Keep Your Eye on the Prize: Is it Finally Time to Embrace the CDP?

Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) emerged to offer marketers a single, real-time view of their customers, but it’s taken a while for solutions to provide meaningful results.


Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) emerged to offer marketers a single, real-time view of their customers, but it’s taken a while for solutions to provide meaningful results.

Marketing’s primary goal is to interest and persuade prospects and customers.  We’ve evolved from “spray and pray” to a much more sophisticated ability to target customers interested in what we have to say, and to address them with the right message at the right time.  Our challenge is to get to know our prospects and customers well enough to persuade them.

Until recently, individual customer interactions could only be tracked in siloed isolation, tucked away in different databases or in expensive custom-built marketing databases (you don’t hear much about Marketing Data Warehouses anymore, right?).  A retailer, for example, could never really be sure if Suzanne M. Johnson, who visited the website and requested information online, was the same as Suzie Johnson, who frequented a local brick and mortar.

CDPs are changing everything by unifying customer data, collecting anonymous profiles and converting them to known ones at speed and scale while complying with customer’s privacy preferences.  We are seeing more and more data, and we now have the powerful analytics to help marketers guide specific customers along their individual journeys in a cost-effective manner.

Unfortunately, the idea of a CDP has been so enticing that hundreds of platform providers started calling themselves CDPs.  However, few of the firms that classify themselves as CDPs look alike.  And marketers, eager to hop on the CDP bandwagon, have often ended up dissatisfied with incomplete and expensive solutions that haven’t quite lived up to overblown expectations.

Riding Out the Hype Cycle

The expert analysts at Gartner have distilled most technological innovations down to five predictable stages of evolution called the Hype Cycle:

It takes a bit of a rollercoaster ride to get to the point where new solutions mature enough to find their sweet spots, but eventually they do get there. Fortunately, today’s CDPs are evolving, combining, and differentiating, allowing the category to move through the Trough of Disillusionment toward the Plateau of Productivity where they are accessible to all marketers and can provide value immediately.

Competition has created a healthy, manageable market, forcing providers to clarify capabilities and package solutions that get results. There has never been a better time to be in the market for a solution that delivers on the promise of a CDP: to achieve a single, cross-channel customer profile that enables real results through segmentation and personalization.  And because of the rapid changes in shopping behaviors caused by COVID-19, the CDP initiative is taking center stage even more.

Taking the Leap

Now that the marketplace offers some quality vendors and solutions to choose from, here are some tips for finding the right CDP fit for your marketing organization:

  • Understand your current MarTech stack and capabilities.  You can save a lot of money if you can use what you have on the road to the personalization, segmentation and privacy issues solved by a CDP. 
  • Be clear about your goals.  The best way to do this is to define your top three use cases.  All marketers know where the low-hanging fruit is—it makes us marketers!  If you can define these use cases, you will be able to make intelligent decisions about building vs. buying, data sourcing, data readiness, and much more.

Create a short list of vendors. Find the CDP platforms that meet your need for customer data integration, profile management, real-time segmentation, and actionable insights.  CDPs are still very differentiated, with some focusing on data ingestion and harmonization, while others focus on vertical industries or loyalty.  There is a range to choose from.

Understand the implementation process.  Some CDPs offer professional services, most do not.  That means budget must be secured for implementation.  You can streamline the process by ensuring that the implementation partner understands your data, organizational structure, existing skills and MarTech stack.

Acknowledge that partnership with IT is vital. Defining and analyzing customer data at the level required for meaningful results requires acute technical acumen. While CDPs are designed for marketers to use with relative ease, you’ll need a good relationship with IT for security review, data flows and integration, implementation as well as maintenance.

Plan thoroughly before you execute.  We like to say that at least 50% of the work is done up front and on paper.  Implementing a CDP is challenging for everyone involved.  It requires a lot of collaboration and cross-functional buy-in in terms of sources of data, partnership with internal “owners” of data, uses of the CDP, and more.  Too many CDP deployments have failed due to inadequate planning and organizational issues. CDP’s are only as effective as the breadth and depth of the customer data they ingest from all the various available sources and the marketing activations that generate revenue.

Demonstrate value across the organization.  A CDP is for marketers—and analysts, and executives, and many more functions.  Once you get familiar with what a CDP can do, you can have tremendous impact helping other departments solve problems and become more data driven.  And, your customers will start see fewer but more effective marketing campaigns, thanking you with their hard-earned dollars.

CDPs are evolving and creating more value in our increasingly digital and data-driven environment. It’s a great time to take advantage of this technology’s ability to deliver the kind of meaningful experiences your customers appreciate. You don’t have to go it alone: As a widely respected CDP implementation and management partner, Allant Group can help ensure that a CDP is first and foremost a fit for you based on your needs.  And more importantly, help you deploy it successfully so that it meets your expectations. To learn more, contact us today.

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