All Posts

Pulling It All Together on a Customer Data Platform

Many tools track one thing or another about shoppers, but a CDP reaches out to all channels to paint an integrated picture for specific marketing tasks. In unifying the data, it unifies the customer experience, say experts at Earley Information Science roundtable.

The good news about trying to understand your customers, and anticipate their needs, is that there’s no shortage of data to analyze. The bad news is that the data is all over the place, collected by large numbers of systems from different vendors or by different groups within a company. The formats, architectures and naming conventions typically vary, and the data models are inconsistent.

What’s needed is something that can scoop up all the data, aggregate it into a 360-degree view of the customer and be designed with the marketer in mind, so that the data can be used for specific marketing purposes: to create customer profiles and predict behavior, for instance, or to develop – and test – marketing strategies.  

And that brings us to the best news: such a tool already exists. It’s the Customer Data Platform (CDP) and it is “one of marketing’s Holy Grails,” said David Hatch, Principal Consultant at Earley Information Science (EIS), a leading consulting firm focused on organizing information for business impact. “A CDP can change the game when it comes to unifying the customer experience.”

The benefits and opportunities that a CDP approach can offer were discussed by a panel of early adopters and knowledge management experts at an Executive Roundtable hosted on Dec. 6 by EIS.

The discussion, “The Customer Data Platform – A Path to a Unified Customer Experience,” was led by Hatch, who was joined by panelists David Raab, Founder of the Customer Data Platform Institute; Lisa Siemaszko, Director of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) at Clarks, the shoe company; and Larry Hughes, Director of Customer Data Platforms at Keurig Green Mountain, the specialty coffee maker.     

CDP is packaged software that gathers, stores and shares customer data in ways that are often far more effective than other tools that can unify certain kinds of data for certain purposes, such as data management platforms (DMP), data hubs and tag managers, said Raab, who coined the CDP term.

“CDP is often confused with other ways of managing customer data,” he said. “We would never say that the CDP is the only way . . . but there are certain situations where the CDP is the best choice.”   

Hatch recalled his frustrations with other systems. “For years, I struggled with integrating data from data warehouses and transactional systems to try to fuse together customer insights. It was laborious and in the end we could only produce a limited number of insights before we had to go back and deal with the fact that customer actions in a changing world had all but rendered our data models obsolete.”

Keurig Green Mountain went live with a CDP environment about a year ago. The company had been busy collecting data about transactions and demographics, Hughes said, but “we were doing these things in silos.” Plus it lacked behavorial-type data, which he called “a pretty big gap.” Keurig saw CDP as the way to “lay in the digital behavior and marry that up with our unified data.” It also decided to bring in a data management platform and link it to the CDP, creating an ecosystem in which the DMP collects source data that is used for site personalization, which, in turn, provides behavior data for the CDP. “The data feeds against each other,” Hughes said, adding, “I’m not sure we’re done” in exploring further ways to integrate and leverage information.

Clarks has also been using CDP for about a year, hoping the platform could drive additional sales. “We realized there was a need to be more targeted and more personalized,” Siemaszko said, to staunch the company’s unsubscribe rate. “From an email perspective, we were in a batch-and-blast mode . . . we didn’t have a single view of the customer or anything close.” The new platform got all in-store point-of-sale transactions and all online transactions in the same place, and matched up. “It was a big step from where we were, helping us get closer to really understanding the true lifetime value of a customer.”  

The panelists also discussed issues related to ownership of the CDP system and challenges that companies encounter in using the platform, including when and how to add more data.  

“We have regular conversations about adding data,” Siemaszko said. “We walk, crawl, run – because there is so much to learn. Just having the data in one place now has opened up a world of questions and insights. We’re balancing learning and executing before we add in more.”

The goal, of course, is true personalization, the kind that comes from harnessing all the existing data about a given customer, from social media activity to buying history. The ultimate Holy Grail.

The roundtable featured a real-time survey of the webinar attendees:  

  • Nearly three quarters, 73%, said their organization is just starting to look into the CDP approach, while 7% have been using it for 1-3 years and 20% for more than 3 years.
  • 64% said that CDP ownership is shared between Marketing and IT, 14% Marketing alone, 14% a team that didn’t involve either Marketing or IT and 7% Marketing with a non-IT team.
  • 55% said that CDP is an important priority at their company but still needs a business case, 9% said it is a major priority (with funding and executive buy-in) and 36% not a priority.

Please use these links to access the roundtable and a related article, “Overcoming Personalization Challenges: The Role of the Customer Data Platform.”   

The Earley Executive Roundtable is an educational webinar series focusing on topics of interest in the areas of digital transformation and information science. Each month, EIS leads a lively discussion with a panel of industry experts.

The next roundtable is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 17, at 1 p.m. ET, on the topic of “View From the Enterprise Technology Frontlines: AI Adoption and Predictions for 2018.” To sign up, register here.