COVID-19 threw a wrench into best-laid marketing plans. But marketers are learning to adapt, said Tasso Argyros, CEO and co-founder of customer data platform ActionIQ.
“All of our clients have been forced to rethink their entire marketing and customer experience strategy,” Argyros said. “And they all need new data, analytics and orchestration capabilities to enable these strategies.”
Still, it’s a bit like building railroad tracks while the train is coming. Clients are trying to acclimate while determining which changes to their business could be permanent.
Despite the question marks, brands can use this unanticipated disruption “as an opportunity to position themselves to come out of this stronger,” said Argyros, who founded ActionIQ in 2014 after selling his previous company, Aster Data, to Teradata.
ActionIQ’s clients include Gap Inc., Saks Fifth Avenue, Michael Kors, Pandora, Verizon and The New York Times. The company raised a $32 million Series C in January, and more than $80 million total. Around half of ActionIQ’s roughly 100 employees are focused either on engineering or R&D.
Argyros spoke with AdExchanger.
AdExchanger: What does it mean to be a CDP in the age of coronavirus?
TASSO ARGYROS: Companies are now trying to execute new campaigns and use cases with limited budgets and resources. For example, if you are a multichannel retailer, you need to migrate your store-only shoppers to ecom, or else you could lose that cohort for good.
I expect coronavirus to accelerate a lot of the business transformation initiatives that were leading people to work with CDPs in the first place.
Did you start out as a CDP from Day One?
It’s a tricky question, because you have to rewrite history a bit in order to answer it. The vision was always to do something really interesting and cool around customer data, and we were doing it before the term existed. But if you were to ask me about how we differentiate, I’d say the main way is in how we’re able to invest data with more scale and complexity than other vendors out there.
Can you elaborate on that?
You don’t have to transform your data or build customer or profile attributes beforehand. You just load in whatever data you want and we build profiles on the fly. Other CDPs have tables with key customer attributes, but we hold every customer interaction. It sounds like an esoteric point, but it makes a huge difference, because it allows you to be agile. Business teams can be completely self-sufficient and iterate in a matter of days rather than a matter of months.
How long does it take to onboard a new customer?
We promise to have the system up and running in three months and that the customer will see strong ROI in six months. We try to come in with strategic solutions and services to help identify low-hanging fruit, use cases and channels that could be incremental. When we push those out, it provides early value and derisks the deployment in a short period of time.
Who is your typical customer?
We focus on the enterprise level, including both B2B and B2C. Our typical customer has revenues of around $1 billion and up. We mostly sell to the CMO, although IT is often closely involved.
What data sources do you most commonly connect?
It’s mainly very large-scale data lakes, such as Google BigQuery and Amazon Redshift, and data warehouses, such as Teradata and Oracle. We can plug into any internal data source and pull in massive amounts of data which allows us to deploy quickly without having to rely on consulting or IT resources. We’re also connected to ad systems – Segment, for example, or a tag manager such as Tealium, are sources of clickstream data for us – and to ESP sources of email response data.
Will the marketing clouds deliver on their promise of providing CDPs?
The marketing clouds announcing CDP capabilities last year was the best marketing we could not afford to have done ourselves. But the marketing clouds are mostly trying to sell legacy software and present it as a CDP. Sometimes they try to sell email software as a CDP or their DMP as a CDP.
Once you’re in an RFP scenario, though, it’s easy to tell the difference. They don’t really have a product. The question then becomes, when will they have one? They say they’re building it, but when was the last time either Adobe or Salesforce built a successful product in house? Everything has been done through acquisition.
But marketers are still attracted to the marketing clouds, because they’re used to working with them.
The marketing clouds thrive on noise in the CDP space. It’s strategic for them to create more confusion, and they have the marketing dollars to do it. One of the values we offer is that we don’t force customers to be locked into any one specific marketing cloud vendor. We give them the channel freedom to plug and play the solutions they choose to work with.
Does the eventual loss of third-party cookies impact the CDP space?
The role of the DMP will be reduced to the point where we can implement almost all of the functionality of a DMP without much additional cost. The consolidation of the DMP inside of a CDP is an opportunity to simplify the marketing stack and save customers some budget.
This interview has been edited and condensed.