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DataNov 09, 2020

How to Choose Between Buying and Building a Single Customer View Solution

Jenna Swinney, KK Heyne, and Wynn Boss

Customer-centric marketing is essential to compete in today’s world. Companies of all sizes are moving to improve their marketing effectiveness by better leveraging their data and gaining a deeper understanding of their customers. Many of our clients choose to implement a single customer view (SCV) to achieve this goal.

In a previous article, we explored why an SCV was important to marketing efforts, as well as how to achieve and utilize an SCV to personalize content for each individual customer. After deciding to pursue a single customer view, you must decide whether you should buy or build an SCV solution.

Building a solution allows your organization to create a customized platform tailored to your specific needs. On the other hand, buying a solution allows for your organization to achieve a single customer view by simply purchasing a pre-built customer data platform (CDP), which acts as an aggregator of customer data, allows for a consolidated view of the customer across the marketing organization, and generally provides additional functionality outside of a simple customer database.

Organizations sometimes struggle when deciding whether they should build a custom solution or buy a CDP product to achieve their SCV goals. When helping companies implement SCV solutions, we’ve learned which factors are the most important to consider when making this buy versus build decision. In this blog post, we will walk through key considerations that go into making the buy vs. build decision, and then we will discuss circumstances when buying is the best option and when building is the best option.

4 key considerations

There are a handful of considerations that go into your decision to buy or build an SCV solution. In this article, we’ll explore the following four considerations:

  1. Complexity of Requirements

    Consider the level of complexity of your organization’s single customer view goals and needs (e.g., identity stitching methods, level of data sources, etc.).

  2. Current MarTech Infrastructure

    Your SCV solution needs to integrate into the infrastructure of marketing products you currently utilize or plan to implement.

  3. Resource Availability

    Consider the availability and skillset of your internal resources who would oversee the implementation and maintenance of the SCV solution. Also consider bringing in external resources who have expertise in implementing SCV solutions.

  4. Cost and Time

    Cost and implementation timelines should be considered with every technology implementation. Specifically, assess your implementation urgency as well as the different cost structures associated with buying versus building, and then determine which path is best for your organization’s needs.

when to buy

The decision to buy versus build is not a simple decision—the best solution will be different for each company based on their needs, goals, resources, and their MarTech stack. Let’s discuss a few reasons why you may choose to buy a CDP rather than build a custom SCV solution.

An Existing Solution Meets Your Requirements

Purchasing a CDP, rather than building an SCV solution, can be an optimal solution for many organizations, especially if there is a CDP product that meets the organization’s SCV needs. If there is already a pre-built product that will achieve your organization’s goals, then buying an off-the-shelf CDP solution and configuring it to meet your specific needs will likely require less time and money than custom-building a solution.

CDP Product Fits Into Your MarTech Stack

Another factor to consider is how the SCV solution will fit into your organization’s current MarTech stack. Many CDPs offer pre-built connectors that allow for the solution to fit into your current MarTech stack and easily plug into your other MarTech products (e.g., email service provider, reporting solution, etc.). These pre-built connectors can drastically reduce the complexity of the implementation. CDPs also tend to offer many additional pieces of functionality that go above and beyond a single customer view, including built-in security functionality that adhere to industry standards as well as configurable artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities that can assist in customer identity stitching and segment identification.

Your Implementation Timeline Is Accelerated and CDP Product Is Within Budget

It is also important to consider your timeline and budget when determining the best solution for your organization. If your need for an SCV solution is urgent, buying a CDP solution is often the best option, as the overall implementation tends to be faster than a custom build. However, you should also take your budget into account, as implementation timelines and costs tend to go hand-in-hand. CDPs often operate as SaaS providers, so even though the CDP’s upfront implementation and labor costs may be lower, they do require an annual subscription cost for the software and for access to support and maintenance from the vendor.

when to build

Building an SCV solution, rather than purchasing a CDP, can be an optimal choice for organizations, primarily because of its ability to be highly customizable. Now that we’ve walked through a few reasons why you may choose to buy an SCV solution, let’s discuss why companies might prefer to build an SCV solution instead.

You Have Very Simple Requirements

One of the first factors to consider when making this decision is the complexity of your organization’s SCV goals. It’s common to assume a single software solution will be able to solve all your problems, but that’s not always the case. If your SCV requirements are simple, then purchasing a CDP product to achieve your goals would undoubtedly entail paying for functionality you do not need or would not utilize. An example of a simple case is when we have a few primary data sources we need to unify using simple matching via customer IDs, which can be done quickly and easily with a custom-built solution.

You Have Very Complex Requirements

Conversely, if your desired capabilities are complex and couldn’t be achieved by simply implementing an off-the-shelf solution, then you would need a customized SCV tailored for your specific use case. One example of a complex case is ingesting customer data coming from multiple regions with unique privacy rules and needing to accommodate for all of their individual regulations and requirements (e.g., CCPA, GDPR, federal requirements, etc.). A second example is using complex fuzzy logic to match customers.

Customized Integrations Are Required to Fit Into Your MarTech Stack

Another factor to consider is how the SCV solution will fit into your current infrastructure. At the highest level, your SCV solution would be a database that combines customer data into a centralized location to utilize for marketing purposes. This means your SCV solution would be just one component of the full stack of marketing products you use. One key advantage of building your SCV solution is you can tailor the solution to solve your exact use cases and seamlessly integrate the solution into the rest of your MarTech stack.

Budget Allows for a Custom Solution

While simple custom solutions for an SCV will likely be cheaper than buying a CDP product, the cost of custom-building a solution with complex requirements is often high. Bringing together a team to achieve this goal when the resources may not be readily available within your organization can require a higher upfront cost than buying a CDP solution. The tradeoff of the cost, of course, is your solution will be tailored to your exact specifications and will fit seamlessly into your organization once implemented.

making your buy vs. build decision

The decision to buy or build an SCV solution is different for every organization and situation. The optimal decision for your organization will depend on how important each of the above considerations are in achieving your SCV goals.

We hope this blog post has helped you gain a better understanding of what needs to be considered when making the decision to buy or build an SCV solution. At Credera, we have experience helping organizations of all sizes gain a deeper understanding of their customers and improve their marketing effectiveness through implementing single customer view solutions and CDPs. Please reach out to us at findoutmore@credera.com.

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