Abstract customer data concept, a brain on a printed circuit board. The brain has customer touchpoints inside
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The customer journey sales funnel has forever been changed by the digital age. Customers, whom used to follow a fairly linear process to a sale, could be tracked through a traditional funnel in which leads are acquired, converted to purchase, and retained when possible. Organizations would then rinse and repeat this process to get more potential customers to fill that funnel to enable sales and support business growth.

Customers no longer interact with brands and products in such a linear and controlled fashion. A company used to be able to fully manage the brand experience as it pushed its message out through various channels and advertising campaigns. With digitally-native and savvy consumers now in the driver’s seat, customers have a lot more choices in how and where they buy, and do much of their research on their own, far before they ever enter into the buy cycle.

In fact, the average person consumes 11.4 pieces of content before ever making a purchase decision, according to Forrester. And, customers have narrowed down their search considerably before they look at the product in stores — if they ever even visit the store. That’s why delivering a unified customer experience (CX) isn’t just a nice-to-have for brands, it’s something customers have come to expect. 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience when interacting with a brand across all channels. In short, consumers are in control today, not the brand. The ability of marketers to use the traditional levers of price, product and promotion becomes severely challenged in this consumer-driven sales environment..

The ability to differentiate for modern brands comes down to tailoring the customer experience, and this is increasingly either partially or entirely a digital customer experience (DCX). According to the 2019 State of the Digital Customer Experience, a report that surveyed 325 customer experience executives — a staggering 94% of those surveyed — said the digital customer experience is either important or extremely important to their organizations.

This is all easier said than done, since many companies are finding that providing unified customer experience to be quite challenging for a variety of technical, cultural and process-oriented reasons. In context of technology alone, getting the right solutions in place and connected to your tech stack, and managing all the customer data in one place so the customer experience can be tailored appropriately, should be top of the list for marketers tasked with supporting customer-centric business strategies. About 44%  of those surveyed in the 2019 State of the DCX Report said one of the top challenges they face in moving towards a unified customer experience is siloed systems and customer data.

Related Article: Finding the Right CDP for Your Business

A CDP is the Engine of a Unified CX

Enter the customer data platform (CDP), a data management solution that has emerged in the last five years to address gaps in functionality in existing data management systems like the CRM and DMP. The CDP is specifically designed to do a few key things those other platforms cannot do. A CDP is focused on managing all types of data, both first-party and third-party, allowing you to create unified profiles — sometimes called “golden profiles” — of known customers. This ability to deal with an individual customer and a single profile created from multiple sources is key to being able to support the full customer lifecycle with a unified CX across the full purchase journey.

To this end, a CDP is designed to be easy to connect to the rest of your martech stack, usually with a variety of built-in application programming interfaces (APIs). The APIs help the CDP to push out relevant data and insights to other martech apps (like personalization software) that allow the CX to be tailored, in real-time, with topically-relevant content, offers, or visuals.

Data Management Platforms (DMP) deal with anonymous data and help to target customers in ad networks. The CDP, in contrast, is broader not only in its ability to manage different data types, but also in the amount of applications it can support, such as integrated marketing campaign activities. CDPs are flexible enough to ingest data from a variety of sources, including customer support data, web browsing data, purchase history, social media engagement, and weather data, just to name a few. 

The Arm Treasure Data CDP is an example of an enterprise-grade CDP that gives you not only the functionality to build a unified customer profile, but also the ability to create audience segments using machine learning to improve campaign targeting over time. With AI-enabled insights into an individual customer’s history, you are able to deliver the right message, to the right people, on the right channel, at the right time — enabling higher performing campaigns and more efficient marketing.

Conclusion

A CDP is a keystone technology for any customer-centric business strategy. Understanding your customer’s attitudes and behaviors, over time and through multiple points of contact, gives you the ability to tailor your interactions with them to develop a lasting relationship far before and after the actual sale. A CDP helps you combine data from dozens of channels, then merge that data together and reconcile it around a single customer view which is used to deliver a unified, consistent experience, no matter where customers are in their lifecycle.