Evaluating CDPs? Consider This

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. 3 reasons why businesses are struggling with personalization
  2. What is a CDP?
  3. 4 standard CDP features that every CDP today should have
  4. What CDPs aren’t
  5. Where CDPs stop short
  6. Consider the future: Journey Orchestration


3 reasons why businesses are struggling with personalization

For many companies, personalization at scale is still a mystery. Why? We believe there are three main culprits to blame:

1. Siloed businesses and data storage

A lack of interdisciplinary teams plays a big role in preventing the right minds from coming together to form the links necessary for acquiring the most optimal tech and strategy for personalized data-driven marketing.

Many organizations are realizing this, and as they create project teams with people who have never had the chance to work together before (data analysts with digital marketers, content creators with marketing automation specialists), it’s becoming clear that everyone has a piece of the data puzzle, but no one seems to have the whole story put together.

Get inspired by a team who tackled this successfully >>

2. Disparate data

Most businesses are already actively communicating with their customers online and offline. The rise of digital, however, has brought with it a major challenge: how do you bring your online and offline data together in one place — in an organized, comprehensive, scalable way? And then how do you make that data available to your various marketing channels? This is what Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) are designed to tackle.

This issue is an important one because a lack of data unification means a lack of a single customer view. Marketers have no way to see what’s actually happening at every phase of an omnichannel customer journey from a single overview. They can manually stitch some of that data together, but that is incredibly technical and time-consuming.

3. Confusing, oversaturated martech landscape

So marketers turn to martech to help them solve their data unification problems.

If keeping an eye on martech is part of your job, you’ve undoubtedly watched the Martech Technology Landscape Supergraphic evolve over the years, starting with a “mere” 150 platforms in 2011 and growing to 8,000 in 2020.


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You already know that there’s more martech out there than any one person could familiarize themselves with in a lifetime, and the sheer volume of options makes it impossible to tread through such a dense landscape. Paradox of choice, anyone?

What is a CDP?

For many, CDPs are the logical way to tackle the three challenges we just discussed and more. At their most basic, CDPs are designed to stitch together data from different sources in one place to provide a single view of the customer.

Of course, they do more than that — and pretty much no CDP is the same. So let’s take a closer look at what most CDPs can — and can’t — do.

Where did CDPS come from?

CDPs started showing up around 2016, meaning that as a group, they are just leaving their infancy. In 2017, CDPs were featured in the Gartner Hype Cycle in 2017, plotted right before the “peak of inflated expectations”, and set to plateau in the next 2-5 years. Since then, CDPs have become the subject of much debate, with some parties arguing their inherent value, and others calling them out as nothing more than the latest shiny marketing toy.


The current CDP market is still cluttered and confusing, but as CDPs are gaining traction and beginning to become a standard part of many businesses’ marketing stacks and big players like Adobe and Oracle are acquiring CDPs to include in their marketing suites, the definition of what makes a CDP is beginning to solidify.

4 standard CDP features that every CDP today should have

1. Manage rich first-party data

Customer Data Platforms all do one very important thing: they unify first-party data.

First-party data is the data that businesses have collected directly about their audience. It includes basics like name, phone number, address, but also behavioral data and the like. This is the most valuable data a company can possess because it came directly from the source: the customer.

CDPs collect all of your first-party data from online and offline sources and then stitch it together to form customer profiles that marketers can use to better understand their audience. 

2. Connectivity with customer systems

CDPs are powerful because of their extensive connectivity options. They are built to bring data together, and in order to do so, they are able to connect with a vast range of customer systems and platforms. The ability of a CDP to extract data from one platform and unify it with the correct customer profile is precisely what makes this technology so valuable.

We suggest you share your specific ecosystem with the CDP vendors you’re considering and ask them one important question: can you connect to MY ecosystem? And with what type of connections? Are they tag-based or server-to-server? Because that will have an impact on the possibilities and what you can do with your data. For example, an s2s integration may enable you to both add and remove profiles from an audience, whereas a tag integration may only allow you to add.

Be sure to ask potential CDP vendors two key questions: can you connect to my ecosystem, and how?

3. Flexible identity management

The ability to recognize who someone is across devices and platforms is crucial for marketers, and CDPs offer that. As technology continues to advance, it’s important to have a data management solution that offers more than simple cookie-based ID management, which has a high risk of collapsing as soon as the cookie is deleted. Cookie-based ID management also has the potential to create blind spots, as more and more apps are being developed where cookies don’t exist.

The alternative is profile-based ID management. Rather than building a profile on cookies alone, CDP platforms with profile-based ID management can create profiles with any identifiers you choose.

If you're curious to dive deeper into ID management, check out this on-demand webinar, How to Build a Solid Foundation for Modern Identity Management >>

4. Privacy and compliance measures

Privacy laws are getting stricter and consumers are becoming more concerned about ownership of their data. Companies that wish to offer a high-quality customer experience and embrace responsible marketing need to work with platforms that make it possible — and easy — to protect their customers’ data.

This is where being the new kid on the block comes in handy. Because CDPs were created to store and organize personal data, and because they’re a new technology, they’re being designed to adhere to all of the newest and strictest privacy regulations.

What CDPs aren't

Sometimes the most helpful way to classify something is to talk about what it isn’t. Because many CDPs evolved from other data management solutions, like DMPs and tag managers, it can be easy to confuse them. This deserves some attention because the lack of definition and nuance in the data management tech space is making it more difficult than it needs to be for marketers and CX specialists to figure out exactly which platform(s) they need to solve their particular data problems.

CDPs are not DMPs

“The DMP negotiates our beloved programmatic advertising, while the CDP – by definition – is grounded in individuals known by name, email, customer number or another personal ID. The DMP operates on massive audiences; the CDP, on a sensible number of souls.”
—Martin Kihn, Gartner for Marketers

For many marketers, DMPs the first technology that comes to mind when they think of data unification. Indeed, you could say they are in the same family, but as the quote above explains, DMPs are mainly focused on third-party data, while CDPs tackle first-party data.

CDPs are not CRMS

This is another area where we often see some confusion. It makes sense because Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software does have some things in common with CDPs. They both help businesses combine and store data.

CRMs, however, store a range of data from across the entire business, and were primarily designed for sales to be able to track and analyze communication with prospects and customers. CDPs, on the other hand, are more geared toward helping marketers identify and understand their audience.

Where do many CDPS fall short?

Manage 2nd and 3rd party data

First-party data is by far the most valuable data a business can harness. It’s the information that customers willingly supply about themselves, making it the most accurate and most personal information you can have.

But first-party data is only part of the picture. If you really want a complete view of what’s going on with your customers throughout your customer journey — and if you want to be able to leverage that data to the fullest — you’ll need a platform that can also manage your 2nd and 3rd party data.

Create dynamic content options

Rather than transferring the information from your CDP to yet another platform so you can create personalized content based on your data, why not use a platform that can do both? Being able to personalize your messaging in real-time is crucial to offering a truly personalized experience, which is why we suggest considering customer data tools that include these kinds of features.

Relay42, for instance, is able to adjust banner and even video content in real-time based on historical data and the choices customers are making in the moment. Did someone just search for a flight to Ibiza on your travel website? When they leave to visit their favorite news website, you can inspire them with a tailor-made video with personalized prices for that person’s exact dates and destination.

Or perhaps one of your customers was just browsing for homes on a local real-estate website? With Relay42, you can identify whether this was a prospect or an existing customer, and then instantly tailor your message and your offer based on that information, along with any other data you already have on them.

Manage sequential interactions

Besides creating dynamic content options based on customer profiles, platforms taking it a step beyond the fundamental CDP offering are making it possible for businesses to map out and activate customer journeys directly in the platform. We’re not talking about cookie-cutter journeys, though; we’re talking about flexible journeys that respond to customers’ real-time behavior.

To us, this is the next logical step from building a single-customer profile: offering the tools to activate that data to better serve customers.

Journey orchestration with AI: the BHAG

Add a dash of artificial intelligence to the mix, and you’ve got a fully scalable Intelligent Journey Orchestration platform. Intelligent Journey Orchestration refers to the data-driven marketing strategy that mirrors customer behavior across all channels to deliver true one-to-one personalization in real-time throughout the entire customer journey.

In a nutshell, journey orchestration technology helps marketers take those beautiful, unified customer profiles and turn them into highly personalized customer journeys that adjust to customer choices and preferences across platforms in real-time.

Journey orchestration is an essential tool for every customer-centric, data-driven marketing organization. A tool that we believe can and should be integrated with CDP capabilities. It’s the BHAG for customer-centric organizations, and it’s where all future-forward marketing businesses are heading.

Investing in a basic CDP now will mean acquiring journey orchestration capabilities with an additional platform down the road, and then dealing with all of that data — again. Intelligent Journey Orchestration, however, offers a both/and approach that allows businesses to take a scalable, step-by-step approach to data-driven, customer-centric marketing.

Consider the future — Journey Orchestration

According to Forrester, “In a survey of marketers who use enterprise Martech, 46% agreed they want to reduce the number of vendors that supply their martech.” If one of your goals is simplification, then choose the most future-forward option – the option that will take you where you want to be a few years down the road.

True personalization is the goal

If you’re looking for CDP capabilities today, you’ll be looking for journey orchestration capabilities tomorrow. Why not choose a best-of-breed platform that will help you unify your customer data, and then use it to predict customer behavior and engage them with the right messaging on the right channel, when you’re ready for that?

Investing in a CDP is only the first step towards true personalization. If you want to select a technology that will help you take the first step and be there when you’re ready for more, you need Intelligent Journey Orchestration.