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How Financial Marketers Should Think About Customer Data Platforms

The promise of customer data platforms (CDPs) is appealing for marketers. CDPs provide unified customer data in an accessible and regularly updated solution, especially within highly competitive industries like financial services. This value proposition can only be fully realized when you understand and can articulate the consumer journeys (use cases) you are seeking to enable. While articulating use cases might sound easy, not doing so is a common mistake that many organizations make. And, organizations must be careful not to think of CDPs as a silver bullet. CDPs effectively deliver the maximum returns only when they exist within a technology infrastructure and organizational construct that is ready to capitalize of the functionality they enable. Our experience in implementing and operating many CDPs has led us to anticipate, and avoid, these common pitfalls.

Define Your Use Cases

Before jumping into a CDP vendor selection process, best practice is to first define the use cases you want a CDP to enable. CDPs, like many other complex technologies, are not simple, standardized solutions. Instead you should think of CDPs more like a collection of capabilities packaged in a way to enable a specific functionality set. Simply put, all CDPs are different and your best platform choice will be dependent upon what you’re trying to achieve. The challenge is that most organizations don’t have enough practical experience with CDPs to know what is possible which is when having the right partner can be helpful in enabling your organization to brainstorm the art of the possible. A few examples of interesting use cases in financial services are:

  • Provide a contextualized offer to a customer exploring different auto insurance options on your website by integrating the CRM data from your call center. This can work in the other direction as well by bringing real-time website data to power a personalized conversation about the pros and cons of lending options with a rep
  • Pushing timely reminders to clients through SMS messaging after an existing customer fails to fund a new retirement account they recently opened
  • Promoting educational and service-oriented content around the variety of life insurance products and then using cues from organic interactions to form a hypothesis about customer needs. Next, test that hypothesis using a proactive multi-channel approach until enough data is gathered from customer engagement to strengthen or weaken the hypothesis

Build the Foundation

A CDP is not your CRM solution, so you can’t expect that a CDP alone will be able to deliver your use cases. To be successful, you’ll need a strong foundational and comprehensive customer identity management process, tight integration of all systems in a closed data loop, and an agile customer centric marketing organization. Tackling all of this will take time, but value can be delivered along the way by prioritizing a well-defined set of discrete initiatives. You know your clients better than anyone else, but experience in implementing CDP in this holistic way is critical for avoiding many of the common pitfalls that limit the impact of a CDP investment.

Want to learn more? Download Merkle’s new guide, A Collection of CDP Fails: 5 Stories to Learn from here.

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