Tealium CMO on ‘Before You Buy: A Guide for Choosing A CDP’

 In Customer Centricity, News

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Tealium recently published a newsletter featuring the “Market Guide for Customer Data Platforms for Marketing.” I sat down with Tealium’s CMO, Adam Corey, to hear his thoughts on the piece, get more details on the top things brands should consider when purchasing a Customer Data Platform (CDP), and hear his executive insights on where he sees the CDP space evolving.

Julie: In this guide Gartner defines a CDP as a “marketing system that unifies a company’s customer data from marketing and other channels to enable customer modeling, and optimize the timing and targeting of messages and offers”, but isn’t it much more than a “marketing-driven initiative” and more like a company-wide initiative? A system that impacts so much more than marketing?

Adam: Yes, I think this is a definition that evolves every day. When David Raab, the founder of the CDP Institute, defined it as a few years ago, he was talking about this as a marketer-managed system. It’s been in the last six months or so that the definition has broadened to be more focused on packaged software. But I think you’re right. The idea of a system that solves this exclusively for marketing is going to run into challenges down the line.

To solve this long term you need to think about how an organization uses customer data, as that tends to be where the pain and the opportunity both lie in what a CDP solves for.

It makes sense for organizations to evaluate customer data platforms as the technology needs to solve challenges they have today, which may very well sit within the marketing organization. But it also needs to address the challenges and the opportunities that they want to reach beyond marketing. This runs the gamut from “How do I support the customer once they become a customer?” and “How do I build a product for a customer based on what I know about them?” or “How do I realign my business throughout to make sure that I understand what my customer cares about?”

That’s certainly part of marketing, but it’s a lot more than just marketing.

Julie: Recent estimates suggest that global annual data generation will reach a staggering 163 zettabytes (163 sextillion bytes) by 2025, so the urgency for a technological data management solution is at an all-time high. With this explosion of customer data from online and offline data sources, how do CDPs help brands deal with and manage all of this incoming data?

Adam: The big industry trend that we’re seeing right now is that organizations, and marketers, are awash in customer data. It’s sometimes hard to really think about the scale of that. Oftentimes we only think about the pieces of information that we want to use for particular campaigns. For instance, I may want to know something about what someone has recently purchased, or looked at. That information is then going to be used as an audience for a campaign.

But if I keep zooming out, and I look at what I can really know about someone, there’s all sorts of information that tells me so much more than what they looked at from a product standpoint. It’s really about every interaction they’ve had with my brand and that’s where the volume of data keeps increasing.  

It’s not just the key milestones of purchases that are important, but rather, all of the interactions that make up a person’s profile. Brands need to make sure they’re understanding what the customer is telling them, every time, and in every moment.  

It’s not just the key milestones of purchases that are important, but rather, all of the interactions that make up a person’s profile. Brands need to make sure they’re understanding what the customer is telling them, every time, and in… Click To Tweet

Data-focused CDPs can help solve for that. The challenge that is obvious to anyone who’s looked at the CDP space is not all CDPs look alike. We need to think about “What is the challenge I’m actually trying to solve?” And if your challenge is that you simply want to look at “How do I understand an audience of people who have bought something or has reached a certain milestone and I want to use them for a campaign?” That’s different than “I want to build a customer data supply chain that helps me understand everything I need to know to understand my customer better, to be able to respond to them in the moment, and to innovate on how I respond to them.” That is where the real opportunity is and there’s a lot of data that’s required to get there.

An organization-wide customer data supply chain is a concept and service that both integrates and simplifies data across multiple channels, locations, touchpoints and more.

Data then becomes the fabric that acts as the continuous elasticity that allows a business to experience true digital transformation. An organization can take control of their data at any moment, and at any place. It is essentially the single and comprehensive framework that weaves and connects data to the teams that use it.

Data fabric is a framework that integrates and simplifies customer data across multiple channels, locations, and touchpoints so an organization can take advantage of their data anywhere and anytime Click To Tweet

Julie: 73% of organizations agree that delivering an exemplary customer service experience is key to a successful business. And in fact, companies who remain customer-centric are 23 times more likely to attract and six times more likely to maintain customer relationships. Do CDPs help organizations become more customer-centric? If so, how?

Adam: Any technology can help solve a problem. Customer Data Platforms can certainly give you the ability to be more relevant, at least in your marketing programs. When we think what is possible about using customer data to really innovate the customer experience, the answers become bigger than marketing. If we take off our technologist hats for a moment, and remember what it’s like to be a consumer (which we all are for every other moment in our lives) we’re looking for brands that we have an authentic relationship with us and we as consumers reward brands that value us. And that can be experienced in a variety of ways.

They may value our time, or it can be that they know us and don’t clutter our inboxes or ad space with stuff that’s not relevant. They’ve taken the time to delight me as part of my experience with them.

Customers look to the brands they have an authentic relationship with to serve and delight them. Customers reward the brands that are of value to them. Click To Tweet

As consumers we want to reward those companies with our business, but that takes a tremendous amount of work to get there. It’s not just buying technology, it’s around thinking about “how do I realign my organization around my customer?” And to do that I need to make sure that my teams can work together.

So if I’m going to make a technology investment that’s designed to be more customer-centric, I need to think about how to start from within my company to connect teams that are working with different sets of disparate data. How do I make sure that the left hand is working with the right hand? It’s all well and good if the marketing team is working together with one set of customer data, but if that’s a completely different set of data than my customer support teams work with or my BI  team is working with, it’s not really customer-centric. It would create a disjointed view and even a competing view of what a customer looks like inside my organization. So I’m essentially not being customer-centric at all.

A common challenge brands don’t even know they face is doing things that are in the spirit of being customer-centric, but aren’t actually customer-centric.

Julie: So really it’s a lot more than just being customer-centric, it’s really about being empathetic.

Adam: I think that’s a great way to think about it. Customer-centric has been a buzzword that’s been around for a while, and after we hear a buzzword for a while we tend to not believe it in anymore. But I like the idea of empathy because it’s important to understand how you get empathy.

You get empathy by listening, understanding and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It sounds very touchy-feely, but when you think about it, that’s what we’re all going for. I can’t build a business around my customer if I don’t really know what they care about or really understand what they’re trying to do. How I can solve their challenges or know what their struggles are or the experience they’re having with my brand? I need to know all of this.

It’s important to not only be customer-centric but also be empathetic with your audience. To listen to your customer, understand them, and put yourself in their shoes. Click To Tweet

And oftentimes we don’t think about all that’s involved in bringing data together. There’s a tremendous amount of data – not just digital analytics data, it’s every other part of the customer experience. And it’s different for all brands, it can be in-store, how they engage over the phone, how they’re engaging with other connected devices and their IoT experiences. This is an enormous amount of data that has to start to work together to inform how we understand what our customers are experiencing every day.

Julie: This CDP Guide, featuring Gartner research states that CDPs can generate comprehensive and continuous 360-degree customer profiles that can be used to identify audience segmentation for personalized, targeted messages. How do they do that? Should this be part of the necessary criteria in choosing a CDP? Being able to see this complete picture of a customer?

Adam: It’s a good question. I think the idea of a goal to have a comprehensive and continuous 360-degree view is right and a good way to look at it. However, there seem to be a lot of buzzwords in that and a lot of people are saying the same thing. We’ve seen as many as 70 or 80 different companies that are all saying the same thing right now. And that can be really confusing for a buyer. Which one is the right one for me? They all are touting the same lofty vision, but which one am I suppose to choose?

Technology buyers should really think about the use cases that they need to solve today.

What are the actual, tangible steps that they need to take for coordination? Not what the final destination is that they’re being promised. I think they need to think about what am I looking to solve today, and does that set me up on a path that gets me to where I want to go tomorrow? That narrows down the selection criteria, and the vendors in that list that I need to choose from.

For many organizations, it helps to take a look at what marketing technology they’ve invested in to date and if those solutions are talking to one another. An organization may have spent millions of dollars investing in a robust marketing tech stack, but is that tech stalk working together and sharing information? Oftentimes no.

Organizations can’t (and probably shouldn’t) rip out everything that they’re doing to start anew. There’s value in the technology investment that’s been made up until this point.

Where a Customer Data Platform should be the most valuable is in unlocking the ROI potential in each one of these channels, and for those teams that own those channels, to get them more aligned with what the customer is experiencing.

Julie: Tealium’s Customer Data Platform, AudienceStream, is listed as one of the top solution vendors in the space. What sets AudienceStream apart from its competitors? What type of challenges does AudienceStream help customers solve?

Adam: AudienceStream is our Customer Data Platform product that helps companies construct that view of an individual. And I didn’t say customer yet, because oftentimes, an individual is completely unknown for quite a long time until they’ve decided that they want to buy from the brand and let themself be known.

AudienceStream is designed to not only give you the ability to construct a profile or understanding of who somebody is, but to understand who that person really is over time. We’ve designed a product that gives you not only the flexibility to understand that history of somebody across multiple devices, but also the ability to build a highly customized profile of who they are. This is not a traditional database where I have a certain set of rows and columns that I can squeeze you into, this is something that’s much more expandable and elastic.

It allows me to build upon my understanding of you, the consumer, by creating metrics that evolve and can be updated in real time.

Tealium’s CDP AudienceStream and Customer Data Hub solutions help brands construct a single, 360-degree profile of an individual so they can deliver the best customer experience possible. Click To Tweet

At the same time, it’s also important to note that while AudienceStream can be used independently, it’s part of the Tealium Customer Data Hub. And our Customer Data Hub is designed to use the building blocks of event-level data to help inform the audience or person-level information. And what I mean by that is – if we think about what an event is in our world, is any interaction that you have. That can be on a mobile phone, it can be a swipe, a view, a video play, a click on a website, turning on the tv and firing up an app – any of these examples are events and actions. There are trillions of these that happen every minute.

In fact, according to Tealium partner Domo, there are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day and that pace continues to accelerate alongside the growth of IoT. In addition to that – over the last two years alone 90% of the data in the world was generated!

All of this information is important for BI Professionals and Data Scientists to piece together and understand and gain insights into the customer. But these are also the building blocks for a customer insights professional to understand what somebody looks like.

So for example, while an Analyst may look at all of the data and will drill down into the full data set, a Customer Insights Professional may want to use some of those insights to distill pieces of information that makes the profile much more accessible to the rest of the organization.

While an Analyst may be looking at everything that a Customer Insights Professional may say, these are people who most prefer to watch these types of shows or interested in these types of products or are most likely to open up an app first thing in the morning. These more tangible, person-level attributes are constructed by having all of this event-level data at your fingertips.

That’s where the Customer Data Hub provides value because it allows the organization to not only work with data within its entirety but turn it into a product that can be used to make the data more accessible and actionable. Having these two components working together gives you not only the ability to work together as an organization, but to also work in real time.

Many organizations are doing parts of this today. Maybe using multiple systems to bring together information, and when they’re batching or merging data sets to give to another function of the organization. The Customer Data Hub does this in a completely, real-time fashion. So it gives you the ability to go from insights to action in a far shorter time.

Julie: CDPs have evolved so much in the past 5 to 10 years, where do you see them going in the next decade? What new heights do you think they will take a brands data and analytics programs to? What is on the horizon of their innovation?

Adam: There’s no doubt that customer data platforms are here to stay. I think we’ll see a bit more clarity in the market around the different flavors of CDPs. And some of them may even have different names for what they do in the future.

I think the most important future trend for customer data is the explosion of data that is going to continue to grow.

This will be something that can’t be managed the same way we did 5 or 10 years ago. We’re going to see a splintering of companies in our industry that are able to use this data to do something innovative and in the spirit of what’s best for the customer’s business. We’re also going to see companies that aren’t able to capitalize on data in a way that’s valuable to the business. And I think that split between the two is going to keep getting bigger and bigger.

The other area, as we talk about the explosion of data, is that it’s simply impossible for a human to analyze and work with that amount of data on their own. You need machines to be exploring the data, uncovering insights into this data and taking action on this data.

The idea of getting data ready right now for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in the future is becoming an imperative to be able to build for the future in what experiences are going to look like.

Thank you, Adam!

To download the full report, Before You Buy: A Guide For Choosing A Customer Data Platform, go here.

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