A man looking at the fine print in a contract - CDP Concept
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It’s not a question of whether you need a customer data management solution, but which one/s you will need for your particular applications and use cases. While data management solutions like customer relationship management (CRM) and the data management platform (DMP) have allowed companies to understand, segment and target their customers better than ever before, neither solution has proven to be broad enough in scope to give markers a true 360-degree view into their customers behaviors. The customer data platform (CDP) has emerged in the last few years as the go-to data management software solution intended to address this gap in functionality from those previous solutions.

A CDP allows companies to develop ongoing relationships with their customers, from pre-sale through post-purchase, addressing the full customer journey in a way that has not been done before. Designed to serve as the data management hub of your martech stack, a CDP can take in customer data from multiple channels, and depending on its particular functionality, can analyze that data, make it actionable, and activate it.

Finding the right CDP for your business is about knowing what you need to accomplish with it, and then finding the right vendor and solution designed to solve your most pressing customer experience challenges.

What is a CDP? (…and What It is Not)

A customer data platform is a data management solution that, at a minimum, has a unified and persistent database which can be accessed by other martech systems. The role of a CDP is to ingest and integrate customer data (behavioral, transactional, structured and unstructured) from multiple sources. It then stores that data historically, allowing a business to build a unified profile around a single customer and understand their journey. The ability CDPs provide to unify user profiles into a single record allows marketers to form a persistent, 360-degree view of their customers across all touchpoints. These unified customer profiles can further be segmented into groups allowing for precise targeting of audiences and predictive analytics for behavior modeling. Finally, CDPs enable the multi-channel activation of customer data by pushing it out to any relevant martech systems utilized to customize the customer experience (CX).

Keep in mind a CDP is not is a CRM system or a DMP. It is broader in scope and application than either of those systems, and was developed specifically to address gaps in functionality that those systems do not address. While a CRM may have some overlap with a CDP in terms of functionality, a CRM solution is primarily a resource for sales support, while a CDP offers a more unified view of the customer beyond the sales cycle. Another way that CRMs are more limited in application than CDPs is they tend to not provide the development environment or integration flexibility to plug into the rest of your martech stack. A CDP is designed to serve as the hub of your stack and will usually have a variety of built-in API connectors that will make integration with other platforms much easier.

A DMP is more limited than a CDP as well, but a little differently than a CRM. DMPs are designed to perform one core function. To gather multi-channel data and then categorize and classify it so marketers can target customer segments more effectively on ad platforms. Another major difference between CDPs and DMPs is, CDPs allow you to manage and micro-target down to the individual customer, not just an anonymous segment or group like in a DMP. CDPs work with first-party data of anonymous and known customers, and can store personally identifiable information (PII) persistently over time. DMPs tend to deal with anonymous third-party data like cookies, IP addresses and mobile device data, and do not keep customer data infinitely.

For marketers, it’s not a question of whether to use a customer data management solution. If you plan on supporting any type of customer-centric business strategy, you must understand your customers and be able to tailor experiences for them. And while platforms like CRM and DMP systems have their place and are not fully replaced by a CDP, neither have the scalability, flexibility, nor scope of a CDP to serve as the one central source for all your customer data.

The Different Types of CDPs

As CDPs evolve and their definition solidifies around market needs and real-world applications, The CDP Institute, the standards body who defined the category, has recently provided a new grouping for overall CDP packages. While some CDPs may not fall nicely into one category, and may in fact bleed into several, following is how CDPs are currently being classified.

The first type is called an Access CDP. Access CDPs represent the minimum set of functionality required to meet the definition of a CDP. Access CDPs ingest customer data from multiple sources, and combine and link that data to customer profiles. The unified data and profiles are stored in a persistent database that is available to external martech systems. Access CDPs are more focused on data management and unification, and will have relevant functionality for those tasks. Organizations who primarily have data management needs, but may not need more advanced non-data functionality, will find Access CDPs an adequate solution.

The second type of CDP is an Analytic CDP. Analytic CDPs have all the data management functionality and profile unification of Access CDPs, but with expanded analytical and visualization features. With these added features, Analytic CDPs can include the ability to do advanced customer segmentation, as well as providing more advanced features like machine learning to do predictive segmentation. The Arm Treasure Data Enterprise CDP is a good example of an enterprise-grade Analytic CDP. The Arm Treasure Data platform provides additional value such as the ability to capture and analyze IoT/physical data in addition to digital data, as well as tools for campaign decisioning and real-time personalization.

The third type is called a Campaign CDP. These CDPs are all-in-one systems that provide base data management functionality, expanded analytical and visualization features, and built-in orchestration and activation capabilities. Some of the additional capabilities of Campaign CDPs may include content management and orchestration for personalized messaging, real-time interactions, or product recommendations.

Finally

Trying to manage, understand and activate customer data has been top of the list for any data-driven marketer tasked with improving the customer experience for measurable results. Over the years, solutions like the CRM and DMP were developed to address gaps and needs at the time, but neither solution has the flexibility, scalability or interconnectivity to deal with the explosion of channels and data companies n veed to make sense of. The CDP was developed to sit on top of those solutions, to act as the data hub of the martech stack, and includes built-in connectors to allow for easier integration with other platforms in the stack. The definition of CDPs continue to evolve as well, but they can now be classified into three core groups that allow customers to pick the right CDP for their particular business applications.