The world of marketing is awash in data. The solution? Embrace a customer data platform. Or at least some companies say.
A customer data platform (CDP) is a software system that pulls together data from a wide array of sources — such as websites, ecommerce and ad platforms, social media applications, retail software, and more — to create a centralized customer database, as well as detailed profiles of each customer. CDPs then use these records to orchestrate personalized marketing campaigns.
The platforms are relatively new, offering a wide variety of approaches both in strategy and in tactics. All speak of multichannel marketing but there are differences in which channels are supported. Some focus more on leveraging data that arrives at an ecommerce portal or website. Some integrate with ad platforms. Some try to harmonize marketing messages sent via email and SMS.
The core of these systems is an elaborate data-gathering mechanism with tendrils that reach into all of your various partners and internal databases. CDP systems boast broad collections of integrations, and all support APIs for customization. Any evaluation of CDPs should begin with understanding how well the tools will interact with your current stack and how much custom code you will need to write.
Some CDPs are more elaborate than others. Some enable users to create custom marketing campaigns via visual flowcharts constructed by drag-and-drop tools. There are also low-code or no-code options that make the platforms more accessible to non-coders in the marketing department, at least after developers handle the integration chores.
Another difference lies in pricing. Some CDPs rely on a sales team to set up demonstrations and then create a price. Others have open price lists with set thresholds and, sometimes, free tiers to help you evaluate the tools.
Here are eight customer data platforms that are all top contenders, presented in alphabetical order. Although they offer big differences in their strategic approaches and levels of integration, all aim to deliver more personalized marketing to your customers.
The platform from Bloomreach is designed to integrate typical CDP functions with content management and search. The goal is to tie together the various omnichannel outreach mechanisms with well-curated web content bolstered by a strong search engine. Potential customers will find an intelligent path to discovering products with an intelligent search engine supported with semantic understanding and synonyms. In parallel, an automated SEO engine pushes content into the general web.
A drag-and-drop editor creates “personalized omnichannel journeys” that integrate across a wide collection of databases and APIs. This includes all the basic backend foundations such as PostgreSQL or major products such as Salesforce or Quickbooks. Some standard webhooks can simplify connections with any other platform. The headless CMS at the core can integrate with major e-commerce platforms such as Shopify.
Pricing is through the sales team, based on the number of customers, the number of marketing messages, and the size of the backend product collection.
Delivering good, consistent messages from all channels is the focus of Insider. It merges control over website, email, or SMS messages and the custom app into one cross-channel platform for tracking customer engagement. Messaging is personalized using predictive AI to focus the customer’s attention. All of this is tracked with graphical dashboards to understand which themes are delivering.
The platform focuses on major industries such as retail, automotive, and travel. A big focus is developing responsible techniques for tracking customers over time without third-party cookies. Pricing is available from the sales team.
An online store already owns quite a bit of data about their customers. Klavio connects to the store and turns the data about visits and purchases into an ongoing email and SMS marketing campaign that uses predictive analytics to drive engagement and sales. The tool tracks user and times emails and SMS messages to maximize the effectiveness.
The tool offers quick integration with major ecommerce platforms such as Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, Presto, and Salesforce. On the backend, data also flows to loyalty program platforms (LoyaltyLion, Antavo, smile.io), quiz tools (Jebbit, Survigate), or help desk management (Gladly, Zendesk, Gorgias). More than 200 connections help Klaviyo time messages optimally for each customer. An open API helps integration with enterprise stacks.
Pricing begins with a free tier for businesses with small mailing lists. Email and SMS connections are priced separately, but a business with about 1,000 customers would pay $30 and $40 respectively to send emails and SMS messages during a month. An adjustable pricing calculator will produce an exact quote.
The basics of Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Customer Insights are straight-forward. The transactions go into a database and then standard reports come out. The system builds up a track record of each customer and then tries to merge it with demographic data about the neighborhood and the person. Aggregate reports track regions or stores but you can always drill down into each individual customer’s view.
Microsoft also brings all its expertise with artificial intelligence into the mix. Its “out-of-the-box AI” computes data such as the customer’s lifetime value and some basic recommendations for the next marketing steps to take. Companies that want to go deeper can turn to the no-code “self-serve AI” which brings more elaborate and customizable reports about regions or stores. Custom machine learning models can be built to target specific questions.
Prices begin at $1,500 per “tenant” per month and grow with add-ons. The basic account will track 100,000 consumers and 10,000 businesses, and the price goes up beyond this. Other enhancements include Dynamics 365 Customer Voice, a marketing module that tracks surveys from customers and Dynamics 365 Marketing, which focuses more on the customer’s “digital journey” through the various marketing channels.
The goal of Optimove is to orchestrate customer journeys with enough precision to speak of dozens, hundreds, or maybe thousands of “micro segments” along the path. The platform ties together messaging, websites, and digital advertising and tracks customer commitment over time. The reporting and analytics are focused on understanding where the customer might be and then tailoring the next segment to help them move toward purchasing.
Pricing is available from the sales team. The company also maintains a collection of open source frameworks for connecting Optimove’s system to your internal frameworks.
SAP calls its entry in the field, Emarsys, a “customer engagement platform” to highlight its focus on delivering messages to a variety of platforms, from email to ads to instore. The goal is to tie together the various ways of communicating to leverage cross-platform synergies. A collection of pre-built marketing campaigns can be synchronized and personalized across all channels for consistency and coordination.
Campaigns are created and tweaked with a visual flowchart editor that supports the kind of low-code or no-code programming that’s generally accessible to marketing teams. The tool pulls in customer information from the main database, personalizes the message, and then uses some AI to predict and tune the delivery. Some of its pre-built solutions are focused on major categories such as consumer e-commerce or travel. Pricing is available from the sales team.
The platform from Totango has five major components that work together to follow customers on the path to buying. At the core is DNA-CX, which acts like a database tracking all the customer data that can be absorbed directly from ecommerce, help desks, and CRM packages. Spark builds and tracks a customer’s “health score” for watching engagement through actions such as website visits and then triggering alerts. Zoe helps the team work together to track new engagements.
The marketplace from Totango offers a number of “journey templates” that are classified according to a customer’s level of engagement and role. The Automate Renewals module, for instance, seeks to smooth retention by handling all the details for renewing memberships or contracts. Customer 360 builds a dashboard to get a complete view of the customer database and their various stages of engagement.
Pricing begins with a community level that’s said to be “free forever” and includes some of the basic journey templates for smaller firms with about 100 customers. Paid plans start at $199 per month and grow according to the number of customers and accounts for your sales team. A sales team of 10 users with 750 customer accounts is about $899. Paid accounts include extra modules for helping customers sign up or for detecting churn.
The CDP platform from Treasure Data handles three major types of chores: marketing to attract new customers, sales for transactions, and service for post-purchase support. All depend on tight integration of many different data sources ranging from in-store details, website tracking, and contact information.
Treasure Data analytics focus on creating a customer profile with past purchases and interest in marketing. The built-in AI works to estimate lifetime value and speculate on the likelihood that the customer will churn. The marketing team can turn this information into more personalized messages that may be more likely to unlock spending.
Pricing is set through the sales team. The company distributes open source versions of some of its tools but not the entire platform, which works as a service.