Are Customer Data Platforms the Answer to Marketers’ Data Dilemmas?


Customer Data Platforms offer marketers the promise of a unified customer view, but in the Wild West of new Martech, no one is there to hold vendors accountable for their promises. This makes the process of finding a solution difficult and has helped the technology earn a somewhat muddy reputation. 

CDPs aren’t the first technology to go through the hype cycle, and they won’t be the last. But the lack of definition and clarity in this space is making it difficult for marketers looking for a technology solution to solve their customer data difficulties.

The Perfect Customer Experience is the Holy Grail

Patrick Aarbodem, CCO at Relay42, says it all comes down to the bigger picture: CX. “Branding is becoming increasingly important, and the experience consumers have with that brand is the main differentiator,” explains Patrick. “But it’s difficult to actually realize The Perfect Customer Experience.” 

Companies are making important strategic choices around data right now, and if they want to exist in 5-10 years, they know it’s imperative that they become customer-centric. The overarching business goal of customer-centricity through personalization cascades down to middle management and their teams, who are then faced with one main challenge: they can’t unify and activate the customer data that promises to deliver The Perfect Customer Experience.

The Quest for Perfect CX drives CDP market

This data challenge is the driver behind the current need for data management solutions, and thus the rapid growth of the CDP market. Businesses – and marketers in particular – are beginning not only to understand the massive potential hidden in their first-party data, but to accumulate enough of it across enough different channels to make unifying and activating it a worthwhile business endeavor.

This is precisely where marketers are getting stuck and start looking into solutions like Customer Data Platforms. Their customer data is spread out across all of the many touchpoints in the customer journey, and without a way to unify and organize it, they are unable to orchestrate the perfect experience. 

“Right now, we see people looking for a ‘cross-channel marketing solution,’” says Patrick. But that isn’t the whole picture, either. “You need a platform that allows you to activate your data. A lot of people who are looking for CDPs right now have been working on getting the 360-degree customer view. But they’re realizing it’s not as much about having the view, but rather about the automation of data activation, and that’s the bottleneck.”

Data activation and automation: the real bottleneck

With our extensive background in the DMP (data management platform) and TMS (tag management system) space, Relay42 has many years of experience helping businesses manage their data. We have continued to ensure that our technology evolves along with the needs of our market, and that’s why today we offer a platform for Intelligent Journey Orchestration. It still provides all of the data unification and activation fundamentals that you find in a DMP and now a CDP, but it takes it a step further to answer to what we believe the biggest gap is in the market today: automation. 

“Businesses have unified their data, but they can’t make the next step,” says Patrick. “It’s logical that the next step is going to be about scaling the solution. There are a lot of companies that think they’re organizing customer journeys, but they’re actually just sending an email, checking whether it’s been opened, and based on that they’ll send a personalized email.”

According to Patrick, businesses have two main challenges that are driving them to look at CDPs and other data management solutions: 

  1. They are realizing that even though they have unified their data, they still have a lot of manual work and are looking for automation. 
  2. They want to broaden the scope. These businesses are realizing that it’s now possible to determine follow-up messaging based on behavioral data, and that the follow-up message doesn’t even have to be on the same channel. 

Are Customer Data Platforms the answer?

Do CDPs effectively answer the need for both automation and personalized cross-channel messaging? CDPs were created to bring first-party data together and offer the insights marketers need to come up with data-driven campaigns. But is that enough?

“It’s a partial solution,” says Patrick. “Right now, a lot of companies want to use customer data, and that’s why CDPs are getting big. But the question is how long will CDPs be a hype until the market is saturated and companies are looking for a new solution because CDPs haven’t covered it all?”

Of course, you can’t expect one platform to do everything. In fact, we would advise against that mindset. We believe wholeheartedly in investing in single-platform technology. Besides saving time, energy and money by only requiring a single implementation, using a single platform avoids dealing with a mishmash of different technologies that don’t work together optimally in real time. That’s why we’ve designed Relay42 to include the most important data management, activation and automation features for customer-centric, data-driven businesses. 

So which data solution is right for my business?

If you’re trying to answer the question of whether or not CDPs are the answer to your data problems, the unfortunate answer is maybe

Our advice is to let go of the acronyms and look at the functionality a platform offers. Take a use-case-first approach. You can’t find the solution until you understand the problem, and putting use cases together will help you pinpoint the specific challenges you’re trying to solve. 

Take your uses cases to different vendors and ask them what their technology can do to help you with your current data struggles. Then ask how they will be able to help you scale that solution in 1, 5, and 10 years’ time. You might end up with a CDP. You might end up with something else. The most important thing is that you end up with the right technology to help you transform your customer data into a fantastic customer experience in an efficient, scalable way. 

Register and don't miss out on Relay42's new resources and updates.