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Fix These 3 Marketing Problems With a Customer Data Platform

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For many companies struggling with data integration and identity management, a CDP breaks down silos and makes data useful across teams. It’s a smarter way to manage data and align marketing. [@VICTOR TORRES/Stocksy United]

The customer data platform has become a keystone of business transformation. Here’s how it can manage data and align marketing across the company.

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?” And now, that question has turned into, “How can I get started with a CDP today?”

How Salesforce uses a customer data platform

Michael Andrew, our SVP for data, walks you through how we create a unified profile of our customers.

To answer these questions, I 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 product to solve just about every problem they had. 

A customer data platform won’t fix everything, but over the years it has proven its value in marketing as step one in personalizing the customer relationship. Now, it’s expanding to become a keystone of larger business transformation. 

For many companies struggling with data integration and identity management, a CDP breaks down silos and makes data useful across teams. It’s a smarter way to manage data and align marketing with information technology, sales, service, commerce, loyalty, data science, and so much more.  

Most important, it unlocks the value of data. With built in segmentation, customer insights, and activation, the CDP helps marketers and other business users turn data into personalized experiences at any speed, in any moment, from online to in person – all while maintaining privacy, security, and governance with IT.

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 at one point 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.”

A CDP connects 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. Now, as companies embrace a larger customer experience role for the technology, enterprise CDPs such as Salesforce’s are emerging to help marketers drive a larger transformation in their companies, expanding the CDP’s personalization, efficiency, and productivity benefits across the customer journey.

In particular, CDPs address three core issues:

Disconnected data

This makes customer connections harder. Our State of Marketing report revealed that 32 percent of marketers say unifying data is a challenge in their organization. The report also found that brands anticipate an increase in the number of data sources they use, projecting an average of 18 in 2023.

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. Any data scientist will tell you there is no algorithmic magic that can beat bad – or missing – data. 

Scattered segmentation, insights, and activation

Having all your data in one place is only as important as how you’re able to use it. According to our research, 73% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations. In response, marketers are turning to CDPs for a faster, no-code approach to customer segmentation, insights, and activation.

How can a 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 and boasts more than 2,400 locations in 16 states.

Like many retailers, Casey’s aspired to deliver a more personal digital experience to its customers, 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.”

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 Marketing Cloud  Customer Data Platform 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.

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. They now have 5.5 million loyalty subscribers, 30 times faster segmentation speed, and send 170 million personalized messages a month across different channels. 

“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’s Customer Data Platform 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 for the CDP

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, “We are most certainly in the top of the first [inning]; perhaps the first batter.”

That’s why we’re excited about Data Cloud for Marketing, with a host of exciting features.

Go deeper into Data Cloud for Marketing

See how our latest innovations can help you create real-time moments for customers.

Martin Kihn SVP, Market Strategy, Marketing Cloud

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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