Trends briefing

A quick guide to customer data tools

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The realm of marketing is full of buzz words and hot topics that every year claim to solve the age-old marketing dilemma: how do you create customer experiences that convert?  

We know that the customer experience is essential. So much so, that recent years have seen the number of companies with a Chief Experience Officer (CXO) or Chief Customer Officer (CCO) grow from less than 65% to 90%. The value of a good customer experience (CX) is widely acknowledged and fully accepted.  

But theories on how to achieve it are varied, conflicting, and ever-changing. Every year, we’re told about new tools that will help us create the experiences that will drive conversions, ROI, and retention.  

  • SCV 
  • DMP 
  • CDP 
  • AI 
  • CRM 
  • PWA 
  • CMS 

The list is as long as it is endless. But one thing all of these buzzwords and tools have in common is data. 

What is customer data?

Whether you’re communicating with customers, businesses, donors, fundraisers, or your own internal members of staff, every organization has a wealth of data at its fingertips.  

This is more than a simple email marketing contact. A contact’s email address is just one of many invaluable gems of data that businesses collect to better understand their audience. Customer data ranges from behavioral to demographic and personal information about them.  

Connecting your data

Today’s cross-channel customer can interact with your business anywhere, at any time, and on any device. You can send out surveys to collect data, build preference centers, and track browsing behavior. The ways you can collect data are vast and varied. As are the systems that house it.  

The data you collect can be housed in your email service provider, CRM, ecommerce store, CMS, and more. To gain quick and practical insights from your data, you need a tool that can pull them all together. 

What is a CDP?

Today’s marketers are faced with a particular problem that affects every business, everywhere. Disparate data. To resolve this issue, we’re seeing more and more companies emerge referring to themselves as a CDP – but what is a CDP? 

A CDP – customer data platform – is a piece of software that brings together disparate and disconnected customer data into a single unified source. This allows for information to be easily shared and accessible to other systems which empower marketers to target customers with personalized and relevant marketing messages.  

As the internet enabled brands to flourish online, companies have collected more data from more sources than ever before. With all this big data, demand for a tool that can process multiple data sets and deliver actionable insights has grown. Similarly, the need to share data across teams and departments has increased.  

Compliance with data privacy regulations requires legal teams to easily access a customer’s personally identifiable information (PII). The need to deliver relevant marketing messages means that marketing teams need to be able to pull insights about customer behavior and preferences. Customer service agents need to access personal information in order to provide a personalized experience.  

CDPs have emerged as the answer to solve all our problems. But is this really the case? Are CDPs really the only customer data tool we’ll need in the future?  

Segmentation, automation, cross-channel

What are we really after when we talk about customer data tools?  

We’re after a single source of truth. Once place where everyone can get the answers to the burning questions stopping them from achieving their goal, objectives, and KPIs. 

When we strip that back, we’re looking for a platform that can consolidate multiple data sources, creating insights that will help us build experiences that convert and retain customers. As package software, it needs to play well with others, unify customer profiles, manage PII, and have open access to grow with your business and your marketing stack. 

As marketers, we have three core areas of concern that must be considered when sourcing a new customer data tool. 

1. Segmentation 

Segmentation is essential for marketers looking to deliver personalized experiences. Creating groups of customers based on common characteristics – i.e., segments – is an invaluable but underused marketing tactic.  

Customer data tools need to be able to highlight, categorize, and group customers based on their common traits. How often do they shop with you? When did they last engage with your email marketing? Are they a high-value customer with a large contract with your business or do they need nurturing?  

The quicker and more accurate these insights can be drawn, the timelier your marketing communications will be. Has a high potential customer abandoned completing a price request form? You will be able to retarget them with a personalized and relevant message that will drive conversions.  

When considering which customer data tool to buy, these customer and segment insights should be at the top of your consideration list.  

2. Automation 

Automation, much like segmentation, is essential for marketers in every sector and every vertical. Marketing automation uses triggers to deliver messages in a timely and relevant fashion. These triggers can be any touchpoint across the customer journey; they could be date-driven (birthdays, anniversaries), behavior-based (abandoned carts, abandoned browse, page views), demographic (location, job title), and so much more.  

A customer data tool will be able to process these actions, identify customer intent, and enable marketers to send timely automated messages. You’ll never miss a conversion and retention-building opportunity again.  

3. Cross-channel capabilities 

As well as segmenting your audience and automation your messages, you need to be able to extend your reach. Today, customers are unpredictable. They can change devices and channels at any point along the customer journey. Cross-channel marketing enables you to manage multiple channels under one roof. No matter where the customer is, whether that’s geographically or in their individual customer journey, having cross-channel capabilities means you will always be able to connect with your customers. 

You need a customer data tool that can follow customers across their channel of choice, deliver messages – be it automated or single sends – and return actionable insight into customer behavior on each channel you offer.  

 

Choosing a customer data tool

The types of tools, systems, and software you can use to connect your data are varied but one thing is certain: it needs to work for your audience.  

As marketers, your job is to create customer experiences that engage, convert, and retain customers for the long haul. In order to do this, you need a data-driven marketing tool that can do it all; connect with customers on any channel, deliver insights you need to create a personal and relevant message, and help you target the right customer every time.  

Contents

Jenna Paton, Content Team Lead
Jenna is the Content Team Lead at Dotdigital. She writes about cross-channel marketing and customer engagement.

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