For years, marketing executives have sought an elusive 360-degree view of their customers, and the nature of customer data analytics and designing the customer experience (CX) is evolving dramatically within today’s organizations.
The good news is that much of the data to inform these questions is being collected and stored by enterprises or their partner organizations today. The bad news is that this data is typically maintained in separate systems, across organizational silos, and often cannot be surfaced at the time it’s needed to contribute to, or enhance, a specific customer experience—let alone inform a larger customer experience strategy.
For the most part, we are still in the early stages of customer data analytics, as indicated by a new survey of 400 marketing leaders, conducted by Forbes Insights and Treasure Data. According to the survey, it still takes marketers too much time to analyze and draw conclusions about the success of a marketing campaign or a change to the customer experience—47% say it takes more than a week, while another 47% say it takes three to five days.
And the tools and solutions to accelerate CX development still need to be put into place. A majority of executives, 52%, report that while they are leveraging a variety of tools and technologies in functions or lines of business, there is little coordination and there’s a lack of the right tools. Only 19% report having a robust set of analytics tools and technology services supporting customer-data-driven decisions and campaigns.
Yet there is an emerging approach to bringing customer data into one place: the customer data platform, or CDP. This new generation of systems is designed to bring all this disparate data about customers into a single intelligent environment and provide a synchronized, well-integrated view of the customer. These platforms are seeing widespread adoption across enterprises, as supported by the Forbes Insights/Treasure Data survey. Some 78% of organizations either have, or are developing, a customer data platform.
Understanding This New Type Of Platform
Customer data platforms are more broad-based than the traditional CRM systems that have been in place in many organizations for years. While CRM systems are designed to enable management and analysis of a particular customer channel, CDPs bring data from across corporate channels into a single platform. Although CRM and business intelligence solutions have provided some intelligence about customer trends, CDPs tie customer data directly to marketing and sales initiatives.
CDPs also provide marketing teams unified, real-time, self-service access to customer data, which can come from a variety of sources, like call center interactions, connected device data, product usage data, sales data, mobile apps, customer life cycle trends, websites, social media and email. CDPs also pave the way to greater personalization and delivery of a superior customer experience.
As marketing technology consultant Fred Maurer recently put it: a CDP “can help forward-thinking marketers organize their data, enhance their audience segmentation and campaign planning, increase content engagement, streamline cross-channel marketing orchestration, and optimize analytics efforts. Strategy and cohesive technology solutions are vital to long-term success. With the right strategy and CDP solution, marketers can transform omnichannel complexity and uncertainty into competitive advantages and measurable results.”
Where Customer Data Platforms Can Make A Difference
CDPs hold a great deal of promise for enterprises seeking more high-quality engagements with customers, as well as enriching the jobs and capabilities of marketing teams. Benefits include:
- Enhanced ability to compete in today’s cutthroat global economy. A majority of marketing executives in the Forbes Insights/Treasure Data survey, 93%, anticipate that employment and analysis of customer data in decisions and campaigns will create a noticeable shift in their ability to meet disruptive and competitive challenges. In addition, 53% say the transparency provided through these platforms enable their teams to react more quickly to changes in markets or customer preferences.
- Greater customer loyalty. With a greater understanding of customer needs, as well as the ability to anticipate future needs, there’s a higher likelihood that customers will become repeat customers. Forty-four percent of organizations surveyed by Forbes Insights report that a customer data platform is helping drive customer loyalty and ROI in their organization.
- Richer relationships with vendors and partners. Enterprises’ ecosystems—vendors and partners—may be the first beneficiaries of robust CDP implementations. The Forbes Insights/Treasure Data survey finds better-quality and more-targeted interactions with partners and vendors as the leading benefit of these platforms.
- Increased customer visibility. The CDP may also help marketers get closer to achieving a 360-degree view of their customers, as cited by 54% of marketing executives in the Forbes Insights survey. CDPs draw in data from a wide variety of sources that were previously inaccessible. For example, product usage data from IoT sensors can be integrated with customer data to provide information on where products are seeing their greatest value.
- Opportunities for measurement. There’s a well-known saying in business that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Because CDPs bring everything into one place, this platform provides metrics across a range of marketing initiatives such as website visits, campaign results, content performance and customer journey analysis.
Where Customer Data Platforms Will Take Your Business In The Future
Customer data platforms are the foundation of the emerging, digitally savvy marketing organization that not only has that 360-degree view of customers but also actively engages with customers across the channels of their choice.
It is important to remember that not all CDPs are alike; they need to be able to handle scale, security and data variety because edge data is becoming a larger component of customer data. Previously, customer experience data arose from customer actions—such as clicks and purchases. Increasingly, CX data is now based on intelligence from sensor data, which enables enterprises to piece together customer intent through new connected device data points. To manage the unprecedented scale of this data, companies will need horsepower like never before to sift through all of it to find and then act on relevant customer journeys.