A customer data platform (CDP) collects and unifies first-party, as well as second- and third-party user data from multiple sources to build a single, unified, 360-degree view of each prospect or customer. CDPs provide end-to-end customer lifecycle experience management capabilities: they give you a deep understanding of your customers, allowing you to turn your data assets into forward motion. If data is the oil in your car, a CDP is the engine, powering your personalization strategy.

A smart CDP enables you to activate your user data, personalize, and optimize every interaction seamlessly across every digital experience, and transition effortlessly from channel to channel. To continue with the car analogy, if a CDP is the engine, the personalization capability is the drive train and steering wheel. A CDP should do more than ingest customer data. It should also activate it and support your personalization and optimization capabilities.

The end-to-end CDP program cycle

During each phase of implementing and using a CDP, there are critical organizational factors to consider. Digital experience leaders often create centers of excellence (COEs) to focus on processes, communications, training systems, and governance models to set their programs up for success. We’ll discuss the key roles in a COE in our second blog in this series.

We break down the implementation and optimization of a CDP into five phases:

  1. Readiness
  2. Value creation models
  3. CDP activation
  4. Experience delivery
  5. Always on

Let’s explore each.

1. Readiness

The readiness activity sets the stage for the entire program. As with any business initiative, the first step starts with assembling your key stakeholders and aligning on the program’s scope and objectives. (This process may not be entirely linear as your team may grow or change as you narrow in on the scope and objectives.)

Once assembled, the team can begin with a high-level maturity assessment of your business operations and data capabilities. This includes scoping your personalization strategy by considering your initial broad segments and the parts of the customer lifecycle. The team also scopes the future use of analytics, predictive modeling, and AI/ML models.

Part of this process includes your technical experts determining your business`s technical stack architecture, relevant data sources, and data readiness for integration with a CDP.

Finally, the team determines operational readiness in terms of technical and human resources, and staffs up the team for the next phases. Initially, it’s OK for single team members to have multiple roles and agency partners are often included.

2. Value creation models

In this second phase, your team determines the specific strategic business objectives for the scoped program and articulates your customer lifecycle — channels, key touchpoints (moments of truth), user needs (“jobs to be done”), key conversions, and related enabling content or functionality.

The team then brainstorms in detail key experiences, which will leverage the data in the CDP, and prioritizes each based on both their potential business impact and the effort to implement them given your current capabilities. Sometimes a lean canvas is filled out for each tactic. Some high-value tactics may have to wait for later stages based on anticipated level of data integration and activation effort. The result is an initial experience roadmap.

Finally, the team defines KPIs and a measurement framework for tracking success — usually driven by marketing and sales effectiveness and the velocity of increasing conversions in key segments (for example, sign-ups, purchases, cross-sells, up-sells, repurchases) or improving operational efficiency (for example, optimizes media spend or increases use of online self-service).

There are many other value drivers and KPIs, such as the most critical content marketing metrics. It is important that the metrics you use for this program are focused on customer outcome and are multichannel based.

3. CDP activation

In the third phase, your technical team sets up the CDP for activation. The team integrates the CDP with all planned data sources — batch (customer profiles, segments, various scores), interactive (orders, contacts, interactions), and stream (searches, page/product views, cart activity, identity). The team also enables the transformation, unification, enrichment, and export of individual user profiles.

The team will also incorporate microservices for prices, availability, and risk, integrate any external AI/ML models, and design and activate performance dashboards. As with all roadmaps, some integrations and transformations will be planned for later stages.

Finally, your technical team integrates the CDP to all business systems in the relevant experience delivery channels — such as web, social, email, CRM, contact center(s), kiosks, apps, text, paid media, etc.

4. Experience delivery

Now that the CDP is activated, your team gets to work, creating and delivering prioritized, differentiated, and personalized experiences across all integrated channels.

They develop segments and design, build, deploy, measure, and optimize each experience. This includes developing and designing UX/UI, copy, images, and other assets. They will also develop multistep omnichannel experience campaigns for the prioritized experiences, with related decisioning tables and testing scenarios. Finally, they activate all of them across the appropriate channels. Based on tests, the team iterates to optimize the results.

5. Always on

In this last and ongoing phase, the team continuously runs optimized experiences — those which deliver consistently good results for the related segments and use cases.

The team roles for scaled ongoing execution should be planned for in the readiness stage and adjusted with learnings.

If you’ve enjoyed this blog, we’ll be posting a second blog in two weeks titled, “Organizing your CDP program,” which will focus on team roles and organization from early to later stages of the program.

Elan Bair is a Principal Value Consultant at Sitecore. You can follow him on LinkedIn