Fueling Ecommerce Marketing Growth With A Customer Data Platform

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It’s the technology that’s on every direct-to-consumer (DTC) and retail marketer’s mind: the customer data platform (CDP). Vendors make big claims about its ability to revolutionize your marketing. Analysts are more cautious. The reality is, the CDP space is still evolving, and companies are still working out how to make the most of the new tech. But those that have found a place for the platform are seeing some good results.

Before you decide if a CDP is right for your company, it’s important to do some groundwork. You need to understand what sets a CDP apart from other martech solutions, how a CDP can create value and how long the implementation process can be. Let’s take a look at each of those questions.

How Does A CDP Differ From Other Ecommerce Marketing Tools?

At a glance, a CDP might seem similar to other ecommerce marketing tools that also deal with customer data and manage complex profiles. Customer relationship management software (CRMs) and data management platforms (DMPs) both seem to have similar roles. So how do they differ?

The easiest way to see their differences is to understand which function each platform is primarily intended for. CRMs are typically used by sales teams, DMPs are used for building advertising audiences, and CDPs are intended to be used by marketing teams. 

These intended uses lead to differences in the scope of each platform. Although there is some crossover between the functionalities of each tool, they each have their own strong points and unique capabilities. A CDP is the only one of these three platforms that can achieve identity resolution and manage omni-channel personalization. You can see more differences in the chart below.


CDP comparios chart courtesy ExponeaImage source: Exponea

What Use Cases Does A CDP Make Possible?

CDPs have good marketing, and vendors paint nice vague pictures of the ability to get a complete view of your customers. It sounds nice, but it’s not exactly concrete. What does a CDP actually allow you to do?

Connect online and offline experiences. CDPs collect data from different sources (brick and mortar purchases, CRM data, transactional data, browsing history, etc.) and collect them into one central hub. This breaks silos between online and offline data storage systems, and allows marketers to create new experiences that connect online and offline into one seamless experience

Customer segmentation and personalization. Not only do CDPs collect data – they almost all offer powerful segmentation capabilities. This makes it easy to find out who your highest value customer segments are, and then personalize web content based on their preferences. Note that not all CDPs offer web personalization, and it might be necessary to integrate with other systems to achieve this.

Better product recommendations. A unified source of customer intelligence is a recommendation engine’s best friend. Recommendations get better with better data, and a CDP can provide that data in spades. Some CDP vendors even offer product recommendations as part of their platform, making it even easier to give customers a more personalized experience.

Predictive customer scoring. CDPs ingest customer behavior, including what a customer does on your website. And customer behavior can be an important predictor of future actions, like making a purchase or applying for a loan. CDPs can easily assign scores to all actions a customer takes and execute actions for customers that reach a target score. A cellular service provider can show a lead generation form to customers that browse certain sections of the website, creating a list of leads that are ready to buy. You can imagine similar scenarios for all types of businesses.

This is just a sample of what’s possible with a CDP. If you want some more ideas, head over to any CDP vendor’s site – they should be more than happy to show off what’s possible with their platform. 

What Does Implementing A CDP Look Like? 

If the use cases you can achieve with a CDP sound interesting, you might want to know how big of a project implementing a CDP actually is.

The answer is a resounding: “It depends.” There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here, because implementing a CDP means hooking it up to all your existing sources of data. If you’re strictly an ecommerce site, with just a website, and no other channels, then implementation is very simple. But if that’s the case, you’re probably not in the market for a CDP.

For most larger companies, with multiple sources of customer data and several different marketing execution layers, implementation time will probably be in the range of four to twelve weeks. For more information on implementation time (and everything else CDP), take a look at this CDP guide.

If you have a complex business, you will most likely want to assign a dedicated project manager to the task of implementing a new CDP. This can smooth the integration process and make sure everything keeps moving along at a good pace.

How Do You Choose The Right CDP For Your Company?

This is a difficult question, but there are two main things you should consider.

The first is whether the vendors you’re looking at can meet your business needs. Don’t go looking for a CDP without a clear understanding of the exact use cases you want to accomplish with one. This will make discussions with potential vendors more productive.

The next thing you should consider are elements outside of the technical abilities of your vendor. Do they have a roadmap that aligns with your business goals? Are they well established? What do current users think of them? This will take some research on your part, but is arguably just as, if not more important than the vendor’s technical capabilities.

If you can fulfill both of these criteria, you’ve found a good candidate for a CDP. And while the market might seem crowded and perhaps even overhyped at the moment, CDPs are excellent platforms for companies that are prepared to use them. 

About the Author

Jordan Torpy – CDP Specialist 

Jordan works closely with the content team and product experts at Exponea to create material that brings value to readers. With a background in teaching, training, and marketing, Jordan uses case studies, presentations, newsletters and more to illustrate what’s possible in the martech world today.