Staying the Course and Keeping the Eye on the Prize

Customer data platforms (CDPs) emerged to offer marketers the single, real-time customer view that they need. The excitement over them quickly created many new technologies and oversized expectations.


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Customer data platforms (CDPs) emerged to offer marketers the single, real-time customer view that they need. The excitement over them quickly created many new technologies and oversized expectations. 

As marketers, we know the challenge: When our focus is on making precise and personalized customer models, how can we evaluate the outcomes if the data is not properly integrated for a complete, unified customer view?

Until recently, siloed marketing applications had tracked each customer interaction and stored the information in different databases or files. At the same time, centralizing that data for accurate, clear analysis was both expensive and time-consuming.

The customer data platform surfaced to unify that data by connecting anonymous profiles to known ones. It would also provide open channels, access to data within a business’s other systems, and universal consistency to data points. This in turn would unleash analytics to activate proper channels and orchestrate the customer purchasing journey.

As expected, enterprise software platforms as well as new entrants leaped up to be characterized as a CDP. That enthusiasm cluttered the market with new, reshaped or simply repackaged solutions. The choice of platform to solve the drive for data unification then became one of greater confusion.

In that light, prevailing thought might be to move away from CDPs before they become even more confusing and expensive, particularly when real ROI can remain speculative. However, the opposite is true.

Riding Out the Hype Cycle
Research and advisory company Gartner distilled most technological innovation into five predictable stages of evolution it refers to as the Hype Cycle:

  • Stage 1: A technology trigger introduces new possibilities, sparks imagination and incites a tsunami of excitement
  • Stage 2: A peak of inflated expectations far outpaces reality
  • Stage 3: A trough of disillusionment catches the fallout as the reality becomes more apparent
  • Stage 4: A slope of enlightenment adjusts people to the truth and what they can do with it
  • Stage 5: A plateau of productivity applies the technological innovation with more-measurable results guided by better-defined best practices

Today’s CDP marketplace is moving into and through the trough of disillusionment. High expectations had shaped and then distorted perceptions of the possible results and ROI. We are now adjusting as the bubble leaks to return to its proper size.

With time, trial and error building up behind us to lean on, more projects are finding success. Competition has compelled certain vendors to rise higher in increasing platform capabilities. We can see the slope of enlightenment in the distance.

For some vendors and marketers, waiting out the necessary passage through the trough may be enough to make them give up; they will shift to the next perceived opportunity. But for those of us determined to achieve a single customer view with greater channels and personalization, we will ride out the cycle and reach our ability to succeed.

Gathering Forces for Charging Ahead

Keeping the prize in sight will require us to stay focused on why we sought CDPs in the first place: to establish a marketer-friendly, web-based interface that gathers any type of customer data, stores it and organizes unified profiles, all while directly integrating and communicating with a variety of external systems.

Here are just a few well-aimed steps as we continue to move toward the prize: 

  • Distinguish the vendors that are in it for the right reasons and riding reality with us. They refine their ability to integrate disparate customer data, offer complete profile management, support real-time segmentation and make the data accessible to other systems. They also look to expand CDP capabilities through analytics and engagement.
  • Acknowledge that partnership with IT is vital. This is especially important if marketing and IT are used to operating independently. Defining and analyzing customer data at the level required takes acute technical acumen, as does keeping our different departments’ systems in synch. IT is our co-navigator in reaching the plateau of productivity.
  • Implement our systems incrementally. Having been through the peak of inflated expectations, we’ve learned not to be too eager and overshoot. Continue to improve simple tasks and add more complex ones over time. Also, gauge who needs attention and where along the way, be it marketing, sales or customer service.
  • Seek opportunities. While the mission often starts with us, a CDP is also meant to solve challenges throughout our organizations. We should be tracking departments’ needs and how the CDP can and will help achieve those goals as well.

By staying the course through the cycle of hype and perfecting our CDPs at the peak, we will do more than harness the even greater power of data in building our businesses. We will also deliver the meaningful experience our customers so greatly desire, and in doing so, we will inspire them to choose us over others for their personal buying journeys.

It’s Your Data: Maximize It with Allant
We understand the role a CDP plays in delivering a consistent, targeted, personalized experience across all marketing channels. To learn more about implementing a CDP or managing the details, contact us today.

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