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Customer Engagement

Fix These 3 Marketing Problems With a Customer Data Platform

This pizza shop added personalization to its messaging and experienced a 16% lift in conversion rates. Here’s how they did it.

We’ve relaunched our Salesforce CDP (customer data platform) and announced new ways to help our customers connect to their customers. With a single source of truth for smarter analytics and integration that goes beyond marketing, it’s a great time to reflect on how far we’ve come — both at Salesforce and as an industry.

During the five years I covered marketing technology as a Gartner research analyst, I never saw a category take off like the customer data platform (CDP). In 2016, the CDP shot up Gartner’s well-known Hype Cycle – which tracks buzz – more vigorously than anything in memory. By 2018, the most common question I got from clients was, “What is a CDP, anyway?”

To answer the question, I eventually pored over hundreds of proposal requests from enterprises of all shapes and sizes, outlining their detailed requirements for a CDP. In addition to eyestrain, this exercise gave me the conviction that buyers were looking to this seemingly brand new product to solve just about every problem they had. What they didn’t realize was that CDP wasn’t new: it was – and remains – an evolution of CRM for marketing.

At the same time, the promise of the Salesforce CDP extends well beyond marketing, making it a keystone of business transformation. For many companies struggling with data integration and identity management, Salesforce CDP provides a single source of truth. It’s a smarter way to manage data and align marketing with information technology, Service, Commerce, data science, and so much more.

Buyers were looking to this seemingly brand new product to solve just about every problem they had. What they didn’t realize was that CDP wasn’t new: it was – and remains – an evolution of CRM for marketing.

Customers like David Kavanagh, head of marketing technology at Bank of Montreal (BMO), agree: “Our expectations with Salesforce’s CDP are that it will help us enable and activate our rich profile data to help create even greater experiences for our customers. BMO’s purpose is to Boldly Grow the Good in business and life.” 

Kavanagh added, “Leveraging technology to create frictionless, meaningful, omni-channel experiences powered by rich and accessible data enables us to deliver on the promises we make to our customers and ourselves. Everywhere we do business, we’re focused on building, investing, and transforming how we work to drive performance and continue growing the good.”

To help meet these goals, we’ve added innovative connectors for Salesforce CDP into Tableau, our business intelligence tool. We’ve also added Advanced Data Access via MuleSoft Anypoint, and enhancements to our smart segmentation features. We’ve worked hard to provide what we believe to be the industry’s first transformational “Enterprise CDP,” built on the #1 CRM.

This simple tweak led to a 16% lift in conversion rates on pizza alone. Such is the power of connecting disconnected data – which is where CDP shines.

It hasn’t always been so easy to separate the sizzle from the steak among CDPs. High-tech promises are common in emerging categories, of course. But the CDP got so frothy that David Raab, founder of the CDP Institute, delivered a presentation at the MarTech Conference titled, “CDP Cures Baldness: Getting Past the Hype About Customer Data Platforms.”

CDPs connect customer data

Well, CDPs don’t cure baldness (at least as far as I know), but there is a lot they can do to connect customer data. Even as their hype abates, true enterprise CDPs such as Salesforce’s are emerging to help marketers face their biggest challenges. 

In particular, CDPs address three core issues:

Disconnected data

This makes customer connections harder. Our most recent State of Marketing research revealed that the number of data sources used by marketers alone grew 50% – from eight in 2019 to 12 (projected) in 2021. Other research showed the average enterprise has about 900 different applications, but on average, only 28% of them are integrated with a system of record. 

Incomplete identities

Identity and privacy management are key capabilities today. Many data sources have customer IDs that aren’t mapped to one another to build a more complete customer profile. And our research found only one in three marketers said they were “satisfied” with their ability to reconcile identities across data sources. 

Scattered segmentation

Any data scientist will tell you there is no algorithmic magic that can beat bad – or missing – data. Customer profiles that are incomplete, disparate, lagging, or just plain wrong lead to ailing analytics and predictive models. After all, a single source of truth must provide the truth.

How can an enterprise-grade CDP help marketers solve these problems?

One of my favorite examples is Casey’s, a beacon across the Midwest and South for comfort foods like Taco Pizza and friendly staff. It has a customer base devoted to its heart-of-the-community convenience stores boasting 2,200+ locations in 16 states.

Like many retailers, Casey’s aspired to deliver a more personal digital experience to its customers in 2020; one that paired relevant promotions with the soul of the brand. “When you look at all the things that people love about Casey’s,” said Art Sebastian, vice president of digital experience, “it’s authentic to be friendly and relatable.”

What our customers want is more relevance. They don’t want to get the same thing as everyone else. They want relevant promotions and personalized messages that speak to them.

Art Sebastian, vice president of digital experience, Casey’s

Casey’s launched a loyalty program in January 2020 and signed up 2.5 million active customers when the pandemic hit. It became a pilot user of the Salesforce CDP to improve customer data management. Sebastian found actions such as engaging lapsed customers and suppressing emails to recent shoppers yields big benefits, but they’re often difficult to do.

“What our customers want is more relevance,” Sebastian told me. “They don’t want to get the same thing as everyone else. They want relevant promotions and personalized messages that speak to them.”

But the guest experience can’t be improved if the data about that guest sits in disconnected systems. Connecting data from online orders, in-store transactions, and emails via Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Casey’s was able to display a hero image of the most recent pizza type each guest had purchased directly in the body of the email.

What we built with Salesforce CDP is a tool that enables marketers to import data sets, create audience segments, and do data discovery. It just lets us move faster.

ART SEBASTIAN, VICE PRESIDENT OF DIGITAL EXPERIENCE, CASEY’S

This simple tweak led to a 16% lift in conversion rates on pizza alone. Such is the power of connecting disconnected data – which is where CDP shines – and Casey’s is all-in on improving customer data management as part of its overall transformation journey.

“No one jumps into a CDP,” said Sebastian. “This pilot was a good step forward in our shift to becoming more relevant to our guests. What we built with Salesforce CDP is a tool that enables marketers to import data sets, create audience segments, and do data discovery. It just lets us move faster.”

What’s next

At Salesforce, we believe we’re only in the opening innings of the CDP game. As Kevin Mannion, president and chief strategy officer of business intelligence firm Advertiser Perceptions, told us recently, “We are most certainly in the top of the first [inning]; perhaps the first batter.”

That’s why we’re excited to relaunch Salesforce CDP with a host of exciting new features and other upgrades. That’s why innovative brands like Casey’s and Bank of Montreal are using Salesforce CDP as a single source of truth beyond marketing to provide tailored and unique customer experiences. Now is when the game gets interesting.

Marketing Cloud offers solutions for digital marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, customer journey mapping, marketing analytics, marketing automation, and B2B marketing to help you personalize customer communications across every digital touchpoint — from anywhere.

This post is part of our Moment Makers series, which dives into how marketers use technology to build data-driven customer experiences that feel natural, relevant, and right on time.


Martin Kihn is the Senior Vice President of Market Strategy for Marketing Cloud. In a former life, he was a research vice president at Gartner, where he wrote and spoke widely about marketing technology, and advised numerous Fortune 500 clients on marketing strategy. He’s also authored four books, including “House of Lies,” which was adapted for TV by Showtime, and “Customer Data Platforms: Use People Data to Transform Marketing Engagement,” co-written with Chris O'Hara. Fun fact: Kihn was head writer for the MTV series Pop-Up Video from 1997-1999.

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