Q&A with AgilOne: on Consumer Profiles and Customer Data Platforms
Understanding consumers and the customer journey is at the center of every successful business. But in an increasingly competitive marketplace and with the ever-changing customer needs and behaviors, knowing the customer and what the customer wants has become a much more complex and daunting task. Many enterprise brands nowadays connect with and engage consumers across channels to attract and retain customers. While creating authentic relationships is important, siloed systems can hinder enterprises from achieving this goal. This is why it’s vital for enterprises to have the ability to integrate customer data from all digital and physical channels in order to be able to offer a consistent and personalized service.
AgilOne, a premier Customer Data Platform for enterprise B2C brands, is dedicated to helping enterprises gain a better understanding of customers and facilitate meaningful communications. AgilOne offers the industry’s first comprehensive, cloud-based, customer data platform that gives brands a single view of customers across all channels, helping them leverage insights to create authentic omni-channel customer relationships that maximize lifetime value.
SourceForge recently spoke with Omer Artun, the CEO and Founder of AgilOne, to discuss the importance of Customer Data Platforms, and how the AgilOne Customer Data Platform helps today’s brands build and maintain better relationships with their customers.
Q: Can you give me a brief overview of AgilOne and some of your current clients? Is AgilOne limited to any specific business size or industry?
A: AgilOne was founded in Silicon Valley and has been in operation for almost twelve years. The company has over 100 people, and we serve all B2C companies in all industries even though a number of our current clients are in the retail, manufacturing, or travel industries. Some of our current clients include companies like Lululemon, Tumi, Vineyard Vines, Harper Collins Publishers, and others. We mainly serve enterprises because our solution is extremely scalable and highly configurable; and therefore we can easily fulfill enterprise needs by offering robust APIs, scalable backend architecture, and configurability to meet unique enterprise business requirements.
At AgilOne, we are one of the creators of this customer profile category: Customer Data Platform (CDP).
Q: Generally speaking, what makes for a good Customer Data Platform (CDP)?
A: There are three important factors that make for a successful CDP:
- Managing identities: Customer data is coming in in many different forms (cookies, email, etc.) and your CDP needs to be able to identify and piece these things together through data cleansing, handling multiple email addresses, and addressing these complex identities to link information together. This is not access management but instead is resolving the identity of the customer. This is fundamental, if not the most important foundation of analytics.
- Transformation: Bringing data in its raw form is great, but that then means that all you’ve done is build a data warehouse repository. The intelligence here comes from asking questions of the data and its lifetime value (how many sales last month, how the data relates by state, by city, by revenue…). There are many questions to ask of the data, and you need to ask different queries in order to transform the raw data. This is where machine learning comes into play. Machine learning is a statistical technique that models the likelihood of buying, taking into consideration statistics to predict. The whole spectrum of analytics is important not just to pass through data and store data, but also to add value that is relevant to other systems. For instance, the data is important to the call center, Data Management Platform (DMP), and outbound marketing (to whom this intelligence is most important)
- Dissemination of intelligence: The ability to disseminate intelligence data as fast as possible and in as many places as possible is crucial. Businesses (and especially their marketing teams) should be able to know whether to send a person an email, find their custom Facebook audience, or even flag them for the call center to treat differently than standard customers. It is the ability to disseminate and orchestrate the data that is the most important piece of the puzzle.
Q: How do smartphone and tablets help contribute to the CDP and assist in creating a more complete customer profile? Has the increase in mobility and the proliferation of smartphone and tablet users been a help or a challenge?
A: In my opinion, mobile devices and tablets are great input sources into the CDP. Today’s mobile and tablet devices now have device IDs which can be targeted. Devices, as well as native mobile apps, can now capture activities on mobile devices and through mobile applications. All of these things are important in building the customer profile. Imagine a big company like Starbucks: there is lots of interaction from and within their mobile app (i.e. how many times you pay with the app, how many times you go to the store, how many times Google WiFi picks you up, how long you stayed connected, etc.). All of those touchpoints are now linked together. Plus, mobile data is especially important now more than ever with the rise of the IoT.
As an example, one of our current customers is JOANN Stores. They have WiFi in their store, and when customers login to the WiFi, from that point (and every point forward) JOANN can know when you go into the store, how long you were in the store, combine the store purchase data to know if you made a purchase, and if appropriate,, they can then send coupons that help to drive purchase behaviors.
At the end of the day, a mobile device is basically putting a beacon in your pocket.
Q: Let’s talk a bit about your product and standout solution. How would you describe the AgilOne Customer Data Platform? What are its highlights and key features that help enterprises get a good view of their customer base?
A: The idea of the CDP is coming up often nowadays as it is the evolution of what used to be marketing databases. In the past, individuals in the industry had a number of solutions delivered by marketing service providers in order to help them piece together customer profiles. And a couple of things have changed since the early days, too: the data size has gotten much bigger (it is no longer just a phone number and what the customer bought)…now we are dealing with intent data, browsing data, call center contacts, the products they view, their interests on social media, etc. There is a lot more detail about the profile of the customer, and that has made the data set much larger.
Plus, data is more transient now and is more timely. This size and scale of information is on the rise, and the whole idea of the variety of data no longer based on just the purchase and pay. Now keywords, interests, and browsing habits can shape the data for better segmentation and to create a better customer experience due to targeting, etc.
There are many more use cases for this type of data, too. On average, there are many more behavioral elements to take into consideration, but all of those customer touch points become very important at the customer level. Who the customer is, what the customer is doing, and what their intent is are all important factors to consider. And to align all of these, the CDP was born. It adds processes in real-time (similar to a CRM system, except a CRM is more for managing tickets and records) in order to create many more places that a profile can be built from. DMPs are all cookie-driven (and anonymous). By contrast to both, a CDP focuses on first-party data collection and activation, encompassing all digital and offline sources of data about the customer.
The function of the CDP is resolving and managing the identities of the customers: email profile, call center profile, transactional/loyalty information, etc. It’s a way to bring everything together, and a CDP provides the structure for identity resolution, data hygiene, for creating a master customer record, The true value of the CDP is centered around analyzing the data. Now that you have stored a persistent customer ID, the CDP can perform analysis on the customer. This can include the last time a customer bought, how far a customer lives from a specific store or location, what is the lifetime value etc. It ultimately adds intelligence to the customer ID. Then the last role of the CDP is to take clean intelligent data in real-time and be able to activate the data in different places within the enterprise, wherever it is needed.
The CDP is the master source for various systems. The first system is divided into 4 buckets: outbound marketing, systems SMS, email, and lead generation. The second system is customer experience systems like CRMs, call centers, which require customer data to process interactions, websites and mobile applications. The third system is advertising: a lot of the media these days is slowly becoming customer addressable so that [companies] can target better. We have an integration with DMPs where customers can denote who their most valuable customers are, and after marking this the DMP will go and hunt for more similar customers and people. By providing this intelligence, the DMP is expanding through collective audiences that they can either target or suppress. The fourth (and last) system is the piece that contains all of the analytics and API’s to facilitate putting the relevant data in all the channels of engagement.
CDPs provide a marketer-controlled system to unify customer data across different sources, but many CDPs are limited in the scale of organization they can support, or they are limited to digital-only use cases, etc. Our strengths at AgilOne are that we built the CDP for the enterprise, which means we architected it to be applicable to super large scales with 100+ million customers. We built the architecture for these larger enterprises. A second factor that makes us unique is configurability. And third is the whole analytics layer with machine learning, which is a founding capability for AgilOne. For us, this is a big strength over our competition.
Q: How does the AgilOne Customer Data Platform compare to customer profile solutions and marketing systems of the past?
A: Ten years ago, people were talking about segmented information, which was based on what people purchased, sending them offers, coupons, catalogs, and emails etc. But from that point forward, things have changed so that you now have real-time data and much more colorful data of customers. People are now saying that the whole customer experience is much more important than the sporadic interactions that marketing used to be. It is no longer marketing through a coupon world: now the customer experience is part of the product or strategy, centered on whenever the customer is searching for something or when they open an email.
People need to think through the customer journey, however, and this is often neglected. Engagement leads to transactions…you are not just sending customers a promotion any longer. Promotions fill a margin for most companies, but the brands that are winning are moving away from this promotion strategy. Brands that stay are configuring the customer experience rather than sending out the promotion. And we are providing the data and intelligence to do this.
From the user perspective on our solution, the UI on the marketing side is built with Google material design. The design is easy for the marketers to use, and it provides a simple interface in the front end for marketers in addition to powerful APIs and tools in the backend for the IT department. Neither of these alone can win, but together they provide a simple service UI to clients.
Q: What trends or new technologies do you think will emerge and shape the future of the CDP? What will affect the future of customer purchasing habits and customer profiles?
A: I have a gut feeling that there are two sides of this: one is this whole customer data profile perspective. Identity data management companies often overlap with some CDP functionalities, and so I believe that CDPs will eventually offer full Master Data Management (MDM) capabilities to become a full-fledged customer management system. The question it begs is: who owns the master customer and what is the master customer? Identity access management and CDPs are more downstream use cases, but may eventually merge with the MDMs.
Second, Data Management Platforms (DMPs) and CDPs may eventually merge into one solution, bringing together strengths in third party and first party data together into one platform. If they converge, the analytics and machine learning that comes with CDPs will help support more real-time use cases across the marketing, customer experience, and advertising ecosystems.
Founded in 2005 in Silicon Valley, AgilOne is driven to serve B2C enterprises in all industries through their Customer Data Platform (CDP), a comprehensive and omni-channel big data platform that helps bring the customer profile in full view through the use of analysis and actions. By combining big data enterprise platform, unified data, analytics and machine learning, as well as customer data activation and orchestration, AgilOne helps their clients to predict and to determine their marketing messages across all appropriate customer touchpoints. AgilOne is the trusted partner of brands like Serena & Lily, Vineyard Vines, Nine West, and many more.