September 12, 2023 | 6 min read

Most CDPs Are Not Actually Platforms for Customer Data

Not unless they fix the hardest data problem and power your whole ecosystem.

Graphic displaying speech bubbles with CDP?

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.

If a brand wants to know their customers, their only choice is to unify and understand their own first-party data.

2. Make the data available to the teams, tools, and systems that rely on it

When you have a valuable data asset, you need to be able to put it to work. That means making sure it’s easily available to all the teams and users in your company, but also that it connects to the broader ecosystem. 

There are thousands of companies that are part of delivering value with customer data. This includes technology providers from massive cloud entities and data infrastructure builders to best-in-breed solutions for activation, personalization, customer care, etc. 

Many brands also work with systems integrators to maintain their tech stack and agencies to help with strategy and paid media, and these partners need appropriate access to the same data asset as well. 

For a CDP to truly be a platform, it has to be flexible and friendly, able to play well with everyone and fit in anywhere.  

Shows how Amperity interacts with the eocsystem, Aug 2023

There is only one platform for customer data: Amperity

I just wrote that a platform needs to be friendly and play well with others, and yet here I am calling out the other companies referring to themselves or their products as CDPs. But I don’t blame them — there’s a lot of opportunity in the space, and a lot of confusion. Better to be at the CDP party than looking in from the outside. 

And in fact, we do play well with them: Amperity is often deployed at the same companies as some other “CDPs.” That’s because we do different things. 

What Amperity does is unique: we solve the fundamental data quality problem, and use the output of that to fuel the whole ecosystem. No one else creates a unified view of the customer as accurate, comprehensive, reliable, and interoperable as we do. 

That’s why we continue to drive value for the largest enterprises. That’s why brands we help to power their paid media strategy with unified first-party data are seeing up to 5x return on ad spend. That’s why companies who decided a few years ago to build their own data unification systems are coming to us now looking for help.  

In the end, the labels and nomenclature don’t concern me all that much. What I want is to help consumer businesses turn their untapped customer data into a game-changing strategic asset. 

Unify your data, accelerate your business

I’ll close by repeating something I said at the top: Businesses fail without understanding their customers. This has always been true, but the urgency is greater now. It used to be that you could get enough of an understanding from renting audiences, but with regulatory changes and the continuing deterioration of third-party identifiers, that’s less and less viable. 

If a brand wants to know their customers — and stay on the right side of privacy regulations — their only choice is to unify and understand their own first-party data, collected with consent directly from the consumer, and put that to work across all their tools and teams. 

Getting value from data in all its scale and complexity takes clearing a high technological bar. 

But we’ve got you. Amperity is the platform for customer data, and we’re here to help. 

Check out our customer stories to see how Amperity is helping brands get value from their customer data.