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Why you should use customer data platform connectors

When it comes to assessing and adopting new martech solutions, research has revealed that the number one thing marketers want is seamless integration between internal systems. Find out the benefits of using CDP connectors.

What is a CDP?

To set the stage, the Customer Data Platform Institute’s definition of a CDP is “packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems."

Simply said, a CDP collects data from multiple sources to create a single customer view that can be accessible across your organization. Sources can include email, social media, and systems like customer relationship management (CRM) and data management platforms (DMPs).

The data collection enables companies to build rich customer profiles, on three levels: capturing data from multiple systems; linking data related to a unique customer; and storing this data to track customer behavior over time.

With data-rich customer profiles, organizations can utilize personal identifiers (e.g., cookies) to support the orchestration, activation, and measurement of experiences across all customer touchpoints, target specific marketing messages that prevent churn, and track user-level outreach and overall marketing campaign performance using customizable business metrics and artificial intelligence (AI) that automate experience optimization.

CDP vs CRM

At first glance, what CDPs offer may seem exactly like customer relationship management (CRM) software. There is some overlap, however, they are not identical. The simplest way to distinguish them: a CRM is fundamentally concerned with who customers are and where they in the customer journey, while a CDP is focused on what customers have done and are doing in the customer journey and how to point and accelerate them in the right direction.

What are CDP connectors?

CDP connectors are prepackaged integrations that deliver immediate out-of-the-box functionality. They can also be customized to fit an organization’s specific and changing requirements.

Commonly, CDP connectors are built on a standardized framework that establishes a blueprint for how third-party systems deliver data and functionality to the CDP. This approach ensures that CDP connectors are not custom-developed “one-off” integrations, but instead are highly usable, maintainable, consistent, and upgradable.

An analogy from the IT world can help explain the role, value, and versatility of CDP connectors. Consider a personal computer. There are some ultra-smart IT experts among us who relish the experience of customizing their PC from scratch: sourcing different components and putting everything together, piece by piece.

And then, there are other folks who have no budget, time, skill, or desire (or all of the above) to craft a custom PC. Instead, they purchase a pre-built PC that is ready to work within minutes. They can still make changes and upgrades down the road. For example, they can add more memory. But framework, foundation, and functionality are already in place.

 

In a similar sense, CDP connectors are like pre-built PCs. While they are customizable, the purpose is for marketers to experience rapid usability and reliable functionality when linking with other systems in the environment — ultimately so they can seek to understand and engage every customer, including anonymous visitors. 

How do CDP connectors work?

CDP connectors are pre-built application programming interfaces (APIs). These are a set of protocols that allow various systems (as well as applications and devices) to communicate and transfer information.

In other words, they enable systems to “speak the same language and talk with each other.”

There are two main parts of an API: client and server.

  • The API client creates requests in response to user or automated actions and sends them to an API endpoint. These are Uniform Resource Identifiers (UFIs) that enable access to resources in a database. There are multiple request methods available that perform different actions, such as getting a resource, creating a resource, modifying a resource, etc.
  • The API server receives the request from the API client, confirms that it is valid, and then carries out the associated action.

Can marketers combine both pre-packaged CDP connectors with customized APIs? The answer is yes. Marketers can utilize the Stream API to capture and transmit real-time transactional and behavioral data, like page views or clicks from third-party solutions to their CDP.

Once the custom API is developed and deployed, the marketing team can leverage the data in a variety of beneficial ways, such as:

  • Building and refining customer segments
  • Activating audiences in external systems
  • Viewing data sets in analytic dashboards

Types of CDP connectors

There are several types of CDP connectors. Three of the most popular categories are data and analytics; integrations; and sales and marketing automation.

Key use cases and benefits of these types of CDP connectors include:

  • Extract, transform, and load a variety of data sources into a “host anywhere” SQL database that uses a data model for use with BI tools. This enables real-time, data analysis using leading BI tools.
  • Automatically pass identifying customer information (e.g., email address, hashed IDs) into a campaign management platform. These data points integrate with the CDP to deliver highly personalized experiences, drive campaigns with pinpoint accuracy, and connect data sources across all platforms.
  • Build rich social media and pay-per-click advertising audience segments powered by first-party data assets across all channels (online and offline). Segments are synced daily from the CDP to drive retargeting, lookalike, and suppression campaigns.
  • Machine learning and AI models data integration from an AI platform with the CDP provider to power intelligent next best actions, customer engagement, and offers across the omnichannel customer journey.
  • Establish machine learning models at the end of an API endpoint, which enables models to be accessed by the CDP’s real-time data engine, and used in decision models, real-time audiences, customer insights, and more. 
  • Capture and address customer friction across all channels and touchpoints such as rage clicks, error messages, and form validation errors, and transmit this information (along with data from other channels) to the CDP — ultimately creating a single source of truth, that can be leveraged to deliver targeted messaging and experiences.

CDP connectors vs. custom APIs

As mentioned previously, a potential (and lingering) source of confusion is the overlap between CDP connectors and custom (i.e., not pre-packaged and out-of-the-box) API integrations. This confusion is rooted in the fact that while all CDP connectors are API integrations, not all API integrations are CDP connectors.

Recall from our PC analogy that CDP connectors are standardized, pre-built API integrations that are designed to work immediately (or after relatively quick and non-technical configuration). Alternatively, customized API integrations are built using various software development kits (SDKs), which facilitate creating applications by having a compiler, debugger, and (sometimes) a software framework.

Naturally, compared to using out-of-the-box CDP connectors, building and deploying customized API integrations requires more expertise, takes more time, usually costs more money (and in some cases much more), and poses a higher risk. Things rarely work out of the gate exactly as expected, and finding out why can be difficult; especially if the problems are intermittent or could have multiple root causes. Different systems in the environment do not always play well together. Actually, sometimes they won’t even hang out on the same playground.

This is a non-issue with CDP connectors, which have been specifically designed, rigorously tested, and essentially “certified” to seamlessly connect the CDP with third-party systems in the environment, such as CRM software, BI tools, social media platforms, mobile apps, campaign management platforms, and so on. CDP connectors are developed by the third-party vendors themselves (often in collaboration with the CDP vendor), so the possibility that they may not work does not arise.

With this in mind, recall that CDP connectors are not “carved in stone.” They can be customized to support current and future needs. However, developers can leverage the existing framework and foundation, which dramatically lowers risk, complexity, time, and cost.

The final word

This focus on advanced technology, while both necessary and interesting, should not distract us from the central truth that it is not an end unto itself — it is a means to impress, inform, and inspire customers.

As PwC points out: What truly makes for a good experience? Speed. Convenience. Consistency. Friendliness. And one big connector: human touch — that is, creating real connections by making technology feel more human and giving employees what they need to create better customer experiences. Improved customer retention and customer loyalty (and, therefore, customer lifetime value) come with retailers, products, brands, and devices that consistently provide exceptional value with minimum friction or stress.

CDP connectors make it easier, simpler, less expensive, and less risky (and for the developers out there: less stressful and more satisfying!) to eliminate data silos, build a unified customer profile and create a better customer experience. And in both the long run and big picture, what is more important than that?

Learn more about the lightning-fast capabilities of Sitecore CDP today.

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