At a time when there are multiple flavors of CDP on the market, it’s a strange truth that most CDPs are not actually platforms for customer data.
Why? Because they’re missing two key parts:
One, they don’t solve the problem of unifying data from different systems into accurate, comprehensive profiles (the customer data part).
Two, you can’t use them to power your whole ecosystem with quality data (the platform part).
Tech vendors may use the CDP label to participate in a hot market, but they haven’t delivered on the original promise that those three initials were intended to describe: unifying scattered data and connecting profiles to marketing and analytics teams and tools to drive growth.
I’m picking on language to make a point, but my interest here is less about the meaning of CDP. This isn’t about definitions. It’s about functionality and outcomes. What can your customer data software do, and what can it do for you?
Businesses fail without understanding their customers, and the best brands are now trying to gain that understanding by putting their first-party customer data at the center of everything they do.
To learn from your customer data and put it to work, you need a true platform for customer data — something that actually unifies your customer data and lets you use that data to power a strategy built around your business goals. (Spoiler: it’s Amperity. But read on to see what I mean.)
What does a platform for customer data need to do?
There are a million things that you can do to drive growth with first-party customer data once you’re up and running: identify your highest-value customers, personalize marketing and experiences across channels, assess business health with granular customer metrics, hydrate all the downstream tools that so vitally depend on a trusted view of the customer to perform their work, and on and on.
But at the most fundamental level, your platform for customer data needs to be able to do two things:
1. Solve the hardest data problem
To market more effectively and efficiently, you need a full picture of your customers — not just their recent transactions but their whole history with the brand, their behaviors, their household, their transactions, and not just online but in-person as well. This full picture (a unified customer view, a customer 360, a golden record, whatever you want to call it) needs to stay fresh and incorporate new data without losing any fidelity.
This, finally, is the answer to the age-old garbage-in, garbage-out problem: an accurate, comprehensive data asset that makes everything else better.
But identity resolution and data unification are difficult. When data has no linking key and comes in at massive scale from separate systems that were never designed to talk to each other, stitching it together correctly and durably is incredibly complex.
Don’t take my word for it: ask any B2C enterprise that’s spent years trying to build their own identity resolution functionality only to have it fail. Or any of your colleagues who bought a CDP only to find that it didn’t help get over this foundational hurdle, negatively affecting everything else downstream.
Solving the challenge of data unification is only the first step in getting value from your customer data. But it’s the critical step that affects everything else you do down the line — without it, everything else downstream functions on 10% of the oxygen it needs to deliver any real value — and that’s why so many of these “CDP” point solution projects ultimately fail. They are fine at what they do (send emails, change the website, send a message, connect some systems, etc), but until they are fueled with a complete view of the customer, they will continue to gasp for air and let you down.