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PHOTO: Joy Real

Customer data platforms (CDP) hit the scene in the last few years and are really having an impact on how marketers think about managing the customer experience.

Just a few short years ago, I listened to David Raab, an expert in marketing technology and analytics and founder of the CDP Institute, give a presentation on the future of marketing. He ended his talk by describing how, in the near future, marketing and other departments would work together to enable a fascinating way of life. He gave a specific example of your car speaking to your refrigerator as you drove home from a trip, telling it to order a perishable item like milk if quantities were low.

While we aren’t quite there yet (at least not at my house), I believe we are well on the way. As I think back on that example, I speculate about the type of marketing technology that will have to be in place for that scenario to become a reality. In the specific example of the refrigerator ordering milk in response to the car’s message, the refrigerator and the car must be equipped with internet of things (IoT) technologies, the refrigerator must have IoT sensors that can detect low volumes of certain goods and the grocer must have systems that can do the following:

  • Accept and refine orders from machines using artificial intelligence (AI) techniques like cognitive computing and machine learning.
  • Collect the customer order data and store it in a customer profile — through the use of a customer data platform.
  • Interact with the customer in the future, perhaps to offer special discounts, over the same or different channels via the use of a customer relationship management system or a data management platform.

That scenario could play out across industries. Companies in financial services, telecommunications or insurance could provide customers with what they need — the correct product at the correct price at the right point in time — and do it all without human intervention. Truly automated omnichannel choreography. Some brands are closer to this than others, and for many brands large and glaring gaps exist.

I’d like to highlight some things that marketing leaders should think about as they begin to use CDPs and other technologies to support advanced customer interactions.

Related Article: What Can You Do With a Customer Data Platform?

Use Customer Data Platforms to Get Data in Shape

According to Kaggle’s 2017 survey "The State of Data Science and Machine Learning," which was based on a responses from more than 16,000 data professionals, dirty data is by far the most common problem for data science professionals. Of 7,376 respondents who answered a question about the barriers they face at work, 49.4 percent cited dirty data as a problem.

And with the number of data sources increasing by the day, the problem will only get worse. A CDP, by definition, can help ingest first- and third-party data, then normalize and clean it, and then present it in a single-view user profile. CDPs can provide a great deal of value to organizations that have historically had problems with the creation of customer profiles and with the use of those profiles by downstream marketing applications. The benefits of CDPs include better customer segmentation, optimization, personalization and customer lifetime value calculation.

CDPs Aid Data and Application Integration

It’s important to note here that a CDP is not a customer relationship management system, a data management platform or a campaign management tool.

What a CDP is, however, is a system that provides the data integrity and accessibility that those other systems so desperately need. With the ability to import, manage, collect, clean and store customer data, as well as the ability to perform some base analytics and engagement work, CDPs provide a built-for-purpose layer that marketers can control and use to integrate with other organizational software systems.

A CDP can serve as a needed integration and normalization layer between raw ingested data and channel-based marketing applications.

Related Article: What's the Difference Between Customer Data Platforms and Data Management Platforms?

CDPs Get Businesses Closer to the End Goal

Customer data platforms are one of the key tools (if not the key tool) brands can use to support truly automated omnichannel experience management.

The idea that brands can orchestrate or successfully manage subsequent customer interactions in a logical manner, regardless of channel or point in time, is the end goal. CDPs solve the data challenge, but they shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for the other applications I have mentioned, adjacent marketing solutions or emerging analytical techniques. Certain CDPs can perform automated content selection and some automated predictive analytics work, but they aren’t going to replace the content management, sales force automation, channel engagement and advanced data science and analytical applications that marketers also require.

Customer data platforms will certainly modify the way that brands build, manage and choreograph customer experiences.

With customer experience becoming the top differentiator for brands, and as more and more organizations adopt customer data platforms, dirty data will no longer be the top culprit year after year.