Did you know most companies have set-up systems to store their customer data for different purposes? A customer data platform can be used to connect all those systems into one system. Doing that will give you a central place for all your customer data that is accessible without having a massive technical background in development. This can give you a lot of opportunities for personalization and make following the entire customer journey over different platforms possible.
I have been using a customer data platform for about a year now and would like to take a step back and write about what they are and all the topics that surround them because it’s easy to lose track of the main goal with all the data you are collecting and the sheer amount of projects it enables.
First, this article will describe what customers’ data platforms are and how they work. Secondly, I will describe what data in a customer data platform looks like and what you can do with this data. Thirdly I will describe what you can expect in costs and what the advantages are. I will also suggest some of the customer data platforms that are available and how to choose the one that fits your company. Finally, I will describe the GDPR benefits.
What is a customer data platform?
A customer data platform is a type of software that collects all your customer data in a single place. Data is combined from multiple existing platforms to combine a single unified profile for every customer you have. This profile data can contain anything that your users have given consent to.
This enables marketers to use this data for all sorts of applications within the customer journey because they don’t need the technical knowledge of back-end developers. This gives you the opportunity to connect with your customers on a new personal level. You can, for example, make a personalized email with a connected personalized customer journey on your website to capture the entire path of your visitors.
Some customer data platforms will have this build in the tool while others will just supply the data. Depending on the majority of your website you need to decide what fit’s your organization. Some customer data platforms will help you to decide if they are a good match because all tools have different technical requirements.
Customer data platforms are an extremely fast-growing industry and will become more sophisticated every year. If you wanna keep up with the competition you will notice that this is a must because visitors on your website are expecting a personalized experience.
The CDP industry is projected to reach over 1 billion euros by 2020. Another reason that more and more websites are using this technology. I would personally only recommend this technology to bigger companies that have more experience with innovations in the digital marketing world otherwise the learning curve would be too high to effectively use it.
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How do customer data platforms work?
Customer data platforms work by connecting all the existing systems in a company to a single system that collects all the data.
Imagine a customer that has bought something for example. You will have a lot of information like their name, address, email address, and phone number. Then you also have data about the same person on a separate platform like Google Analytics. There you might see the best time to contact them and other demographic details. This profile will now be merged as one data set in a customer data platform to get a better understanding of a visitor.
This can be done with even more systems for a better look at a customer’s behavior. This is where some customer data platforms stop but some will have built-in functionalities to use that data for one site, mail, and advertisement purposes. You will have to set it up once and then you can start optimizing without a lot of technical knowledge.
Some of these platforms enable you to interact with visitors in different phases of the customer journey. Doing this using gathered data has proven to be a lot more effective than having the same customer journey for all customers. An example would be knowing what kind of persuasion principles someone is sensitive to.
You can make different web elements for all the different principles and show the elements that are most likely to be effective towards a customer. The key is to give your software enough choices to choose from for different visitors because then you have the highest chance of increasing your conversion rate.
What data is in a customer data platform?
I already briefly described a few examples but the amount of data in a customer data platform can be extremely broad and should have the capability to contain tons of data. Most customer data platforms will have three main data types.
One of the data types is customer profiles. This will contain all the data that is specific to a certain visitor. Here is an example of a customer profile(usually it’s a lot more fields):
Another data type is segments. This is basically a group of profiles that have a specific theme. This way you can easily target a specific type of group without having to make different rules for every campaign you execute. Here is an example of a segment profile:
The last data type is content. Your customer data platform will need more than just profile data because it needs to know what to recommend to users. This could be products, blog articles, brands & more depending on your product or service. Here is an example of a content field with a blog article:
|name||8 UX research methods to find insights for A/B testing|
How much do customer data platforms cost?
The costs really depend on the software you are using because they can vary a lot per platform. Some of the cheaper solutions will cost at least € 2000 per month while others can cost up to € 10000 with a starting cost of € 20000. This is another reason why customer data platforms are recommended for bigger companies. The amount that you can gain by using it will also be substantially higher.
I won’t make an entire list of CDP’s and their costs because there are so many out there that all have varying costs depending on the situation. Usually, it will require contacting the company to get an idea of the costs. If you want to start comparing CDPs that meet a certain standard you can check out this list: CDP institute directory. The one I use is Datatrics and is an all-round solution on the cheaper side of the CDP spectrum. I will make a review of this software in the near future.
Why use a customer data platform?
One of the reasons is the massive potential in increased income that is possible by using one. I won the Dutch Search Awards 2019 with my campaign using Datatrics for the e-commerce platform that I work for and also won Europe’s prestigious MIXX Awards 2020 in the category Campaign effectiveness. This customer journey using a CDP landed 200k extra revenue per month!
Another reason is keeping up with the competition. As stated before, the market for CDPs is booming. This means that more and more companies are using this technology. The amount of CDP’s available is another metric that gives this trend away. This quote comes to mind:
“Innovate or die” – Peter Drucker
In addition to that, there is another reason to create order in the chaos of data you have. By having your data in so many systems you run the risks of not making effective use of data you have. You might just default into giving people the same journey on your website and this causes the loss of a lot of visitors because what works for one customer might not work for the other. You can have all your data in a single accessible place for you and your team to learn from and act on.
Furthermore, you have the possibility to make relevant personalized customer journeys for your customers and step away from the traditional static marketing funnel. Personalized customer journeys are far more effective for your website and are the future of online marketing.
Another reason would be to gain insights about who your audience is. You can use data segmentation to analyze your entire audience and applying that knowledge to make a better user experience for your customers. You can, for example, uncover patterns of behavior with certain parts of your audience or find out when to effectively target a specific segment.
During the corona crisis the needs of customers are shifting and learning from them will be essential for sustaining business models. My friend Aditya Joshi from Greendeck wrote a great article about e-commerce trends after the corona crisis. Check it out to learn more.
The final reason would be unlimited data collection because why would you ever let this go to waste? Most customer data platforms will offer an unlimited amount of storage for all your data without extra costs! This way you can always go back and analyze your data because you should always be collecting data about your product or service because you can use this to learn about your product and customers.
Why not use a customer data platform?
You shouldn’t use a customer data platform when your organization isn’t digitally ready for using this kind of software. It will require some technical maturity for being able to use it effectively. You will need to connect the CDP with your development team first before your tech-savvy marketers are able to use it.
Another reason would be not having enough customers to justify such a powerful. The software will probably not yield enough return when you don’t have at least 6 figure visitor count per month on your website. This is because algorithms work better with more data because they will be able to learn faster. A percentage increase in your conversion rate will also give you a lot more revenue if you are a bigger company of course.
Finally, it’s important that you can justify the costs in the first couple of months because it will take a while to get it set up and start using it effectively. This isn’t a short term solution for your company’s problems. Make sure your product’s or service’s basic experience is near perfection first because otherwise, you would be building on top of a bad basis. Then you run the risk of making your conversion rate even lower.
How to choose the customer data platform that works for you?
If you want to choose the right customer data platform for your company you need to make a list of needs and costs from all the company’s that you feel can be a good match. You can use the extensive list at https://www.cdpinstitute.org/directory and look at a bunch of different websites that offer customer data platforms. Here is an example of a simple table to help you with your decision making. I recommend adding your needs and looking at at least 25 CDPs to get a good idea of what the market is like. Once you have a CDP then you cannot go back that easily so make sure you can build a relationship with the company you are going to be working with.
|CDP||All-in-solution||Pricing||Connects with GA||Simple integration||AVG Options|
What are the requirements for using a customer data platform?
I already described some of the requirements that you need before starting to consider using a customer data platform for your company but I will list some basic requirements here. They won’t be technical requirements as they are different with every CDP.
- At least 100.000 visitors per month
- Maturity in online-marketing
- Using multiple platforms with extensive data
- At least more than 50.000 revenue a month.
- Having a product or service with a low amount of bugs
You can also ask a good marketing agency to help you with your selection and setup the right connections for you. Most of the big marketing agencies can get you up to speed with these technologies. The customer data platform I use was recommended to us by the dutch marketing platform Fingerspitz.
I am not the privacy officer at the company I work for so GDPR regulations aren’t my specialty. One thing to keep in mind tough is that GDPR just wants you to keep privacy in mind and give people the choice to accept the collection and use of their data. Most CDP’s make this process simpler because all the data is in one place and have in-built cookie setups to make sure data is only collected when the customer has given consent.
Most company’s that offer a customer data platform will also have privacy officers to help you when implementing and connecting the software. Cmswire wrote a great blog about GDPR & Customer data platforms.
I hope this article will have given you an idea of what customer data platforms are and decide if your company needs one. While it might seem like a big investment of time and money you are able to get this back tenfold if used correctly.
Customer data platforms are the future of online business and will help you comply with GDPR regulations and make a personalized customer journey for all your customers that have given consent. The possibilities after implementation are almost endless. I wish you the best of luck with your company and this new technology.