First, Salesforce announced their plans to build a customer data platform (CDP). Then Adobe announced that the new “Experience Platform” they’re developing includes a CDP. With the amount of attention these announcements have garnered, one would think customer data platforms had just recently become possible. But that’s not true.
Customer data platforms have been around for years. Exponea, one of the leading CDPs on the market, has been developing their CDP technology since 2012. Yet Salesforce CEO Bob Stutz described CDPs as, “a passing fad” as recently as 2018. Why the change in mindset? It comes from the increasingly apparent value of a customer data platform, as compared to other popular methods of collecting and storing data. This article will explain that value.
We’ve also included additional insights from Nicola Cottrell, Head of CRM for the popular brand, Sofology. We spoke with Nicola about Sofology’s decision to start working with a CDP, and how the switch has translated to greater sales and happier customers, which we will include in this article.
What is a customer data platform (CDP)?
A customer data platform centralises all the customer data coming into your company, regardless of what channel or device the customer used. It organises all the data you collect around the customer, rather than around the channel or device it was gathered from. The more data sources you have for the CDP to pull from, the more powerful it can be. A CDP is the beating heart of customer data that makes a single customer view possible.
How is a CDP Different?
A CDP is separate from other popular methods of collecting and storing data, such as a Data Management Platform (DMP) or a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. DMPs focus on collecting anonymous customer data using cookies. CRMs mostly store transactional data, not behavioral data, and it’s not as possible to integrate this data into a company’s system.
In contrast to those, a CDP can collect data connected with individual customers, then use it to create a complete view of each customer, including every transaction and interaction they’ve had.
In addition, a CDP is able to integrate anonymised data with the data connected to individuals. The individualised data can be compared against anonymised data to power recommendation models, or create look-alike audiences. A CDP is also a far more flexible data platform, and can be integrated into a company that wasn’t built around it, reorganizing their data to make it usable and effective.
Nicola from Sofology told us that this ability to democratise data was a big part of why they chose to switch to Exponea’s CDP:
“A key part of our decision to migrate to Exponea was so we could combine our different sources of data into a powerful tool, giving us the ability to understand our data better, execute campaigns, and report on the effectiveness of the campaigns as well.”
Why Are CDPs Better for Fostering Loyalty?
First, let’s define what we mean by “customer loyalty.” A retained customer is one who continues to buy from your brand. A loyal customer is one who prefers your brand. One who actively and consistently engages with your brand. A brand ambassador.
The most effective way to foster this kind of loyalty is to give your customers the experience they’re after: a consistent, high-quality, and personalised experience. And with the introduction of CDPs, this method of fostering loyalty is now possible to scale, personalizing the experience of each individual customer.
CDPs enable loyalty strategies by solving the problem of fragmented, siloed data. They arrange customer data in a way that makes personalisation at scale possible (though personalisation tools themselves are not always part of a CDP). If your data is in silos, you can’t create a consistent experience for your customers.
The better you understand and communicate with your customers, the better you’ll be at retaining them. To communicate most effectively, and create the most relevant offers, your data needs to flow to the same central hub, and be organised around the customer.
Nicola told us:
“An important part of developing our retention strategy is to bring this information all together under one central platform to really get the most out of all the information we have. Historically, our data has sat in different areas of the business but by bringing Exponea in to Sofology, we’ll easily be able to understand our customer’s buying behaviour and the triggers that indicate a repeat purchase for our customers.”
A customer data platform is the key to fostering loyalty. And loyalty is the key to sustainable company growth.
Additional Features to Enhance a CDP
A CDP collects and organises your data, but that’s just the base level. Here are some of the extra layers that can be integrated with a CDP to create a fully-fledged marketing power-house.
Real-Time Single Customer View
Organised data is great, but organised data that’s updated in real time is much better. Once your CDP is fully integrated with all your sources of customer data, you can feed that data into a single customer view (SCV), creating individual data profiles for every customer.
Exponea’s SCV is updated in real-time, meaning that every interaction, click, purchase, etc. is recorded in a customer’s profile at the time they perform the action, no matter what channel or device that action is performed through. This makes it possible to build segments based on customer behavior as they interact with your site.
Using a CDP as your central data hub, you can provide the omni-channel experience customers expect. Even if a customer starts their purchase on mobile, switches to their laptop, then goes into your brick-and-mortar store to make the transaction, they will receive consistent and up-to-date interaction with your brand. Exponea’s “drag and drop” campaign editor lets companies plan out these communication paths to create their ideal journeys.
Campaign Editor in Exponea
“Through the scenarios offered in Exponea, we create different customer journeys and distribute this media across: MySofology Account, social media, onsite, email and SMS. Testing and learning as we go along.”
– Nicola Cottrell
Campaign Execution Layer
Next, you can evolve your CDP beyond just gathering and organizing data by integrating campaign execution directly into the platform.
Now you can:
Create a custom customer experience, with on-site offers and recommendations based on the customer’s preferences. For every customer.
Send personalised, consistent communications to customers through their preferred channel, based on their last interaction with your site and on the products you know they are interested in.
Create a customer lifecycle management plan, and send automatic campaigns with specific goals based on where the customer is in their lifecycle. For every customer.
And since the data is updated in real-time, every customer will always automatically move to be part of the correct segment.
“We’re aiming to build upon the positive relationship that’s already established and ensure the brand communications replicate that level of personalisation with the view that it will increase the customer’s propensity to purchase from us again, as well as recommend to their peers.”
– Nicola Cottrell
Advanced Analytics and A/B Testing
Considering the amount and complexity of the data you’ll be collecting, it would be a shame if you couldn’t create custom reports from it to analyse your campaigns. Analytics aren’t standard in a CDP, but Exponea’s software comes equipped with the ability to analyse your data at a moment’s notice, focusing on whatever you deem most important.
Exponea also offers A/B testing within the same software, meaning you can measure the performance of say, a red CTA vs a blue CTA, directly on the site in real time. Create as many segments as you want: A, B, C, D test it. As all of these additions are a part of the same software, every piece remains consistent- a key consideration when testing your data.
AI-supported Decision Making
Integrating AI-supported decision making into your CDP can take your customer experience to the next level, with personalised recommendations and predictions:
Use machine learning to understand the interests of each individual customer, and deliver tailored offers, at scale, through all the digital touchpoints. These personalised product recommendations and offers not only increase revenue, they create loyal customers.
Understand the purchase and churn patterns of your customers, and send them offers when they will be most effective. Use what you know about existing customers to predict what new customers will do. Analyse your database and create a segment customers with the highest likelihood of conversion.
With enterprise companies now joining the fray, it seems increasingly likely that customer data platforms are here to stay. CPDs give companies the opportunity to organise their data around the customer, rather than the channel or device. They can be integrated into existing companies that are currently unable to use their data effectively. CDPs make data usable for mass scale personalisation, and those personalised experiences are what drive customer loyalty.
To make that personalisation at scale actually work, a CDP needs a few additional layers:
A layer of AI-supported decision gives you greater insight into what your customers want and when they are most likely to purchase it.
A layer of campaign execution allows you to deliver those relevant offers and recommendations for every individual user, from the same software that holds the data.
The omnichannel experience you create with that data means those offers and recommendations also reach each user through their preferred channel, at their preferred time.
Finally, a layer of analytics and A/B testing lets you measure the performance of variables as your campaigns run, as well as analyse every bit of your campaigns once they conclude.
An automated, personalised experience for every single user. Exponea’s software is built from the ground up to include all of these layers; every piece of the solution is fit into the same software, creating consistency between each module. If you’d like to learn more about CDPs or Exponea, please feel free to reach out to me directly at email@example.com or request a commitment-free demo to discuss how Exponea can help your company grow through fostering loyalty.
By Samuel Kellett, Head of Content at Exponea