The best, modern marketers, product managers and account managers combine creative flair with data-driven decisions. Vendors have been promising them a "360-degree view of the customer" for a long, long time. But, a customer data platform may finally deliver on that promise.

What's A Customer Data Platform?

A customer data platform is software aimed at marketers, product managers and account managers that provide a unified view of your customers' experience with your brand and product. It collects signals from other software and sources to provide this unified view. A customer data platform integrates with a variety of software to get this view.

Some signals include:

  • Sales software
  • Product analytics
  • Performance data
  • Customer support data
  • Marketing automation results
  • Social media monitoring
  • Advertising performance data
  • A/b testing data
  • Business intelligence tools
  • Customer success software
  • NPS
  • Survey data
  • Customer relationship management software (CRM)
  • Offline data
  • Any other software of database that contains customer experience information.

It should incorporate any signals that help create a complete customer database. This should cover everything your customers and potential customers experience with your brand and product.

For example: if you sell a B2B SaaS product, your customer data platform should give you a great idea of every single touchpoint potential customers have. This should include organic website visits, digital ads, podcast ads, billboards, sales calls, demonstrations, software trials and more. Having this information will help you tailor campaigns and assets that get results.

Why Do I Need A Customer Data Platform?

Knowing the entire customer experience through the full funnel is powerful. It allows you to ask and answer deeper questions. This lets you make better strategic decisions, which leads to better campaigns and better tactics.

For example: you may launch a holiday deep-discount campaign across multiple channels. Many will measure performance on a cost vs. revenue generated basis. This will then inform future campaigns.

This is directionally correct. But, if you're not taking the whole customer experience into account, your future decisions will be flawed. A customer data platform could give deeper insights into the success of the campaign:  

  • Your website performance data and customer support tickets may show that deep-discount campaign could have been even more successful if there weren't technical bugs claiming the deal.
  • In-product analytics may show that deep-discount users aren't engaged. This may lead to lower lifetime values. This could mean scaling back the discount or building out specific engagement flows for deep-discount users.
  • Survey and social-media data may show that users have now grown accustomed to a yearly deep discount. This may depress your upgrades over non-holiday periods because users just wait for the sale.  

How Is A Customer Data Platform Different From A CRM?

A customer data platform differs from customer-relationship management software in a few key ways. The main difference is that it's built primarily for marketers, while CRMs are typically built for sales and the sales process.

A CRM typically stores data of interactions with customers and potential customers. A customer data platform should store more robust data of existing customers, potential customers and even anonymous customers.  

What Are The Challenges With A Customer Data Platform?

As with any data platform, it's "garbage in, garbage out." A customer data platform won't help you make better decisions if you're using bad signals and data.

Getting all the data you want into a customer data platform can be a challenge. Luckily, most customer data platforms make the technical integration with your data sources relatively simple. A bigger challenge may be convincing internal, siloed teams of the importance of integrating their customer data.

Your customer data platform will also include a mix of structured and unstructured data. You'll have to make data mapping decisions accordingly, often with other team. This can include a classification or tagging scheme for unstructured data.

Getting real-time information can be important but this presents its own difficulties. These difficulties often require teams and resources that may not always be under a marketer's control.

What Are Some Customer Data Platform Options?

Some of the leading customer data platform products include:

  • Radius: Powerful data intelligence software to improve, segment and activate audience data.
  • Ensighten: The leader in enterprise data privacy and GDPR website compliance solutions. Helping brands securely manage and unify disparate marketing technologies and data.
  • Segment: Segment provides the customer data infrastructure that helps businesses put their customers first.
  • Evergage: Evergage's real-time personalization and customer data platform enables companies to leverage behavioral analytics and machine learning to deliver maximally relevant, 1-to-1 digital experiences and emails.
  • Usermind: Usermind's Customer Engagement Hub platform creates a single view of the customer and orchestrates customer experiences across systems and teams.

How Can I Find Out More About Customer Data Platforms?

You can browse our customer data platform products page. If you're looking for deeper advice on which product to choose,  you can find users of customer data platforms on chief.io.