Customer data platform: A key to personalized experiences

In today’s digital economy, customers are continuing to set the bar higher and higher in terms of what they expect from the brands they interact with. Power that was once held by the providers of goods and services has now shifted to the customer, whose demand for a seamless and highly relevant experience at every interaction is driving a shift in the way businesses must operate.

Customers today have access to more content, buying channels, and brand options than ever before. With an overload of information and choices available, businesses can no longer survive by simply providing the bare minimum necessary to keep customers from leaving; instead they must deliver exceptional customer experiences and outcomes. Personalized interactions allow businesses to cut through the white noise of irrelevant engagement and offers to not only drive sales, but establish deeper, lasting customer relationships. According to a recent report by Accenture, 91 percent of consumers report they are more likely to shop with brands that recognize them and provide relevant offers or recommendations – making it vital for businesses to implement a personalization strategy in order to remain competitive.

It’s all about the data

Personalized engagement is clearly no longer an option, it’s a necessity. Yet the reality is that many companies are still falling short of providing the individualized experiences that customers expect. According to the 2018 State of Global Customer Service report, more than 61 percent of customers report they’ve stopped doing business with a brand due to poor customer service. In a market where customers are free agents and where adoption and abandonment occur at the blink of an eye, companies must demonstrate that they both understand and value their customers.

This is where data comes in. Customers generate enormous volumes of data as they engage across various channels, and organizations that can successfully leverage this data for personalization will set themselves apart, while those that do not will lose business to their data-savvy competitors. On average, companies that leverage advanced analytics gain rapid insights derived from their customer data, and achieve revenue gains of 5 to 10 percent according to a customer experience report by McKinsey.

Historically, it has been a struggle to successfully capture, integrate, interpret, and act on all this data effectively, and for many companies, still is. Adding to the challenge are disparate systems across organizational silos, making it difficult or impossible to unify data in order to generate the holistic customer profiles and insights needed to positively impact the customer experience.

The customer data platform

The ability to effectively personalize at scale requires a complete, unified view of customers from both transactional and behavioral data, that when brought together enables intelligent, actionable insights – and that’s where the customer data platform (CDP) is helping to evolve the personalization landscape. With the ability to consume and unify customer data from multiple sources, CDPs provide holistic customer profiles and management, support real-time customer segmentation, and integrate customer data with other systems.

Many vendors have offerings that are primarily analytics or engagement based, but lack the rich data unification and synthesis that defines a true CDP. With increasing pressure on businesses to provide deep personalization, the need for richer data platforms is mounting and vendors are scrambling to get on the bandwagon whether they have the necessary capabilities or not.

The biggest standout capability of a true CDP is the ability to combine customer data from all sources into a single customer profile, derive valuable insights, and share those insights out to other systems and resources to enable action. The sheer speed and volume at which CDPs can ingest, process, and output the data enables businesses to react at the fast pace necessary to be effective. Without this, insights derived from customer data are often incomplete, or have already become irrelevant by the time they’re surfaced.

Benefits that only a customer data platform can deliver

CDPs offer organizations the opportunity to deliver more meaningful, individualized engagements to customers, as well as streamlining the capabilities of marketing teams to make their efforts more effective. It currently takes marketers far too long to analyze and draw conclusions about the impact of a campaign or tweaks made to the customer experience.  According to a report by Forbes, 47 percent say it takes them more than a week to analyze the results, which is an eternity in today’s fast-paced buying market. Of organizations already utilizing a CDP, 53 percent seek to be able to react more quickly to market changes and customer preferences, or improve and streamline internal support operations.  CDPs give marketing teams unified, on-demand access to customer data pulled together from a range of initiatives and interactions like online engagement, advertising campaigns, or purchasing histories, providing greater visibility into their customers’ needs. With this enhanced, 360-degree view of customer behaviors and preferences across all touchpoints, organizations can provide not only the highly personalized experiences that customers demand, but can cultivate deeper relationships and in-turn drive increased customer loyalty and retention.

Until now, the data leveraged for customer experience efforts was primarily drawn from straightforward customer actions like website clicks or purchase histories. Yet with enormous volumes of data now being generated from customers engaging across numerous devices and channels, as well as the addition of AI-driven interactions, organizations need more power than ever in order to manage, interpret, and act on all this data at scale – and the customer data platform provides the solution.

Dynamics 365 Customer Insights

Among the authentic customer data platforms, Dynamics 365 Customer Insights stands out with an even greater depth of capabilities. It not only enables complete data synthesis for holistic customer profiles, but also integrates directly with the rest of the Dynamics 365 engagement, AI, and analytics tools, as well as Azure-based machine learning and power apps, providing both rich customer insights and the means to act on them.

With an enhanced customer data platform like Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, companies can unify their customer data across all of their sources to gain a truly 360-degree view of their customers, empowering every employee to provide personalized, authentic engagement at every touchpoint.

Customer Insights is a self-service CDP solution, enabling faster time to initial value with zero to minimal consulting engagement. A wide range of pre-built connectors make it easy to bring data in from any source, automating standardization and merging of data records with built-in AI to create comprehensive, unified customer profiles. Microsoft’s proprietary audience intelligence also adds to data enrichment, delivering more complete customer insights. With Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, organizations are able to maintain complete control of their data as it resides in their own tenant, and can innovate freely to create custom solutions with full extensibility and compliance.

Learn more about Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, and check back each week for a new installment in our Customer Insights blog series. Next week, we’ll discuss why personalization is the key to surviving today’s retail market, and how to bring together customer data from all sources to gain a truly 360-degree view of customers, unlocking insights that power personalized, authentic engagement at every touchpoint.