An expert panel and a recent Futurum Research report presented this week at MarTech 2021 revealed that many companies are addressing longstanding data and business problems that surfaced in the pandemic with customer data platforms (CDPs). Increasingly, CDPs are helping companies to pivot, improve and personalize customer journeys, enhance operations company-wide, and accelerate digital transformation. The panel not only explained these trends, but did a deep dive into real-world CDP use at the country’s largest senior care and community provider, Brookdale Senior Living. What Comes After the Chaotic First Year of the Pandemic? A Digital Divide. The panel began with a discussion of the impact of 2020, and how the pandemic and its effects exposed longstanding problems that became devastating when everything from supply chains to brick-and-mortar retail were disrupted. Last year was a chaotic year. It really showed the [need for] digital transformation was a real thing, says Daniel Newman, principal analyst at Futurum Research. Companies that had been holding onto non-digital practices…found themselves in a real predicament, he told a MarTech audience in a talk titled CDPs as the Engine for Growth. And, says Newman, companies’ varying abilities to respond have created success for some, and lingering problems for others. We have a digital divide, says Newman. Executives at about half of the companies we surveyed say they’re leading-edge adopters, and the other half of the top 1,000 are lagging behind. Expect Accelerated Digital Transformation to Stay in Overdrive. Many companies have decided that their digital transformation is going to continue at an accelerating rate, adds Newman. This doubling down on data-driven marketing, operations, and omnichannel experience will only make the digital divide between laggards and leaders even greater. Those that are embracing data-driven digital transformation have often accumulated martech and platforms that generate many different data streams that need to be ingested, unified, and used to inform personalized customer journeys. Enterprise CDPs-at least those that can orchestrate other martech such as email, social media, and mobile apps-are uniquely suited to sit at the center of corporate technology stacks, says panelist Tom Treanor, chief marketing officer for Treasure Data. That’s because the best of them can ingest and unify data, tease out insights and trends, and handle such marketing tactics as next best action, targeting, segmentation, and personalized customer journeys. CDPs Power Data-driven Marketing, Then Transform the Rest of the Company. An interesting example discussed in the session illustrates the research trends Newman highlighted in his talk. Brookdale Senior Living-the largest provider of senior communities and services in the U.S.-has grown rapidly by acquisition, from a few dozen communities to more than 700, says Michael McCamish, senior director of web marketing for Brookdale. The acquisition of hundreds of companies, each with its own martech stack, produced an urgent need for technology to unify all that data. In the senior care field, the length and paths of customer journeys are highly variable. The time from initial research to a decision ranges from a few days or weeks when care needs are urgent, to perhaps months or years of research when people start planning early. This time variation puts a premium on understanding customer needs long before they fill out a form or book a visit. We really had no visibility into the full customer journey, says McCamish. We saw what happened when the person came into our customer relations manager (CRM), but we were missing everything before that. So we didn't know what happened to persuade a prospect to fill out a form, make a call, or book a visit. We really want to get down to what is that full customer journey, so we can use our tech stack to really see our prospects and leads, and what’s influencing people. And because Treasure Data CDP has more than 180 pre-built connectors, it was uniquely able to integrate the many data sources and platforms that Brookdale had accumulated in its rapid growth. It was the only thing that could help us see across the full gamut of our martech to give us a single source of truth, Brookdale’s McCamish told the MarTech audience. We can now see how our website interacts with paid search, with social media, and with our CRM so that we know we’re making use of the best combination of those resources, he said. Once we started getting everything into Treasure Data, we're now finally able to see that full customer journey. Brookdale’s CDP has also helped the company discover which of its actions produce the greatest numbers of leads and conversions, a common problem in an era of paid advertising, where everyone wants to attribute leads to their own technology. A lot of marketing teams have the same problem, says McCamish. The web person says, ‘I brought you this many leads.’ The paid search person says, ‘I brought you this many leads,’ the social media company says they brought this many leads. When you add it all together, there are more leads than we really had as a whole company. So we wanted to get down to a single source of truth, and that's why we brought in Treasure Data CDP. The flexibility and range of Treasure Data’s different lead attribution models, combined with the quality of the data, makes assessments about lead-generation much easier, he says. How CDPs Drive Digital Transformation Far Beyond the Marketing Department. One of the payoffs of CDP-driven marketing programs is that they can be extended beyond departmental boundaries for a variety of purposes. We have many web visitors who are interested in employment, so now we can customize their journeys as well. And we can use the same data and analytics in operations in general, too. So in 2021, look for continued CDP-driven expansion and digital transformation across industries. You can get a complimentary copy of the new Futurum Research report or watch the free, on-demand version of this MarTech presentation.