The Best Customer Data Platforms for Ecommerce
Unifying Customer Information Into One Comprehensive System
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What is a Customer Data Platform?
A Customer Data Platform is a collection of software that creates a unified customer database, allowing information from multiple systems to be seen in one place. Data is pulled from multiple sources, cleaned, scrubbed, and combined to create a single customer profile, for all customer profiles. From the emails they've opened, to the links they've clicked, the texts they've been sent and the products they've purchased, a CDP (customer data platform) lets you to see all that information in one place, and then typically it will help with some advanced analytics, segmentation, and is often also an email service provider, text provider, pop-up tool, and has various other omnichannel marketing functionalities. This is what makes a Customer Data Platform very similar to a Customer Relationship Management software, which is also fairly similar to an Email Service Provider, and each of the sub-functionalities / channels that a Customer may be communicated with.
Customer Data Platform (CDP)
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You should be looking at Customer Data Platforms when you're marketing on multiple channels, perhaps across multiple stores, retailers, suppliers, etc., and you're looking to better understand the various customer journeys, which are working best, and how to influencer customer behavior to build the brand, increase retention, increase sales, etc.
Most importantly, a CDP may be sought from a marketing team that is tired of working with a multitude of "Data Silos" or "Data Deserts" - software and systems that don't share their information with any other source.
Smaller stores and merchants using fewer channels will have significantly less value using a Customer Data Platform. For that reason, this tool is often sought after for larger, complex brands, that have a strong amount of resources to dedicate to the integration of all such tools into that single, unified view.
There's no set time to invest, or swap from a basic email service provider to a CDP, but what you should know is that CDPs are getting cheaper to purchase and easier to implement over time. Which means, in the 5-10 year future of Ecommerce, you may expect your email service provider and Customer Data Platform to be one in the same, from the start of your Ecommerce, or commerce, journey.
A Customer Data Platform may be deployed by a development team with operations overseen by marketing and analytics teams. You may even see your Ecommerce and merchandising team using your CDP to pull data on sales, inventory forecasting, etc.
The main cost of ownership typically lies on the marketing department, and they are the ones that will be in this tool using the data to create segments, campaigns, and generally do better marketing. That said, the development team, or agency, may be creating custom data integrations with the CDP in order to better populate data, create that unified view, and empower the marketing team.
Integrations have to be front and center here, as a Customer Data Platform is only as good as the sources it can pull data from. Next up, that data needs to be autonomously organized. For example, pulling data from source A you might have a first name field of "First Name" and from source B it's "first_name." Bringing the data in, organizing it, and assigning it to the right custom fields is very important. On top of that, you need technology to handle de-duplications (when a customer is in your system more than once), handling multiple customer profiles and segments, the ability to easily create and manage custom fields, and the ability to pull and push that data to all other sources needed to build that cohesive customer profile.