alphabet soup
Every marketer has played the acronym game: trying to figure out how two similar-sounding solutions differ PHOTO: Nick Harris

Every day, marketers have to eat a big bowl of alphabet soup.

The marketing solution acronym game leaves marketers confused by similar sounding solutions which perform different tasks.

With expectations higher than ever for marketers to have the skills and tools to collect, manipulate, analyze and make use of customer data, marketers are always on the lookout for the right solution to help them target, communicate and respond to customers.

But deciding on a solution is hard when faced with a multitude of data solutions and a bewildering number of acronyms. 

One of These Terms Is Not Like the Other

Two marketing technology acronyms that easily get confused are the Single Customer View (SCV) and the Customer Data Platform (CDP). Both assert they create a single source of truth — in other words, one record per customer.

But they are two different, though complementary, solutions.

Essentially, while you can build an SCV database without a CDP, a Customer Data Platform creates a Single Customer View as one of its core functions. 

Obviously, it’s more complicated than that, but put simply, the SCV process creates the “golden record,” and the CDP acts as the conduit to make this record visible to your executional marketing systems. 

Still confused? Let’s take a step back.

The Single Customer View: Making Sense of the Data

Your business generates and collects data through multiple inbound and outbound channels. Most obvious are your online channels — your website, which includes interactions, browsing, behavioral and transactional data, email and social media channels. 

Sales reps, call centers and customer service also create valuable data. Add to this retail stores, point of sale and third party data supplied by your partners. 

And all of this data is fed to you from tablets, mobiles, PCs — usually with each customer using multiple devices. This means vast volumes of customer information, stored with its own unique identifying record, across many disparate, disconnected operational data systems.

Yet while much of this customer data is valuable, it’s also likely to have problems. Duplicate, inaccurate, diverse formats and other data issues result in multiple records in multiple places, with no single one providing a definitive memory of who your customer is and how they’ve engaged with you.

The Single Customer View is the process of cleansing, matching, merging and de-duplicating these fragments of data, bringing them together to form a single source of truth. This makes sense of the customer data for the purpose your business has for it.

As such, a Single Customer View doesn’t have to be singular. A company might operate several separate brands, for example, and each one could require its own SCV. Similarly, the SCV you need for the marketing team might be different to that needed for a logistics team.

Whatever its purpose, it provides a trustworthy and accurate base for your targeting, communications, for personalization and for accurate and efficient strategies.

The Customer Data Platform: Putting the Data to Use

One of the primary features of a CDP is to maintain a persistent, unified marketing database — or several, in the case of the aforementioned umbrella company. CDPs are designed to ingest data from numerous locations, including (personally identifiable) first party data, along with web behavior and anonymous cookie data from third parties.

However, a CDP goes beyond the Single Customer View by making this neatly merged data readily available to integrate with other marketing software where you can put the data to use.

A CDP can underpin segmentation and data analysis tools, campaign automation and customer journey management solutions, as well as email service providers, online advertising solutions and real-time personalization tools. 

As a managed database within a marketing platform, this also makes a CDP distinctly different from one stop shop marketing clouds, which have the functionality but need to turn to other solutions for provisioning the marketing data.

For many marketers, a CDP has the potential to play a large role in their future, and not just because of the way it makes data visible to other marketing tools. Because its core is a marketer-managed and marketing-focused database, CDPs ease some of the data science strain that many marketers feel uncomfortable dealing with, too.

Two Bites of Marketing Alphabet Soup

Of course, when it comes to marketing acronyms, we've only dipped into two of them. Many more could be keeping you up at night (hello, Data Management Platforms and Demand Side Platforms). But hopefully this removed any confusion about SCVs and CDPs for marketers thinking of jumping in the soup.