Best practices for implementing a CDP, and how a 75 year-old sporting goods company went about it.
As customer data platforms evolve, there are indications that more marketing organizations are adopting them. They can see that the CDP field is maturing, with major launches like those from SAP and Salesforce last October. Overall, according to one study, the global market for CDPs could climb from $2.4 billion in 2020, up to $10.3 billion in 2025.
Still, the disruption associated with implementing a CDP can lead to hesitation. A survey by the CDP Institute showed CDP deployment at 29% last year (these were members of the Institute, so the numbers are likely inflated), up from 19% in 2017.
With an increasing number of options, and added machine learning and AI capabilities, there’s good reason to expect more organizations will be implementing a CDP solution. Here are some important considerations to help make the process of implementation seamless and profitable.
Is now the right time?
To remain competitive and efficient, a source of unified customer data is necessary. The same CDP Institute survey above shows that regardless of whether marketers are using older marketing automation or CRM systems, or new shiny CDPs, the move to unified customer data rose above 50% in 2020, after remaining steady at 15-20% for several years.
If a marketing ops team is already considering a move to unified customer data, they should consider CDPs as an option.
Justin Sharaf, VP, Marketing for digital experience platform Jahia, refers to a CDP as “the brains of the operation.” It’s designed to work with additional systems. “If CRM is where data sources live, they can be used from a sales perspective,” Sharaf explained. “Marketing automation can be used for nurture programs. Those systems aren’t meant to bring it all together in that way, while a CDP is meant to be a hub.”
How clean is your data?
Chris Penn, co-founder and Chief Data Scientist for Trust Insights, agrees that a CDP can “fill a role where you have to unify data and [enable] a single view of the customer.” But the success of the CDP implementation depends on the quality of the organization’s data, which fuels the CDP’s advanced tools, like segmentation.
“A lot of the vendors are now offering machine learning capabilities, which are all contingent on the underlying data,” said Penn. He added, “In reality, the CDP is an attempt for technology to solve a ‘people and processes’ problem. Most of the time, there’s gaps in processes and people. At the end of the day, you have to solve the underlying issues. You still need expertise, training and hand holding.”
As far as data is concerned, marketing ops is in control of their own destiny. Justin Sharaf stresses the importance of “understanding the data sources you want to use and being an architect of that data.” He cautioned, “Anybody that tells you a CDP is plug-and-play is selling you a bill of goods and has never done [an implementation] themselves.” He added, “You still need someone pulling the strings, architecting the data workflows. A CDP doesn’t make it less complicated, but easier to use at the end of the day. Implementation is all about planning.”
Is your team mobilized?
There also has to be communication and understanding among all the people involved in the implementation. Sharaf pointed out that this might include not just the marketing ops team, but also program managers, web analytics people, as well as end users throughout the organization.
With newer enterprise CDPs, the UX might be more accessible to a greater number within the org. But it’s important that everybody who’s going to use the CDP is brought in during the implementation, to make sure that it’s usable. Businesses can also hire new team members to support the implementation.
Massachusetts-based Franklin Sports, a long-established and family-owned sporting goods vendor, has been ramping up its ecommerce play in the midst of the pandemic. They hired current Digital Marketing Manager Aaron Seitz back in 2017, when they were just beginning implementation of a CDP developed by BlueConic. The vendor even consulted on Seitz’s job description.
How connected is the CDP?
In choosing the right CDP, marketing ops should zero in on specific goals or channels integral to the business. Does the CDP have connectors to those channels or systems? At the start of the implementation for Franklin Sports, Seitz made email a priority. “Email, for us, tied back to the website and the brand, and how we’re focusing there,” he said.
BlueConic’s A/B testing capability allowed Franklin Sports to optimize content. The unified customer data enables them to create a consistent message across multiple channels. But because the CDP creates a so-called 360 degree view of a customer, Seitz can also segment customers by channel. For instance, customers that made a purchase in the past but don’t open emails anymore can be nudged on Facebook to visit the Franklin Sports website. Once there, the visitor will see content that is personalized according to the customer’s other preferences.
Another important connection, according to Penn, is to a DSP. This way, the customer’s journey can be extended through targeted programmatic ad buys. This is just what Seitz orchestrates through the BlueConic CDP. “We figure out how we can best engage,” he said. “Should we run a Google display ad or YouTube pre-roll?”
Who’s steering the ship?
Segmentation, one of the key functions of many CDPs, can help marketing ops identify previously unseen opportunities and make adjustments at scale. For Seitz, it also helps his team prioritize. Why solve a problem that only applies to a bucket of four customers, when you can activate a segment that includes hundreds or thousands of customers?
“[The CDP’s] role has evolved where we see opportunities,” Seitz explained. “One way we view email marketing for us is as an extension of our marketing nucleus. It’s helpful to use the CDP as a core.”
As Franklin Sports continues to implement the CDP in expanded ways, BlueConic’s technology also continues to evolve. Last year, the vendor launched enhanced customer lifecycle orchestration.
As with older methods of segmentation, these features help marketing ops meet specific goals. In this case, the user can identify customers at designated stages that determine how they should be messaged.
The more a marketing ops team uses its CDP, the better the team should be at understanding how to act on its insights. “The things we talked about three years ago are very different than what we’re talking about now,” Seitz stated. “Our ideas have evolved, as well as the actions and levers [we pull].”
In volatile times, when buying behavior shifts drastically, marketing ops can organize data in real-time in a CDP and figure out how to adapt. Judging from how the pandemic changed things last year, Seitz predicts that everything will shift again as vaccines roll out in 2021.
This story first appeared on MarTech Today.