What is a Customer Data Platform and Why You Need One Now

Last year, my husband and I brought home a four-month-old puppy. She needed a leash, and I couldn’t remember where I got the leashes for our other two dogs.

This became a shockingly long customer journey. I checked on Google Shopping, on Etsy, on Chewy, and on review sites. I asked friends what they used (some of whom clearly thought I was insane), and I scoured blogs. 

Finally, after getting a referral from a friend, I visited a product site. I liked their blog, and the next day I saw an ad. Then I purchased. All of that for a single dog leash. 

While it was the referral that got me to the site, and the blog established trust, it would be easy for the brand to assume it was either the ad or a Google search that drove the sale (or, more likely, a combination of the two). 

While this may seem like overkill, the reality is that many customers make similar journeys on a regular basis for everything from car purchases to plates and cups for their toddlers. 

This is why brands need Customer Data Platforms (CDPs), which make it possible for brands to keep up with all these touchpoints. 

In this post, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about what a Customer Data Platform is, including how they’re different from CRMs, why you need them, and how to choose one.

What Is a Customer Data Platform? 

Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) are tools that collect and organize customer data across multiple different touchpoints. It can integrate with other tools and software to give you cohesive, wide-reaching marketing data in real-time.

Want to know how the crazy lady obsessed with leashes finally came to your brand and which touchpoints convinced her to convert after a long and winding purchase journey? CPDs can actually help with that, combining data from multiple data sources, including first-party and third-party sources. These sources commonly include:

  • Your CRM
  • Your transactional and/or eCommerce systems
  • Email data
  • Contact and lead form data
  • Site behavior analytics
  • Social media behavior

The idea is to manage and aggregate customer data, so you’re getting real-time data into centralized and individualized customer profiles.

CDPs prevent what’s essentially a “data silo” where different departments have isolated information they’re acting on. The marketing team might be acting on different data from the sales team when in reality, a more holistic look for everyone would be more beneficial.

And since accurate, thorough data is the only true actionable data your marketing, sales, and customer service teams can act on, this is a huge advantage that will improve the customer journey at every touchpoint and help you to sell more at the same time.

What Types of Customer Data Are Taken Into Account? 

“Customer data” sounds fairly vague, but the data you get from a CDP is anything but. In many cases, they’re looking at every snippet of data they can find. 

Breadcrumbs uses extensive cross-platform customer data, for example, to look at multiple factors to assess how you should rank leads, including what size company the lead belongs to, what actions brought them to your site, and how many times they’ve responded to emails. 

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These are the types of data you can expect Customer Data Platforms to track: 

Data of Identity 

The identity data of a customer is going to tell you who they are, and it’s essential to prevent replications of customers in the database. It only makes sense this information would be a core feature in a Customer Data Platform tool. This will include:

  • Name
  • Email 
  • Phone number 
  • Social media profiles 
  • Account information, including user IDs 
  • Location 
  • Demographic data like age or gender

Data of behavior 

How are users interacting with your sales team, your site, and your brand overall? This is behavioral data and it can help you get a better understanding of the lead’s relationship with your brand. It often includes:

  • Purchase or transaction information, including what was purchased, what was returned, and abandoned cart information
  • Email data, including email opens, click-throughs, and the responses made 
  • Site behavior like website visits, click-throughs, product and page views
  • Social media activity, including engagement 
  • Customer service data, including communication dates and details

Qualitative Data 

When you create buyer personas, you develop pain points, opinions, and motivations for user profiles. Qualitative data is the real-life version of that information, making each customer profile much more individualized. This is essential for your sales team, and the data may include the following: 

  • The motivations users have stated for getting in touch or what they need help with 
  • Information about how the users got in touch originally
  • Data about how they’ve rated past purchases, customer service experiences, or site purchases 
  • What users are looking for in a tool, product, or service, and what pain points they need them to resolve

What’s the Difference Between a CRM and a CDP? 

The first thing you think of when you first hear “customer data” is probably a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. Common examples include Salesforce and Hubspot, and they’ll store user information like their name, email, past purchases, and data about customer service interactions.

There are similarities between a Customer Relationship Management tool and a Customer Data Platform, but the two do serve separate purposes.

These are the core differences:

  • CRMs only collect data on known customers; CDPs collect data on unidentified and anonymous visitors, too
  • CRMs typically look at the sales pipeline, while CDPs look at a more comprehensive customer journey throughout the entire customer lifecycle
  • CRMs don’t track offline data (like a customer service exchange) unless it’s manually entered; CDPs use integrations to track online and offline data
  • CRMs collect data that’s entered individually, making it more prone to error; CDPs handle multiple data points from a number of sources 

Here’s quick breakdown:

Table Illustrating The Differences Between A Crm And A Cdp (Customer Data Platform)

How to Use CDPs for Your Business 

All the data in the world isn’t worth anything if you don’t know how to leverage it, right?

There are plenty of ways you can use a Customer Data Platform for business, but these are the four most common and often significant use cases.

Improve & Optimize the Customer Journey 

When you’ve got disjointed data coming into different teams, it can be almost impossible to accurately hone in on what factors and touchpoints are influencing and impacting the customer journey. 

Once you have the holistic data that only a CPD can provide, you’ll have a great deal more information about how users interact with your brand throughout their entire lifecycle. 

Breadcrumbs Customer Data Platform For Lead Scoring

You can get a better understanding of how they’ve found you, why they purchased from you, what their purchase behaviors are like, and what triggers additional purchases. 

This is invaluable, allowing you to optimize every single part of the customer journey, including your marketing funnels, your sales pitches, your offers, and more. And when you want to accelerate revenue and business growth, this is a necessity. You can even use this data with lead scoring tools like Breadcrumbs to identify and better target potential high-value leads.

Dive Deep Into Your Target Audiences 

It’s easy for different departments to end up with fragmented views of your customers. Google Analytics, social media, and your CRM may all have varying information about who your audience members are, and they may vary from your buyer personas.

As all of this information is streamlined and aggregated into a single place, however, you get a much clearer look at who your most high-value audiences really are. This can be crucial to help you determine who you want to be targeting moving forward, allowing you to optimize your campaigns and the customer journey further. 

Create & Identify Dynamic Audience Segments 

Most Customer Data Platform tools have information that’s updated in real-time, allowing you to take note of shifts in audience behavior and segments as they emerge. 

When you have a new lead magnet for a webinar, for example, you might see an enormous surge in users who view a page but don’t convert, or even those who fill out the lead form but then never watch the webinar they signed up for.

This level of information allows you to create and target audience segments as they’re emerging, allowing you to more effectively reach a larger percentage of your leads and audiences with hyper-targeted messaging that can push them closer to the end goal of purchasing.

Give Your Client-Facing Team Members Additional Data 

Your sales and customer service team members are great with people. They’re good at reading people even through an email or over the phone, almost with gut instincts that are right more often than not.

If you’re able to give these team members heightened access to detailed data, however, that enhances what they’re able to do. 

Customer service teams may realize that offering new types of solutions greatly increase the customer satisfaction and retention rates, for example, and sales teams may realize that they should be looking at different types of leads (or using different platforms for following up) than what they were focusing on before.

Hard data + great interpersonal skills can help your client-facing team members become unstoppable. This alone is a massive benefit to using a Customer Data Platform tool.

Final Thoughts 

If you’re internally groaning at the thought of needing to look for another SaaS tool to help your business grow, don’t worry— we really get it. Customer Data Platforms, however, are definitely one that you want to invest in. 

They’ll give you more accurate, holistic, and detailed data that would be nearly impossible to aggregate otherwise, and that’s the kind of information that you can actually use to scale your business and your revenue. 

Ready to grow your business by identifying the most high-value leads for your business? Get started with Breadcrumbs for free today!

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