Breaking Barriers: How Klaviyo’s Customer Data Platform Became a Reality

Product development professionals described the CDP’s journey from its inception to its launch.

Written by Lucas Dean
Published on Dec. 01, 2023
Breaking Barriers: How Klaviyo’s Customer Data Platform Became a Reality
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In digital marketing, customer data often lies latent  —  uncut gems, each holding immense potential value. Unearthing this potential and refining it into something that shines can be arduous. 

Although brands prioritize the need to understand their customers and leverage data to build sustainable relationships, their tech stacks are fragmented, with different tools to centralize customer data and one or more tools to analyze those customers.

“The modern tech stack is expensive, disconnected and difficult to maintain,” said Group Product Manager Nick Kobayashi, whose team at Klaviyo developed the Customer Data Platform to mitigate these inefficiencies and misalignments. 

The CDP was designed to excavate vast amounts of data and meticulously craft it into something that enables precision and action. For brands, cutting through layers of data and revealing precious insights is vital to their success in the current macroeconomic climate. 

“Klaviyo’s competitive advantage has always been its robust capabilities around data,” said Kobayashi. “One of the key reasons why Klaviyo stands out is its ability to harness and utilize data to drive results effectively.”

Klaviyo’s competitive advantage has always been its robust capabilities around data.”

 

Built on the same foundation, the CDP offers seamless integration and minimal implementation efforts for existing Klaviyo customers, removing the need for complex setup procedures. Because of this, “customers can hit the ground running and immediately start making data-driven decisions that lead to impactful outcomes,” he noted. 

Transforming an idea into a reality is rarely the work of any single contributor. The platform’s capabilities and ease of use were made possible by seamless collaboration across Klaviyo’s teams. During R&D alone, 15 teams made contributions.

This collaborative spirit and customer-first approach are the bedrock on which Klaviyo’s CDP was built. Kobayashi and Director of Product Alexandra Edelstein provided a look at how their efforts have culminated in a solution that channels data into a catalyst for decisive action. 

 

‘Aha’ Moments 

Inspiration can strike in the unlikeliest of places — including right in front of one’s nose.

This was the case for Edelstein and her team, who experienced an “aha” moment while working with customers that eventually resulted in the creation of the CDP. 

The team realized that while traditional CDPs aimed to provide a solid data foundation, they frequently failed to deliver the value they promised due to their technical complexity and the high operational overhead they imposed on businesses.

“So many modern businesses are stuck paying for a growing number of siloed yet often overlapping tools that pass data around until eventually it — hopefully — lands somewhere where it can be used,” explained Edelstein. “We saw an opportunity to build a solution that would allow businesses to consolidate their tech stack.”

We saw an opportunity to build a solution that would allow businesses to consolidate their tech stack considerably.”

 

Thus began the product development journey. Edelstein was responsible for establishing a higher-level vision for the product, translating it into a feature roadmap and getting Klaviyo’s support in making the product a reality. 

 

A team member works at their desk during a hackathon.
Klaviyo

 

Overcoming Obstacles

The journey to the CDP’s launch was not without challenges. Tough decisions, strategic planning and careful consideration of the platform’s features and capabilities were necessary. 

“One early obstacle we faced was planning the initial feature set. At that time, all the engineering teams had already planned their roadmaps. This necessitated making numerous trade-off decisions that affected different priorities for the organization and stakeholders,” said Kobayashi. 

While these challenges didn’t come as a surprise, foresight doesn’t negate the complexities of developing an impactful product. 

“Our biggest challenge, not uncommon in software development, was prioritization and being ruthless when defining the scope of each feature for launch,” said Edelstein. 

A simple rule of thumb proved instrumental in keeping cross-functional teams organized and in sync throughout the development process: Write it down. 

“We built a clear and concise project plan, tracked our work visibly and transparently, and had processes in place to quickly raise and solve any problems that arose,” said Edelstein. “We prioritized sharing mockups and diagrams so everyone could more easily understand our vision while ensuring the detail and nuance was written down.”

By implementing such strategies, consistency and transparency of vision trumped the complexities of the development phase. 

 

A team member works at their desk during a hackathon.
Klaviyo

 

Professional Growth Through Innovation

The launch of Kaviyo’s CDP marks a milestone in its suite of tools for businesses. For professionals like Edelstein and Kobayashi, it is evidence that growth comes from pushing oneself to new heights. 

“Leading the development of a brand new product, going from zero to one, within the context of a larger existing company was and continues to be a very challenging but exciting initiative,” said Edelstein. 

Looking back, Edelstein can see how she’s grown through the journey’s highs and lows. 

“I’ve learned how to create clarity out of complexity — articulating a vision for something that is new and different from what people expect — as well as how to execute consistently and with increased velocity while operating with many big unknowns,” she explained. 

I’ve learned how to create clarity out of complexity — articulating a vision for something that is different from what people expect.”

 

In this sense, Klaviyo’s “fantastic culture of innovation,” Kobayashi described, simultaneously benefits customers and its team members. Product development and professional development become inseparable from one another. 

Following the launch of Kaviyo’s CDP, Kobayashi and Edelstein remain focused on hearing from customers about their experience with the platform and identifying ways to optimize it. 

“Customer feedback informs what we build and how we build,” concluded Edelstein. 

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Klaviyo.

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