How To Build Support For A Customer Data Platform

“We can use something we already own, no need to buy something new.” Right?

That’s the response marketers often get from their organizations if they request a customer data platform (CDP) to enhance their marketing efforts. Those responsible for data systems in their companies, especially in IT departments, often say that existing platforms do the same job.

It’s a good-sounding theory, but doesn’t tend to work out in practice.

CDPs are becoming an indispensable tool for marketing success. As a unified solution for creating highly detailed customer profiles in real time, they support the orchestration of  relevant and impactful customer experiences. Employing a single identifier, CDPs link customer data, including browser information, purchases, behavioral/demographic data, customer service interactions and much more.

Companies can maintain all kinds of database systems: data management platforms, CRMs, data lakes, and marketing databases. Unfortunately, they all fall short and in different ways. They’re not built for the kind of dynamic content optimization that improves real-time customer experiences.



Marketers who lobby for a dedicated CDP often have to convince their organizations that existing systems aren’t equal to the task. Let’s take each in turn to show why CDPs are superior.

Data-management platforms (DMPs). DMPs pull in third-party data to drive customer acquisition and segmentation. These are anonymous audiences — not the first-party data that marketers have in their internal systems.

DMPs are not the single source of customer truth marketing departments need, nor do they present a unified customer view. CDPs can do both. However, if you’re doing a large amount of acquisition marketing, you may need both a CDP and a DMP.

Data lakes. Data lakes can combine information to create customer profiles, but they aren’t suited to operate dynamically to move customers in and out of segments. Creating this kind of functionality, compared to CDPs, can be hugely expensive.

Furthermore, data lakes usually employ bespoke schemas created from scratch that need to be updated to onboard new data sets. CDPs, by contrast, feature standardized data schemas for faster operationalization of new data.

Marketing databases. These share many of the characteristics of enterprise data lakes, except that they contain only marketing data and tend to be limited in scope. They’re excellent for running reports, but can’t deliver real-time data, nor can they orchestrate customer experiences.

CRMs. CRMs are probably the least capable of the four alternatives. CRM data tends to get old quickly, making it unusable for real-time experiences. It’s also old from a marketing standpoint: You can see who the customer is, but the cross-channel analytics aren’t there.

Additionally, while orchestration modules for CRMs are available, the poor quality data container therein is the ceiling on the relevance of the customer experience, not the floor.

Without question, CDPs should be in the consideration set for all organizations that want to connect meaningfully with their customers. According to BlueVenn’s Omnichannel Marketing Excellence report, 63% of marketers have already adopted CDP technology in some form or fashion, which means if you aren’t using a CDP to drive relevant, real-time, experiences for your customers at scale, your competitor probably is.

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