your environment.
When the CDP ingests all this data, you become able to leverage customer data the same way your brain accepts dozens of inputs about the environment and determines the best course of action. CDPs are relatively new, but they are poised for success because of their core promise. In fact, Forrester analyst Brian Purcell said that he expects CDPs will really hit their stride within one to three years as more companies begin to understand that CDPs can reduce friction in their customer interactions, increase revenue, and enable more efficient marketing.
The future of marketing lies in being able to understand your customers wherever and whenever they appear. Customer data platforms enable that capability, resulting in better customer interactions that increase loyalty and allow your marketing to be more efficient. Understanding this simple fact can make the difference between companies that succeed with the new omnichannel customer journey and those that struggle.