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The Sentient Enterprise by Thomas H. Davenport, Mohanbir Sawhney, Oliver Ratzesberger

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CHAPTER 4The Behavioral Data Platform

Think back to a generation ago, when the economy was focused squarely on products and transactions: products sold, prices paid, and perhaps basic records on product returns or warranty repairs. In those bygone days, pretty much everything about what the customer thought, felt, believed, or doubted remained anecdotal and shared mostly person to person—by phone, letters, or in face-to-face conversations with employees at the store.

Now think of a very different scenario that plays out every day at a modern company like eBay: As the American multinational e-commerce giant supports activity around 800 million auction listings at any given time, a sophisticated Customer DNA database is parsing online activity— patterns around browsing, bidding, buying, spending, reviews, and numerous other factors—to build comprehensive, data-driven profiles of each customer for insight at the individual and aggregate levels.

The Customer DNA is, in many ways, the backbone of the company. Data is used to get a complete view of customers, including their attitudes, behaviors, demographics, and interests, as well as their value to eBay. The system looks at cart data, watch data, and cross-shop behavior, and how much of these and other activities is happening on desktop versus mobile. Ultimately, this Customer DNA environment creates a unified view of the customer base and all the individual variations for some very powerful insights into customer behaviors.

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