Customer Data Platform at NMBS via SAP Customer Data Cloud & Adobe Experience Platform
Technology usedSAP Customer Data Cloud
About our client
Nationale Maatschappij der Belgische Spoorwegen (NMBS), also known as Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Belges (SNCB) in French, is the National Railway Company of Belgium and the second-oldest in Europe. It operates, organizes and commercializes train traffic across the country and is also responsible for train maintenance & renovation. The operator has about 4.000 train drivers and transports over 250 million passengers each year.
Although NMBS has many customers, the Marketing and Sales department didn’t have a lot of insights into their good and loyal customers. In the past, their SAP CRM system was mainly focused on customer questions and complaints, compensation and other more service-related data. It had limited data about ticket sales or other preferences of B2C customers. Also, train tickets were sold in a non-digital way for a long time. Sales data was fragmented and scattered in different silos of sales applications.
The Marketing and Sales department of NMBS wanted to accelerate the digital transformation of their business by moving into a digital-first strategy and creating a GDPR complaint 360° view of the customer by granting the customer access to his or her own data.
To achieve this goal, NMBS had a need for a customer data platform, which was the combination of SAP Customer Data Cloud (for customer profile), Adobe marketing suite and SAP Integration Suite.
The SAP Customer Data Cloud (SAP CDC) solution is the new digital profile replacing the existing myNMBS back-end application with a better UX experience and secure customer profile, consent and identity. We selected SAP CDC as it is one of the leading Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) and Customer Profile systems.
Digital channels will become primary channels to offer the travelers more convenience in ticket buying anytime & anyplace
Building trust and transparency in the customer journey
Complex architecture and integration with existing customer data in CRM and ERP
- Making traveling easier and more comfortable
- Optimal, personal service
- Get insights: Which data does NMBS have of me? Which data or preferences do I wish to share?
- Create a personalized client zone:
- User can maintain his consent uniquely from each device
- Use the same login on all platforms
- Ticket in the cloud*
- Subscription renewal on all platforms*
- Status tickets at the customer service department (Lost & found, fines, compensation)
* Some of these objectives are long-term and still require additional developments
- Building rich profiles along the customer journey with privacy at the forefront
- Improve GDPR compliance
- Create a single unified view of customers to share across your business
- Get customer insights (360° view) and put the customer in the center
- Get actionable data
- Data-driven marketing approach based on sales and service data
- Decrease dependency on IT
- Deliver an excellent customer experience to connect users to brands
- Only target the right customers
- Build trusted relationships with preference and consent management
- Facilitating self-service
At the moment of implementation, the combination of SAP Customer Data Cloud and the Adobe products were best of breed in their different niches. SAP CDC is used to capture all customer-related data. The Adobe tools; Adobe Experience Platform (AEP) is used for segmentation and customer selection based on sales and web behavioral data and Adobe Campaign Standard (ACS) is used for mail-based interactions with the customers.
For the first time in NMBS history, we are now gathering all sales data from all different sales applications and combining it in a customer profile using SAP CDC. SAP Cloud Integration (CPI) is used to replicate this data to the Adobe products (AEP and ACS).
By doing a backend only replacement, we are able to limit the work on the customer-facing frontend and take a gradual approach to adding new functionalities.
Since all frontends were calling the same APIs, we mapped the existing API structure to SAP CDC.
We are using the 3 components of SAP Customer Data Cloud:
- SAP Customer Identity: to capture the customers’ login identity. At NMBS we are using basic authentication using e-mail and password, linked to an internal identity provider, which is linked to SAP CDC.
- SAP Customer Consent: to collect the customer consent for NMBS we are selecting 2 types of consent. Informational consent which is related to the journey and sales in the timeframe before and after the sales, and promotional consent this is for promotional. SAP CDC is the master of these consents, Adobe is a slave for these consent and receives the updates from the SAP CDC system.
- SAP Customer Profile: this is the biggest value for NMBS. In the customer profile we store all relevant customer data like name and address data and combine this with preferences and sales data linked to this profile. The profile can be customized in the JSON structure, the sales data is stored in the database schema linked to the profile. Both schemas are optimized for NMBS purposes. A standard schema is present as a default in SAP CDC.
For more details about the CDC solution please read our blogpost “Hyper-personalized customer experience with SAP Customer Data Platform”.
We started with a backend only replacement, so the existing backend application that managed the logins was replaced by the new SAP CDC application. Existing web services were mapped and rerouted to SAP CDC to avoid that the frontend application needed replacement as of the start of the project.
When SAP CDC was receiving data, we were able to forward this customer and sales data received by SAP CDC to the Adobe platform using SAP CPI. Using webhooks, the SAP CPI system is informed about a change, calling the web service to read the data in SAP CDC and forward that data to Adobe Campaign Standard and Adobe Experience Platform.
Since we didn’t need to change the frontend, we were able to deliver this project in a very short period of 7 months from kick-off to go-live (End of March 2021).
The combination of SAP CDC and Adobe was a win-win situation, for business and marketing users as for IT. Since a large part of the NMBS backbone is SAP software, the integration between SAP CDC and the backend application was relatively easy. The architectural fit of the solution was therefore also a major benefit.
Adobe and SAP have proven to be great partners, during this implementation the collaboration between SAP architects & support and Adobe architects & support was great and very professional. This has been proven in the short implementation cycle, resulting in a huge step forward for the marketing department of NMBS.
With the unified data model, NMBS is able to gather all customer and sales data in one central place (3 different sales backends) in one format. Allowing the business to increase the speed of campaign execution.
From a business point of view, the speed of campaign execution has evolved from multiple days to minutes. With this unified data model, business is now able to target the right customer and send them the right message at the right time. This benefits the lives of NMBS customers as well as it improves the job of Marketing & Sales people by creating better customer journeys.
By using the profile and consent capabilities of SAP CDC, we are able to provide a fully GDPR-compliant profile while offering a 360° customer view of the business. From a customer point of view, in the future NMBS will offer a fully transparent insight into customers’ data based on a trusted relationship and users can modify their own preferences. By doing so, this large entity is stimulating its innovative perception. They can give the travelers the feeling that they really know them by offering relevant travel information, promotions, interesting news,… based on the customers buying behavior and preferences. This all results in higher loyalty and customer satisfaction.
Lesson learned: we encountered some challenges since NMBS wanted to enforce the integration and security policies on standard SAP integration.
Overview of business objectives this solution will stimulate:
- Attract new customers
- Increase frequency of existing customers
- Retain existing customers
- More customers on the trains in off-peak hours
- Promote digital channels: digital shift
Overview of functional objectives this solution will stimulate:
- Automate recurring tasks: plan content publication, follow up leads, automated email flows etc …
- Optimize communication between marketing & sales
- Offering relevance to our clients
- Improved relationship with our clients
- Optimizing processes
- Gaining time and saving marketing budget
- Scalability: if we can automate successful tasks, they can run autonomously
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