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When should you invest in Salesforce’s Customer 360 Audiences?

Introduction to Salesforce Customer 360

In October 2020, Salesforce publicly released their new CDP (customer data platform), Customer 360. This platform aims to connect all your customer information in one place within Salesforce. So now you can tie any and all loose ends, creating a 360° view of an individual. Customer 360 (or simply C360) is an umbrella term for Customer 360 Audiences, Customer 360 Data Manager, Customer 360 Identity, and Customer 360 Privacy Center.


From all the Customer 360 products, one particularly caught our attention, and that is Customer 360 Audiences. Customer 360 Audiences is a self-service customer data platform, where you can create personalized audience segments. It’ll come as no surprise to readers that what caught our attention, in particular, was the tool’s audience segmentation. At DESelect, we do love a bit of segmentation after all…  🙂

In this blog post, we evaluate and consider whether it’s worth investing in Salesforce’s Customer 360 Audiences, exclusively for audience segmentation.

What is a CDP?

A customer data platform (CDP) is a place where a company collects and stores data about its customers. However, data collection can only take companies (and marketers) so far in the quest to deliver connected experiences.

What are the main characteristics of a CDP?

These are to unify, analyze, and activate data. Unify and match all your audience’s granular behaviors across online and offline channels, creating a single customer view. It enables you to democratize insights, increase organizational agility, and augment human intelligence with AI. Activate, orchestrate, test, and measure experiences across all customer touchpoints. 

The CDP should integrate with your existing marketing ecosystem while providing system-agnostic connectors out-of-the-box, to enable a future best-of-breed stack. 

Before implementing Customer 360 Audiences, it’s important to consider your Marketing Cloud account structure. If your company manages multiple brands not sharing data and has access restrictions, you may need to consider deploying more than one CDP instance for each restricted brand. Review your company’s data privacy requirements to decide if you need more than one production instance of CDP.

What does Salesforce use to collect and connect all this data?

Salesforce uses the Cloud Information Model (CIM). The CIM is a schema (model) used to communicate between connected data sources with different data structures and formats. It uses APIs (a developer tool allowing systems to talk to each other) and other mappings to connect applications and data. Learn more about CIM via this Trailhead.

Salesforce and other companies (including AWS, IBM, and Google) collaborated to create an open-source data model that standardizes data formatting across applications. It provides a way to make integration seamless and scalable regardless of what cloud platform you are using. This also reduces the barriers to cross-product integration.

What do we know about Salesforce C360 Audiences?

At the point of writing this article, only a handful of information is available about Customer 360 products and Customer 360 Audiences in particular.

So far, only Trailhead modules for Customer 360 Data Manager and Audiences are available.

What’s the difference between these two and why are they recommended to be used together? In short, Customer 360 Audiences is a CDP to manage audience segmentation, and the Data Manager is made to structure your data model and define your global ID throughout the systems.

However, these two products can be used separately.

As we have mentioned, this article focuses on evaluating Customer 360 Audiences for marketers, as an everyday segmentation solution. 

Why should you get Customer 360 Audiences?

Every marketer dreams about having a 360 view of their clients in one space, to improve targeting and segmentation and that is what Salesforce C360 Audiences promises to us. Customer 360 Audiences is a self-service CDP that drives personalization and engagement. Using a series of solutions, you can achieve a single, actionable view of your customer.

If you use Salesforce for business purposes like sharing data across multiple Salesforce organizations or clouds, like Service Cloud and Commerce Cloud, data cleanup, and privacy compliance, then Customer 360 Data Manager might be all you need. In that sense, combining it with Customer 360 Audiences can certainly help create segments for campaigns across many channels. 

Who will benefit from C360 Audiences?

Clients who use at least two Salesforce products could benefit from Salesforce C360 since C360 offers so-called “native connectors”. These native connectors allow you to integrate without custom coding with other Salesforce products, such as Service Cloud or Marketing Cloud.


Aside from native connectors, C360 also offers integration with AWS Cloud, through a so-called “S3 bucket”. Essentially, this kind of integration relies on files being dropped on an FTP server and then processed in batch, a process likely to be familiar to Marketing Cloud users who have worked with Automation Studio. This way of integrating could offer a solution for those using non-Salesforce products as some of their systems, who don’t mind data being refreshed daily.

Who will be using C360 Audiences in your organization?

In general, we understand that C360 Audiences’ goal is to make data and segmentation more accessible for marketers. Although, we can already tell that various people will implement and use this platform. According to our research, the most common platform user will most likely be an admin. 

In fact, to segment through C360 Audiences and use the segments in Marketing Cloud, the main steps to be taken are:

  1. An admin integrates the right data sources into C360. Note that this may be – to some extent – a recurring task, as Marketing may gain access to new data sources or may want to leverage the results from recent campaigns.
  2. An admin or marketer then uses C360 Audiences to create segments inside C360 itself.
  3. Finally, to make sure these segments can be used in Marketing Cloud, once again the admin plays a role by defining a so-called “activation” in C360. This is essentially an additional integration point, to let the segment flow back to Marketing Cloud.

 

From this, we can see that C360 is a team effort. Even looking at the default roles defined in C360 Audiences, we can distinguish between marketing manager, marketing specialist, and data-aware specialist. Data-aware specialist is a new role coined by Salesforce (at least in their help documentation). They are said to verify the ingested data in Customer 360 Audiences, to ensure that it’s able to be segmented successfully. They can also configure your data model. So, the conclusion here may be that to work with data you would need help and support from more data-savvy colleagues.

How do you get started with Salesforce C360?

Implementing Customer 360 is a project on its own, which would take up to three months for starters, based on the latest Salesforce documentation available to system integrators. It’s a rather important decision that will impact the way you do marketing and business going forward. That’s why bringing the stakeholders together and defining the needs of the company is essential. 

You will need to bring together data model specialists, a marketing head, potentially the CEO, and some customer service colleagues. You’ll need to start by creating a clear overview of the data model, identifying data sources and integrations. We suggest having a look at this Trailhead, inside which you’ll find an introductory guide to implementing Customer 360 Audiences. 

Depending on the size of your company, stakeholders, data sources and integrations will vary. From what we’ve learned by looking at Customer 360 Audiences, this solution makes more sense for large enterprises with multiple customer touch-points and whose data is stored on various platforms. It also makes sense if you already have at least two Salesforce products, for instance, Service Cloud, Sales Cloud, and/or Marketing Cloud.

The Customer 360 Audiences admin updates the permission set, provisions the Customer 360 Audiences account, creates users, and establishes connections with data sources. This is the first step in the Customer 360 Audiences implementation.

How to maintain C360 Audiences?

At the end of implementation, before we wrap up, let’s cover some tips for ongoing maintenance of Customer 360 Audiences. Since more users are added to the account, it’s a good time to establish auditing procedures to detect potential abuse. This helps when troubleshooting any issues that might arise.

Monitor usage entitlements. As an admin, you need to monitor your account for activities that impact your contract. These include unified profiles (similar to Marketing Cloud contacts), segment publishes, and engagement events or records.

View identity resolution processing history. Once resolution rules have been enabled, it is a good idea to regularly visit the ‘Audiences Setup’ page to check the processing history and consolidation rate over time.

View record modification fields. All objects include fields to store the name of the user who created the record and who last modified the record. This provides some basic auditing information to help troubleshoot.

View and monitor setup changes with ‘Setup Audit Trail’. Admins can view a setup audit trail, which logs when modifications are made to your organization’s configuration.

View and monitor login history. You can review a list of successful and failed login attempts to your organization for the past 6 months.

Monitor account status on Salesforce Trust. Monitor service availability and performance for both your Marketing Cloud connection and your Customer 360 Audiences account. By doing so you can quickly identify issues related to ongoing incidents before you spend too much time troubleshooting.

C360 Audiences is new for everyone

It’s important to understand that this is a completely new product for Salesforce employees and system integrators alike, and it’s explicitly mentioned in the Salesforce documentation that the setup needs to be done by admins. In the case of Customer 360 Audiences, normally it will be a Marketing Cloud admin along with the data manager, who will define the data mapping and define roles for other CDP users. From the default roles for Customer 360 Audiences, you can already distinguish between marketing manager, marketing specialist, and data aware specialist. The role of data aware specialist may sound new to many marketers. Of course, depending on your company’s needs, custom roles can come into play.

Next, we will try to evaluate whether the product is worth buying purely for segmentation purposes.

Should you segment in C360 Audiences or DESelect?

We are going to start with a quick illustration of the comparison between Customer 360 Audiences and DESelect. Then we’ll proceed to discuss strengths, weaknesses, and their workaround.

A key consideration will of course be price. Based on the early pricing information available, it is clear that C360 can be considered a “high-end” product. If your sole use case for C360 is audience segmentation, then you will need to ask yourself the question: Is it worth the price?

Earlier, we’ve mentioned that the Customer 360 Audiences end user will often be an admin, where DESelect enables marketers to create everything, even advanced segments. That means that operational marketers are fully capable of using the tool as well as admins or technical marketers.

C360 Audiences takes some time to get it running. It needs to be treated as a stand-alone implementation project involving multiple stakeholders. The approximate time evaluation of which can be 3 months. On the other hand, DESelect is a plug-and-play app that requires no implementation process. DESelect does not require any maintenance either – any data you add to Marketing Cloud will be made immediately available.

The next point to consider is, of course, data. Since C360 Audiences is a CDP, it involves multiple data sources and contains cross-cloud data. DESelect is an app exclusively for Marketing Cloud, that leverages the data stored therein. If you want to leverage data in DESelect, you will first need to make it available in Marketing Cloud. For instance, you may want to sync your Service Cloud data through Marketing Cloud, by using  Marketing Cloud Connect.

Where to segment data?

Since C360 is a CDP, it means data will not be stored directly in Marketing Cloud. After the segments are created, they can be used as data extensions for use in Marketing Cloud campaigns. 

The segmented data can be exported to Marketing Cloud, AWS3, and Salesforce intends to add more products later. However, activation is more technical, typically requiring someone other than a marketer to handle the segmentation. This publishing can be a one-time or scheduled activity. At the point of writing this article, we know that segments created in C360 Audiences are updated daily. 

If you need to segment data you have in Marketing Cloud already and will need to use exclusively in Marketing Cloud, leveraging C360 Audiences can be excessive. In this case, a fully integrated app like DESelect probably solves your need.

Using C360 Audiences and DESelect together

However, it’s not simply a case of “either/or”. Based on our ongoing assessment and many conversations with Salesforce Architects, we believe that C360 Audiences and DESelect can work together in harmony. 

C360 Audiences and DESelect complement each other. In terms of segmentation, C360 Audiences can be leveraged as a tool to create ‘master data extensions’, a term commonly used in the Marketing Cloud ecosystem to refer to Marketing Cloud data extensions containing master segments. (For more information regarding the master data extensions approach, refer to our eBook, ‘Your Data and Salesforce Marketing Cloud’.) This type of segmentation can be described as orchestration. DESelect allows for operational marketing segmentation, to finetune the ‘master segments’ (created by C360 for instance) for marketers’ daily needs. 

Lastly, it is always important to keep your specific use cases for targeting and segmentation in mind. While assessing C360 Audiences, understand that Salesforce is still rolling out its features. For an overview of DESelect’s main features (including joining data extensions, calculations, and waterfall segmentation), you can refer to this page or simply get a live demo here.

What’s on the roadmap for C360 Audiences?

Customer 360 Audiences is a very new Salesforce product, and for it to be complete and working to its fullest potential, more time and updates are required. A January ‘21 release has already been announced. The new features include calculated insights. It will become possible to define multi-dimensional metrics such as LTV, CSAT, etc., at profile, segment, or population level. 

There are also new features for self-service mobile app and website setup in CDP for data ingestion. Another update concerns loyalty management and integration. It’s now possible to deliver personalized experiences to loyal members in the Loyalty Cloud Bundle. The bundle consists of a pre-defined base of objects/fields that automatically maps C360A’s DMOs (Data Model Object) and automatically associates DMO relationships. It will also be possible to have real-time access to a unified profile, to create personalized experiences, serve calculated insights for each profile, and integrate with any system. Data query API will allow us to extract and visualize data and integrate it with any system. 

At DESelect, we release key functionality every month and already support things such as calculated insights objects. 2021 will be another update-packed year as we continue to monitor the use of (and finetune accordingly) our marketer-friendly plug-and-play segmentation tool.

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