There is an old parable about preparedness that offers a parallel to how some marketers view technology’s role in reaching outcomes. In the parable, a person takes cover under a tree during a downpour. Asked what they plan to do when the canopy becomes drenched and no longer offers protection, the person replies, “I suppose I’ll just move to the next dry tree,” with the lesson being that a short-term fix often blinds people to the bigger picture.
I’m reminded of this lesson when I see the approach many companies take toward the purchase of a customer data platform (CDP). Often, the current desired outcome carries undue weight at the expense of broader objectives. Marketers then tend to focus on a singular capability, rather than assess a CDP more for its ability to deliver value-based outcomes that persist over time.
Weighing a CDP’s Capabilities, Features, & Functions
Even stipulating that value – as it pertains to a business outcome tied to a specific use case – differs by company and by end user, it is still important to understand that a justification for a CDP program should account for shifting KPIs. It is also important to think of value as a cumulative output – particularly when an improved customer experience (CX) is the CDPs intended core function – rather than being caught up in short-term goals.
A real time capability presents an illustrative example of value’s pliancy in the context of a CDP’s capabilities and features. For most analysts and data scientists who see a CDP as a valuable tool for throwing data into machine learning models, a real-time capability will have minimal value. But for a marketer interested in real-time cross-channel journeys with use cases such as switching channels mid-stream (among web, mobile, IVR, call center and other “live” channels) without losing context or slowing down interactions, the requirement that data be made available with low latency, and that data updates and decisions be accomplished in the same timeframe, become very important.
Uncover a CDP’s Hidden Value
It is also true that certain outcomes may not be readily apparent to a constituency laser focused on a specific capability. A paid search/paid ad team, for example, may be enticed by a CDP’s ability to aggregate customer data, helpful for finding look-alike audiences. Yet the team may place little value on a CDP’s ability to produce consistent, accurate probabilistic and deterministic matching, sloughing off that function to the DMPs and DSPs of the world that match up a selected ad with an audience.
Taking a wider view helps reveal value that may not be readily apparent. The same paid search team may find probabilistic and deterministic matching to be of tremendous value when shown a significant improvement in suppression rates. By knowing an audience at a granular level through advanced identity resolution, the ad team suppresses a school backpack ad for empty nesters.
Also, what’s of value today may not hold the same value tomorrow, and vice-versa. In the case of our ad team that shrugs off identity resolution, the loss of third-party cookies will throw a wrench in contextual advertising strategies; a customer’s current behavior may become much more important, and accurate matching that ties together a host of behaviors will suddenly be of great interest.
Real time and advanced identity resolution are just two of many examples that show why a narrow focus on a specific capability or feature of a CDP is short-sighted. A focus on outcomes helps ensure that a CDP’s value remains constant, even with objectives constantly in flux.
Build Value that Persists Over Time
A CDP’s unique role in the martech stack as a platform for delivering an omnichannel customer experience makes it especially important to focus on long-lasting value. When the outcome in question is a personalized, highly relevant customer experience irrespective of channel or engagement touchpoint, value deepens over time.
A marketer may of course prioritize results of a single campaign, or what they’re doing on a particular channel, but if the overarching goal is to transform CX, a marketing team will be better served strategizing, realizing, and measuring value over a wide range of interactions that span time and channels. Tying value to a particular capability makes it difficult to embrace a broader perspective.
By measuring value through this larger prism, features are viewed more for how one or more act in concert to put the customer at the center of a holistic customer journey. This view will then shift priorities from day-to-day marketing tasks to look at things such as customer intent, lifetime value and other customer-centric metrics that are not tied to a specific capability.
A Cumulative View Accounts for Shifting Priorities
In a customer journey context, a CDP enables a brand to visualize an entire journey, to look at past journeys by an individual customer and by customers like them, and to understand the likely outcomes and probabilities of moving along the customer journey in particular paths. This, in turn, allows marketers to prepare highly relevant offers for an individual customer in a precise moment of a journey, which will then improve the customer-centric metrics.
Every CDP will of course have some particular contribution to this type of a value journey, ranking higher in some features and capabilities than others. While it’s not wise to discount any one particular feature, companies will always make prioritizations based on the type of customer journey they care most about. But thinking long-term is paramount. Even in the case of presenting a customer with a relevant offer at a precise moment of a journey, is that truly the end goal? Or is it, instead, part of treating the customer as one who will have multiple brand interactions, where it’s also important to receive additional first-party or zero-party data and making sure that permissions and privacy preferences are honored? That long-term view will depend on a host of a CDP’s core capabilities.
The depth of the customer experience platform, and the stickiness of outcomes are important considerations for a company that’s interested in building a value chain that persists over time. Customers change. Priorities change. Business goals change. What shouldn’t change is a customer experience platform’s ability to produce value-based outcomes encompassing any use case, irrespective of fluctuating priorities or goals.