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AI, CDPs and the Future of Customer Experience in 2021

Customer Data Platforms (CDP) are state-of-the-art for marketers who want to connect meaningfully with their customers. But AI can take CDPs even further.

Imagine being on a fishing boat, miles offshore. You have no electronics, no idea where you are in relation to the shore and no clue whether the fish you wish to catch are anywhere close.

Believe it or not, this isn’t that far from the situation faced by marketers who are trying to score sales using typical customer data.

Sure, you have a boat, a fishing rod and some bait. These represent the basics,a collection of CRM data, for example. But without more information—insightful, accurate, descriptive and up-to-the-second—you’ll be fishing time and again for the same fish. And you’ll get only what chance happens to provide.

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Today, fishing for customers can be an infinitely more precise science, but only through the use of a CDP (Customer Data Platform). CPDs unify the fragmented internal/external customer data that marketers collect, much of it siloed, in order to create complete, real-time and highly engaging customer experiences.

Many organizations are convinced that conventional customer database systems already satisfy their marketing requirements.

Here’s why they don’t measure up:

  • Data Management Platforms: DMPs pull in third-party cookie data to drive acquisition, instead of leveraging internal data. The data is valuable, but doesn’t provide the unified, 360-degree perspective a CDP does.
  • Data Lakes. Great for creating customer profiles, but not well suited to operate dynamically, moving customer into and out of segments. CDPs accomplish this functionality quickly and at lower cost.
  • Marketing Databases. These solutions aren’t built to deliver real-time data, nor can they orchestrate customer experiences. Moreover, if the underlying database platform fails, front-end customer apps will fail as well.
  • There are probably the least capable of the four. CRM data tends to get old quickly; you can see who the customer is, but the transaction history and details aren’t there.

A CDP combines all three types of data: first-, second-, and third-party. Like a coastal chart that describes where fish are found (third-party), a radar/fish finder that locates active schools of fish (second-party), and the Old Salt aboard your vessel who knows that mackerel feed south of a particular island (first-party), CDPs integrate this information, dynamically and real-time, to give you a great day of fishing.

In the hands of a smart AI scientist, however, things get really interesting.

By using the latest predictive AI, it’s possible to know there are mackerel 30 feet down—and that a great white shark awaits at 70 feet. You’ll also know what kind of bait to use, and to put your bait at exactly the right depth and speed so the shark doesn’t notice it. But the mackerel do.

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Why CDPs Are Better

CDPs create a single source of truth that can transform your organization’s marketing efforts. It allows you to understand historical trends as well as dynamic data signals that, together, produce instantaneous customer profiles.

By better understanding the prospect and where that person is in the purchase process, marketers can create exceptionally functional customer experiences. The best CDPs also integrate with the full range of marketing solutions that can generate promotional offers, product news and other customized and exquisitely timed outreach.

While some CDPs are designed primarily to normalize anonymous customer data so it can be fed to other customer databases, newer and more advanced platforms go a step further by making recommendations.Instead of simply identifying a customer, for example, these platforms understand that the person loves a particular style of shirt in a particular color palette.

As an intelligent data pipe, an advanced CDP can trigger recommendations for new offerings or complementary accessories. Furthermore, it will support any number of marketing actions, such as an email, a promotional pop-up or an immediate shift in the fashion choices on a given webpage.

Choosing the Right CDP

Choosing which CDP is right for your business begins with knowing what you want to accomplish. If your goal is to reduce media waste, for instance, an intelligent data pipe will help you understand where audiences are on their purchase journey, so you can more efficiently purchase and promote ads at the most opportune time.

CDPs also have the ability to support omnichannel experiences. Today, even refrigerators are smart, with embedded, IP-enabled screens. IoT is where a CDP will create huge value by collecting data, understanding channels a customer uses and then engaging them at the right time with the most relevant information.

Breaking down siloes is a primary goal of any CDP. When direct mail databases are separate from those used for digital email, customer outreach is disconnected. By tying hundreds of sources together, marketers speak with a single, clear and relevant voice.

Powerful Personalization

For years, marketers focused on defining and persuading huge blocks of customers. With the combination of a CDP and AI/ML, these marketers are now able to speak the language of individuals, instead of groups.

CDPs make this kind of powerful personalization possible—and at a reasonable acquisition and implementation cost, compared to conventional databases. With a CDP you can finally link every aspect of customer data, from browser information to purchases, customer service interactions to behavioral and demographic profiles, to improve interactions and generate infinitely better customer experiences. Unlike the typical fisherman’s tale, that’s no exaggeration.

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