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Performance Marketing, Data & Intelligence May 11, 2021

How customer data platforms help brands understand shopper needs

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Customer journeys are no longer linear. Instead, customers are empowered to engage with brands on their own terms, interacting across a vast range of platforms and touchpoints without a defined route. Having grown used to a more personalised service, 76% of customers expect brands to understand their needs. And, if they don’t, they will take their custom elsewhere. But how is it possible to monitor and analyse such a vast range of interactions to predict what customers want from your company? The most forward thinking businesses are applying technology, specifically customer data platforms, to develop effective, data-driven marketing strategies.

Online shoppers now criss-cross between a brand’s e-commerce product pages, social media, blog, online marketplaces and physical stores, making it increasingly difficult for companies to keep up with all customer touchpoints. As customer journeys continue to expand and diversify, never has it been more of an imperative for brands to implement a customer data platform (CDP). The shift from mass communication to personalisation has led to a focus on delivering the right message, to the right person at the right time; putting greater demand on marketers. CDPs make this possible, bringing together and analysing multiple sources of data to give a unified view into customers’ needs and develop smarter marketing campaigns.

WHAT IS A CUSTOMER DATA PLATFORM? 

A customer data platform is software that aggregates and analyses customer data from a variety of sources. It collects real-time first, second and third party data to create customer profiles based on their demographic, historic behaviour and browsing activity. This can include data from the CRM, web forms, events, email, social media, websites and many more. The CDP Institute, a vendor-agnostic organisation dedicated to helping marketers manage customer data, defines it as “a packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.”

CDPs exist because customer data has become crucial to e-commerce business and marketing operations. Whereas customer information would traditionally be managed by the customer service or sales team, CDPs are more often owned by the marketing team, which utilises the data to create truly targeted campaigns; making sure the right products are put in front of customers at the right time in order to drive sales. 

CDP vs CRM vs DMP 

While CDP implementation isn’t currently as widespread as Dept expects it to be in the near future, companies sometimes wrongly dismiss the need for a CDP. They often believe they are already operating optimally with a customer relationship management (CRM) platform and a data management platform (DMP).

While CRMs are also built with the purpose of collecting customer data, profile building is limited to general and historical data. These systems aren’t built to ingest huge volumes of data from multiple sources and are unable to autonomously create customer profiles from data gathered across online and offline channels. Rather, CRM tools only track a customer’s intentional interactions with a company.

DMPs use cookie data to enable the targeting and retargeting of digital advertisements. They’re focused more on anonymous customer segments and categories rather than specific customers, and the data within a DMP expires at the end of the 90 day cookie lifetime. Whereas a CDP creates a persistent customer profile, storing all data and history to develop a database of customers that can be used for much more than just online advertising. 

ABANDONING DATA SILOS 

Many companies have a tendency to work with data in silos. For example, when looking at paid social, brands tend to work only with the data that an individual platform (like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram) provides; without taking into consideration how they can use data from other sources to get a better picture of their customers. The same thing happens when it comes to SEM and SEO, with brands primarily using Google Ads and Google Search Console as the primary data source.

While some brands do work with data from multiple sources, it is often only a maximum of three to four. Although this can generate good results, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Other data sources, such as the CRM, DMP and physical stores, offer additional customer insights that can further improve targeting and marketing efforts. This is where CDPs come in, enabling businesses to collect data from all sources and work intelligently to create better customer journeys, while saving money. 

CDP IN PRACTICE

CDPs assist brands in better identifying customer segments and understanding behaviour. When looking beyond data silos, unified customer data allows companies to prioritise and target users in different ways than before.

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Rituals wanted to be able to predict the behaviour of its customers and turned to Dept to build its customer data platform. We used machine learning to predict conversion intent by matching real-time browsing behaviour to historical conversion patterns, resulting in much more efficient retargeting by honing in on audiences based on their expected probability to convert. This approach saved 40% of Rituals’ remarketing ad spend without reducing conversions. 

Many e-commerce companies also use revenue and return on ad spend (ROAS) as their main KPIs for digital activity, but CDPs enable brands to understand how revenue and ROAS levels actually impact the bottom line. The platform we built for Rituals helped to predict when users are in the market for products that customers frequently repurchase. By using unified customer data, we were able to predict by week when customer segments were back in the market for a Rituals product they had previously bought. We then used the predictions to re-engage those segments with digital campaigns, hitting the right person,  with the right product, at the right time. 

With customer journeys becoming more and more complex, it is now essential for companies to analyse and utilise the data available to future-ready their marketing strategy. A customer data platform makes that possible. By utilising customer data sources to their full potential, brands can better understand their customers, access insightful information and act on it in real time to achieve better results from digital marketing efforts. It will be the brands that leverage this opportunity now that gain a competitive advantage and achieve the best ROI in the long term.

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