In marketing circles, the buzzphrase for the first quarter of 2017 was Customer Data Platform (CDP).
Although coined in 2013, it was Gartner’s decision in July 2016 to introduce this as a new industry category within its digital marketing “hype cycle” that has given the term real legs.
To date, enterprises have relied on their CRM, channel or transaction systems to provide them with customer views. But these have been far from “holistic”, with the ambition to build a Customer 360 platform largely hampered by data silos and technology bottlenecks.
According to advocates, CDP platforms elevate UYC (Understand Your Customer) initiatives to a whole new level by unifying all customer data from marketing, sales and service channels into one database or interface. This is then made available to the entire organisation as an integrated view of each customer, rather than as an anonymised view of broad customer segments, as is the case with other data platforms.
Hence your platform isn’t a CDP unless it boasts the following features:
- The ability to track a customer’s activity within an enterprise. This must apply to all touch points, regarding whether traditional or digital, and the when, what, how and why of every transaction.
- The ability to plot the customers’ complete and personalised journey by piecing together data gathered from the customer’s devices, channels, and engagements. By so doing, enterprises are able to define the customer’s choices, experiences, and ultimately, sentiment.
- The ability to support marketers across multiple customer facing applications. That includes helping such teams design their product recommendations, conduct cross sell optimisations, track customer retention and attrition, and manage their advertising and branding.
- The ability to present a single source of truth by maintaining a persisted and updated profile of each customer. This profile should be usable across the entire enterprise and hence drive real time insight, decision making and execution relevant to the individual customer.
- The ability to ensure data privacy and governance standards are maintained despite the shift from segmented to individualised customer data. This includes strict limits on the number of data copies and minimising the risks of data leakage.
More than just a Single Customer View
Importantly, CDPs are not just about embellishing a customer’s profile data or even establishing a single customer view. Embedded in the concept of CDPs is the ability to act on the intelligence that CDPs provide.
The ownership of the CDP is also important. According to technologist David Raab, founder of the Customer Data Platform (CDP) Institute, CDPs represent “one of the few fundamental changes in marketing technology in the past decade, because it shifts control of the customer database from IT to marketers.”
At the core of a CDP is a marketer-managed database that is accessible to other systems. CDPs are accessible by external systems and are designed to support, for example, web-marketing campaigns that go beyond simple targeted promotions. Instead, CDPs must be capable of delivering pin point customer specificity. This means web content, product recommendations and service alerts that are entirely customised to the individual.
The making of a Customer Data Platform
Enterprises seeking to build their own CDP, or use one or more vendors to do so, can leverage on the many open source technologies now readily available. Elements of a CDP include connectors to a variety of data sources, a data store for structured and unstructured data, tools for data preparation flows, identity resolution processes, artificial intelligence systems, and integration to customer applications.
While some or all of these elements may already be in operation at an enterprise, CDPs force technology and data science teams to support a key digital shift: personalised interactions based on a holistic, data-driven view of every customer. For most marketers today, this remains wholly out of reach.