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Do you really know what a CDP is?

Published: Friday, 4 May 2018 by Matthew Tod, Head of Analytics

In looking at what has been written about CDPs, or Customer Data Platforms, it seems the term can mean just about anything, and the term is being abused in many cases to enable unrelated technology vendors to jump into an emerging market. It is therefore pretty confusing for everybody involved in customer experience, marketing, analytics or anybody who touches individual level personal data. Apparently, there are over 80 organizations that call themselves a CDP or have CDP functionality, so it really is time for some clarity on this important new tool in the marketers armory.

Stepping up to this challenge are a team at Gartner who are trying and impose some clarity about what a CDP must do, what it might do and how it differs from other technologies. The full report is here for those with access, for those without this is a summarization.

Gartner Definition of a Customer Data Platform (CDP) "A CDP is a marketing system that unifies a company's customer data from marketing and other channels to enable customer modeling and optimize the timing and targeting of messages and offers"

Gartner then continued to define four essential capabilities required for a CDP, which can be summarized as follows:

Data Collection: The ability to collect individual level personal data from all customer facing systems, such as websites, CRM systems, contact centers, in real-time with unlimited storage but within a compliance regime such as GDPR.

Profile Unification: The ability to consolidate and deduplicate profiles at the person level, regardless of channel, and connect these profiles to interactions.

Segmentation: An interface that enables marketing or customer experience team to create and manage rule-based segments

Activation: The ability to pass segments with flags to systems of interaction to power email campaigns, mobile messaging, personalization, advertising, etc

In each area the Gartner team highlighted the extra features that could be added to the core CDP functionality, but these they regarded as non-essential.

So, what’s the verdict?

I think Gartner has done a terrific job at laying down an initial framework to classify products as CDPs or not. They have separated core functionality from additional functionality or product features of something else that’s trying to be a CDP. They have also shown how CDPs are different from ten other technologies that have some data capabilities but are not CDPs.

There are four key areas I thought they pulled out that were most insightful were:

Data independence: Separating the data from the system of activation (email, personalization, retargeting etc.) is probably the biggest thing that comes out of this report. Data is collected and managed independently of the systems that can use it in an organization with a CDP. This wrestling of control and ownership of the customer data is not going to make them any friends at Adobe, Salesforce, Oracle or any other marketing cloud vendor because it enables organizations to build best-of-breed marketing stacks more easily, rendering the connected applications almost interchangeable and commoditized. "CDPs are frequently seen as the connective tissue for marketers who assembled their own "hub," or stack, using multiple point execution tools from competitive vendors" is a quote I really liked.

Individual level data: Personal 1st Party data unified across channels is another important point made in the report. Customers do not respect channels, so why should your data be stuck in channels? In fact, being stuck in channels is plain wrong, and this is where a CDP really comes into its own.

Real-time: Real-time is used through out the report, and I couldn’t agree more. Signals of buying intent happen in truly real-time, not in batches or micro-batches, so why wouldn’t you react to these signals in real-time. Real-time definition? Less the 500 milliseconds is the answer!

Segmentation: This capability is a core feature of a CDP, the ability to create groups that exhibit similar behavior, is one area I thought the Gartner team could have gone further. In truth we are all aiming at 1-to-1 marketing; we have individual data, so why fall back to segments? Most personalization is based on segments, I get it, but that is not the most effective use of personal data; I’ve seen the evidence and 1-to-1 is so much better. CDPs enable true 1-to-1 and we should use them to finally deliver it, after all wasn’t that the promise of the internet?

Overall, I would strongly recommend this report to those who are trying to understand the CDP space and commend the Gartner team of Lizzy Foo Kune and James Meyers on a great job.

To learn more about Celebrus, a truly real-time Customer Data Platform for large enterprises that delivers all the above and much much more please visit or download the Celebrus Real-time Enterprise Customer Data Platform brochure.

LinkedIn: Matthew Tod


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