The past year reinforced the importance of a brand’s digital experience, as the pandemic accelerated an already growing trend of consumers interacting with a brand first, and often primarily, through its digital channels. As more businesses took note of the data these interactions were generating, the CDP market saw rapid growth in 2020 and the first half of 2021. Companies needed a way to unify the data they were collecting through customers’ digital interactions, and introducing a CDP into their tech stack is what would allow them to do it.

The problem, which those who have been using CDPs for years already knew, was that unifying that data only did so much. And Amanda Elam, Chief Marketing Officer at Bloomreach, argues that this has long since been the problem commerce-driving teams run into once they’ve implemented a CDP. Bloomreach, which offers a product called Engagement that combines the traditional aspects of a CDP together with marketing automation, believes that it is customer data coupled with activation and connected across channels that can actually have an impact on a company’s digital experience, not just customer data alone. We spoke with Amanda to learn more.

SMG: Why do you believe a CDP on its own is not enough? Isn’t the unification of customer data important for a business?

Amanda Elam: It is incredibly important for a company to have a unified view of its data. But after you have that view — what comes next?

In many organizations, that unified data source is still being used in really disconnected ways across owned channels, which are run in silos by marketers, merchandisers and CRM managers. And these roles all may own different parts of the customer journey, but at the end of the day, they’re working toward the same goal, right? They want to improve the customer experience and drive digital revenue. Yet they’re doing so based on different interpretations of the customer and separate priorities. It’s a recipe for disaster, by which I mean, really disconnected customer experiences that don’t drive conversions.

SMG: What do those disconnected experiences look like in practice?

Elam: So maybe a customer gets an email from your brand about new fall shoes that are available. They click the link to buy a pair of boots and arrive at your site, where the homepage banner is promoting cocktail dresses. They navigate around to finally find your fall shoes and look at a pair of boots, but ultimately decide not to purchase. A few weeks later, they get an email about those boots they wanted — only to realize the site doesn’t even have them in their size. What about that journey would entice you to make a purchase? It’s anything but seamless, and it doesn’t lead you to believe that the brand has taken your preferences and your journey into account.

SMG: And what does that experience look like when it's connected?

Elam: Imagine that you get an email about those fall shoes, and when you visit the site you see all of the brand’s best selling boots on the homepage. You click on a pair you like, maybe glance at a pair of sneakers while you’re there, and ultimately purchase the boots. A few days after you’ve made the purchase, you get an email letting you know that the sneakers you were looking at are now on sale. You visit the site and they’re in-stock, in your size. You move to purchase in a few quick clicks. That was an easy journey. That makes you want to return to that brand again.

Each part of those two different customer journeys — disconnected and connected — were powered by a different role within the digital commerce team. Marketing making initial outreach, merchandising overseeing site content, and CRM enticing you to return. In both instances, the teams were working off of data from a CDP. But it's only in the second, connected instance that those teams were clearly working toward a shared goal and using that customer’s data to provide a seamless experience across channels. As a result, it was far more personalized, and far more effective.

SMG: How can you encourage that type of collaboration across the three roles using a CDP?

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Elam: Making sure everyone is working toward at least one shared KPI is incredibly important to driving cohesion across the digital commerce team. That can be customer lifetime value (CLV), average order value (AOV), engaged sessions, repeat purchase, or a metric unique to your organization. By working toward the same metrics, teams will be more incentivized to create content and experiences that engage across the entire customer journey, not just their own piece of the experience.

SMG: The way organizations use CDPs has been standard for years. Why is now the time for these roles to be reconsidering how they use their customer data?

Elam: Digital commerce has become a significant driver of an organization’s revenue, and digital is often the first channel a customer is engaging with to learn more about your brand, regardless of where they ultimately convert. So it really has never been more critical for your brand to be optimizing digital.

A massive part of that is ensuring your digital channels aren’t just seamless, but that they’re also personalized. And while that starts with a robust set of data, it can’t end there. On its own, your CDP isn’t enough to give customers the types of digital experiences they want.

It's through web content, email campaigns, SMS, mobile app pushes and a host of other channels that you can put that data into use, driving personalized shopping experiences that follow customers across their entire digital journey and promote complementary messages. When you’re adding in those aspects of activation and connecting your channels, you can make it feel as though your brand’s digital experience is catered specifically to each individual shopper. Then, you can take that feeling and scale it to every customer. That’s a really powerful way to engage a customer base and drive brand loyalty.

I also think it's a way to bring joy back into the shopping experience. When you really think about it, there is a lot of joy that comes from feeling understood. And that’s what you can do for your customers when the entire commerce team is working collaboratively, leveraging the same unified data source and putting customer needs at the center of every digital experience — you can show your customers you understand them.

Learn more about how Bloomreach can supercharge your commerce team here.