blog | 5 min read

Pitfalls When Deploying a Customer Data Platform

May 6, 2021

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Using customer data to learn more about your customers in order to give them the kinds of experiences that speak to them is more than just a smart move — it’s become critical to stand out from the competition. A good Customer Data Platform (CDP) will help make sense of the messy data, turn it into valuable insights, and build personalized marketing campaigns and brand experiences that keep customers coming back.

But having the most flawless CDP at your fingertips means nothing if you fail to deploy it successfully. It’s kind of like buying the creme de la creme of parachutes but never taking a skydiving class.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for CDP initiatives to run into trouble. There’s great urgency around untangling the customer data knot — consumer brands have been trying to make better use of their customer data for years, and recent advances in AI and cloud computing have made that more achievable than ever before, so it's understandable that brands would be eager to get a CDP in place and get off to the races.

That said, it’s not as simple as pressing a button and turning it on. Watching a powerful CDP unify customer identities or generate deep insights can seem automagical, but for a CDP initiative to succeed it has to be integrated into a business strategy and adopted by teams across the organization.

That’s why we’ve identified the most common mistakes that companies make when deploying a CDP and broken them down into three categories: the planning and buying phase, implementation and early use, and building to value.

Let’s begin with planning and buying.

When shopping for a CDP, businesses need to first identify in concrete terms how the platform will help them.

Choosing the flavor of the month

The first mistake companies often fall victim to usually takes place before the CDP has even been put into action. It’s easy for companies to make the critical error of buying based on hype around the CDP category, rather than shopping for use cases that will serve them. What works for another company is not guaranteed to work for your company.

When shopping for a CDP, businesses need to first identify in concrete terms how the platform will help them. Start by pinpointing what your company needs from the CDP. If you can’t identify some specific use cases, the initiative will not succeed. Ideally, companies should purchase a CDP with clear expectations of what they expect from the platform and know that the platform they’ve chosen can deliver. The bottom line? Don’t shop for a CDP just because it’s the new must-have tech.

Buying tech that won't grow with your company

Another common trap brands fall into is buying for a solution that won’t grow. CDPs are designed to nurture the long-term growth of the company and turn customer data into better customer experiences — if a CDP can only cater to current goals, then you’ve chosen the wrong platform. When buying, always consider how the platform will aid you in reaching goals down the road. Will the CDP you’ve chosen still mesh well with how you picture your company in ten years?

This leads us to our next piece of advice: when purchasing, take in the big picture. Businesses have a tendency to focus on the narrow realm of incremental marketing lift, effectively boxing themselves into a limited point of view and missing out on the transformative power of customer data.

Siloed decision making

When the question of CDP ownership arises, the waters are often muddied. Anything that involves data is usually seen as the responsibility of the IT department. At the same time, many software companies positioning themselves as CDPs heavily focus on the marketing execution aspect of using customer data, further confusing the already murky situation.

Companies are prone to having a limited view of the applicability of a CDP, but the truth is, to effectively harness the power of strong customer data, multiple departments need to be involved. Getting the most value from customer data requires a reliable data foundation, advanced analytics, and marketing personalization. At a minimum, the initiative must include representatives from IT, Marketing, and Analytics.

If a company fails to involve teams from across the customer data spectrum from the beginning, it leads to gaping holes in the understanding of how others might be using the data in other parts of the organization. A marketer is going to need to see data differently from an IT professional or an analyst; having members from different departments advocate for each different type of use is critical to successfully deploying a CDP.

The takeaway: Identify use cases, break down silos

CDPs are not one size fits all. Before choosing one, get a clear picture of the specific use cases you want to put into play in the short term, as well as the longer horizon of goals and outcomes. When you’ve finally made your choice of CDP, choose representatives from teams across the full spectrum of customer data to make sure you’re really taking advantage of everything a CDP has to offer.

Join us again in the next installment when we dig into the common pitfalls of early implementation.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about powering up your customer data use, get in touch.