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Understanding Customer Data Platforms

Customer Data PlatformMarketers are using data more than ever, getting their hands dirty with analytics, customer insight, modeling and all manner of data science-y things that they probably didn’t realize they needed to at the start of their careers.  

To perform these new tasks, marketers are using a number of tools, ranging from email marketing platforms and web analytics tools, to marketing automation platforms and CRMs.

Yet, all these solutions share something in common: they are almost useless without customer data to fuel them. Worse still, the databases that contain this valuable information are rarely built with marketing use in mind, making the data especially difficult to access.

With marketers having to draw information from many different sources, piece it together to form an accurate record of their customers, and then use this data to deploy relevant, consistent and cohesive campaigns across multiple channels, clearly a better solution is needed.

The ideal is a system to help marketers build and update customer databases, and enable the data within it to be accessible by the supporting marketing executional tools.

However more than this, it needs to sustain data quality. Marketing data is very often erroneous and, as we know, using poorly maintained customer records is disastrous for campaigns.

The dawn of the Customer Data Platform

This is where the Customer Data Platform (CDP) steps in – a new breed of MarTech that was first defined by marketing analyst David Raab in 2013. Now the founder the Customer Data Platform Institute, Raab classifies a CDP as:

“A marketer-controlled system that maintains a unified, persistent customer database which is accessible to external systems.”

Since then, many vendors have identified their solution as a Customer Data Platform and this has led to some confusion about what a CDP can and cannot do.

At its most basic, a CDP should be capable of doing three things: 

  1. Collect data from a variety of sources
  2. Control the data in different ways
  3. Connect the data to executional tools

Raab’s definition, along with these key features, can help us get to grips with what a CDP really is:

Marketer-controlled. This means that a CDP can be purchased and operated by the marketing department, with minimal assistance from others (such as IT or external vendors).

Unified, persistent database. A CDP unifies customer data from external systems (for example, your CRM, mobile data, transactional data, website data, email data, third-party data and so on). This database brings together the fragmented data from silos and undergoes a Single Customer View (SCV) process. This matches, merges, audits and deduplicates the data from all the chosen sources to form a ‘Single Source of Truth’ for all customer data, for consistent treatment by marketing across channels.

This integral data hygiene, auditing and governance ensures the continuing validity of your records, which is essential for more accurate, targeted marketing efforts. It also ensures that your data remains legally compliant.

Accessible to external systems. After the Single Customer View process, the data within the CDP is easily available for external systems to use in their own processes. For example, the CDP provides data to build campaigns and models, the data for rules-based personalization on web and mobile, and manage the customer profile database used for creating campaigns, sending emails and display ads.

BlueVenn CDP

In the case of BlueVenn, the CDP exposes the Single Customer View data to a suite of in-built marketing automation and analytics tools within the platform to execute omnichannel marketing campaigns and customer journeys. It also provides the basis for customer segmentation, CLV and RFV models and other analytics.

BlueVenn also connects to many other third-party marketing systems (such as email automation software and ecommerce platforms) providing a single hub from which to launch all your marketing activity.

On-demand webinar: Data Management Platform Vs Single Customer View Vs Customer Data Platform - What's the Difference?

CDP Functions

These features are possible because of a Customer Data Platform’s three core functions. These are:

Data ingestion. This is the source data loaded into the CDP and it can include and unify data from many different locations, including: 

  • First party data: Most important of which is first party data, the information that your company collects. This include the data you collect from browsing behavior on your website, ecommerce site and/or mobile site, point of sales, loyalty schemes and so on. This is Personally Identifiable Information (PII), which a CDP needs to identify customers by name, email, address, etc.
  • Second party data: This is customer data shared with you from other owners for mutual benefit. For example, a ski holiday company sharing its data with a snowboard manufacturer.
  • Third party data: This is from external companies who acquire, compile and sell data. As it is associate information about web behavior with anonymous cookies, it cannot be used to identify individuals, but does help enhance your first party data and adds value to your segmentation.

Internal processing. This is preparing the loaded data for marketing use. The ingested data will need to be cleaned (merged, matched, deduped), standardized (names, dates, addresses and so on are placed into consistent formats) and enhanced (appended with demographic data and business data, etc.). It is the linking of data relating to each entity into one record that forms the unified customer profile, aka Single Customer View.

Data outputs. Arguably the most important thing for marketers is to be able to take this now carefully prepared data and put it to use. A CDP makes the data available to a number of systems and applications, including segmentation tools, predictive analytics tools (showing a customer’s likelihood to take a specific action), personalization tools, campaign and customer journey management software and marketing performance monitoring tools.

Watch the BlueVenn Customer Data Platform demo

LIVE NEXT at: 10am EST / 3pm GMT on January 26, 2021

Find out how to make better use of your data. Register to watch how to combine customer analytics and real-time, omnichannel customer journey tools to create personalized and contextual customer experiences in this BlueVenn Customer Data Platform software demonstration. In the session we’ll define how to:

  • Use predictive analytics to make real-time decisions that positively affect the customer journey
  • Improve targeting of campaigns using customer segmentation and RFV analysis
  • Use real-time personalization to better engage customers
  • Integrate online and offline channels into the BlueVenn Customer Data Platform to create a true Single Customer View 


Topics: Article Customer Data Platform