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Why customer data platforms are becoming a marketers best friend

Marketers in every corner of the world are currently in a race against their competitors to personalise the customer experience across a myriad of devices and emerging new channels. The digital transformation is much more than a buzzword, and every step of the customer journey has already been digitised.

Strategy, Technology

Marcus Lambert

CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER

For over 20 years, Marcus has built a global reputation as a technology innovator. Today, he architects and delivers world- class products and projects that solve real business problems.

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Although there is a wealth of new tools thanks to advances in technology, the adage of, you can’t manage what you can’t measure has never been more critical. It’s an exciting and complex time to be a marketer, but it’s the increasingly popular customer data platforms (CDPs) that are rising to the challenge of measuring success.

As Omni channel experiences become the norm, actionable insights and real-time data availability are rapidly rising to the top of marketer’s wish lists. Unsurprisingly, the global customer data platform market size is expected to grow from USD 903.7 million in 2018 to USD 3,265.4 million by 2023.

Considering that Gartner is predicting that the average adult will own more than six smart devices by 2020, it’s clear to see that marketers desperately need a way to consolidate disparate sets of data into an individual profile. But you shouldn’t confuse a customer data platform (CDP) with a Customer relationship management (CRM) and remember that although the two are different, they also complement each other perfectly.

David Raab, the founder of the Customer Data Platform (CDP) Institute, describes a CDP as “a marketer-managed system that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.” Whereas Salesforce defines a CRM as “technology for managing all your company’s relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers.” Still confused? You are not on your own.

It’s probably better to think of a CDP as a way of identifying consumers from a variety of data sources by seamlessly bringing together information under a unique, individual identifier whether they are known or anonymous profiles. The captured information created more efficient marketing analysis and increases the effectiveness of Omni channel marketing campaigns.

By contrast, a CRM is unable to identify or engage with anonymous customer profiles and offers minimal system access and control. To simplify it further, a CDP is typically used for marketing and tracking activities of new and potential customers. But a CRM is better suited for managing customer interactions or even business transactions.

However, it’s not about choosing between the two options; marketers need to understand the benefits and limitations of each system and use the best tool to reach their objective. For example, a customer-facing role that manages customer data would typically involve a CRM, but a CDP will be best-suited for the creation of scalable personalized campaigns.

There is a belief amongst marketers that real-time personalization will transform the customer experience‎. But, what the tech headlines do not tell you is that if your brand gets personalization wrong, your company runs the risk of being deemed creepy or irrelevant. Either way, it does more harm than good to the relationship with your customers.

Equally, the lack of a CDP prevents your business from the luxury of following both clicks and bricks. Not knowing what your customers are purchasing in and out of your stores will almost undoubtedly result in you getting personalization wrong. Falling back on tried and trusted methods such as automated messaging and generic emails will further irritate your customers.

A rise in expectations has changed the digital landscape for good, and there is no going back. But, this is something that should be celebrated, rather than feared. Disparate data sources are no longer an excuse, it’s an opportunity. With a CDP, your business can begin to join up the dots and create unique customer identities across a myriad of devices and channels.

Imagine having this real-time data from your website and in-store at your fingertips. But, now try to think of the possibilities of having this information and how it will set you apart from your competitors. However, do not forget, that it’s the expectations of your customers that you should be paying particular attention.

Don’t use your competitors as the bar against which you measure yourself. Ask yourself, what was the last best experience your customer had? Regardless of where hey had it. That’s your bar.” – Inhi Cho Suh, the GM at IBM Watson Marketing

The reason why marketers are increasingly obsessing over customer data platforms (CDP) is having access to a digital superpower to analyse and act accordingly in real-time based on accurate customer information. Welcome to an age of nuanced and effective personalised marketing where improving the customer experience will increase customer loyalty and your revenue.

Before you get too excited, this category and technology are still evolving. There are new use cases and applications appearing every week, so there isn’t a one size fits all approach to measure CDP success. But, if you want to take a sneak peek into the future and what to expect, you just need to look at how the big players are preparing.

For example, Adobe, Microsoft, and SAP have joined forces for a new open data initiative to pave the way for a common data language and access across their respective business and marketing platforms speaks volumes. We might not have arrived at the final destination of seamless customer data integration just yet, but make no mistake, the time to prepare is now.

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