At its core, the hopes and dreams of deploying customer data platforms has been to create a simplified interface that would enable robust interactions with customers, at scale and largely without a great deal of human oversight or interaction.

That ... hasn’t happened. Many companies still struggle to realize a return on investment regarding CDPs.

Yet despite the challenges, experts like Joyce Turner, Industry Managing Director for Acxiom, still hold on to the promise of CDPs and believe that with the right approach, CDPs can still deliver on their promise of using data to its fullest potential. We spoke to Turner on what challenges still exist around deploying CDPs and what needs to happen for CDPs to live up to their potential.

Identify the Right Data

Of course, one of the key components of any customer data platform is its ability to ingest data, from anywhere and everywhere. In 2018 alone, we were creating more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. CDPs are necessary to ingest data and produce valuable insights at this scale. Turner believes that some industries have greater challenges than others around identifying the right data to analyze, yet all industries need to master data. “Some verticals are data rich and some aren’t, thanks to their traditional distance to their customers,” says Turner. “For example, our recent research shows that CPG and MFG companies are the second largest spender on digital advertising, yet the CPG/MFG company’s first customer is the retail chain who stocks their product — they don’t have the direct connection to consumers they otherwise might have. So are they using customer data? Or are they using category sales data and not getting a complete picture of who actually buys their product? If you're in a disintermediated environment, you need to solve for who your real loyalists are.”

Build Institutional Knowledge

Rest assured, robots aren’t coming to take your jobs. CDPs might be good at collecting data and identifying patterns in the data, but it’s up to data analysts, data scientists, marketing executives and other stakeholders to decide if those patterns have any meaning for your business. “Companies bought into the idea that CDPs were largely self-serve and neglected to account for the level of expertise and data savviness necessary for CDP optimization. Companies need experts in data to guide the CDP to producing better results with the sheer amount of data produced at scale. If implementing a fully self-serve solution, nurturing positive employee experiences and having a solid retention strategy are key components of building in-house intellectual property and reclaiming the promise of CDPs, even if it might not be completely apparent at first.”

For others, a hybrid or outsourced approach may better meet needs. These models allow companies to tap into critical expertise without the necessity of building all technology expertise in-house. But recognize that regardless of approach, you will need human expertise to take advantage of what CDPs do well. “You need experts to drive the engine,” says Turner. “But be careful. The smaller and leaner your team is, the more single points of failure you will create.”

Rethink Your Partnerships

Speaking of partnerships, it’s time to rethink yours. We live in a world where data is interconnected and flows through a number of different pathways, whether that’s through the IoT or from consumer to website with intent and consent.

Learning Opportunities

But there might be a disconnect between the data you want and the data you’re getting.

Take a CPG company as an example, with milk as their product. Depending on how their data partnerships are structured, the CPG company might not be getting all the information on who buys their milk and how often — while at the same time, the smart refrigerator where the milk is stored or third-party delivery app where the milk is ordered might have greater insights into a customer’s milk-buying habits than the milk company itself.

“We live in a time where all devices can share data and it’s not a huge leap from my smart fridge knowing I like soy milk, half and half and eggs to connecting that to the brands who care about that data,” says Turner. “Think about the connections you could forge and the insights you can gather on your customers by thinking laterally about the partnerships you have.”


Although CDPs may not have lived up to their initial promise, Turner still sees their potential not that far off. “This is the most exciting time for someone who loves data,” says Turner. The possibilities are still endless for how CDPs can deliver value, just with a few tweaks to business strategy. By better identifying the right data to ingest, building institutional knowledge to analyze that data and rethinking who and how you partner to collect that data, companies will be better positioned to take full advantage of their customer data platforms. “Sometimes companies focus too much on the initial investment rather than the long-term cost,” says Turner. “But reclaiming the promise of CDPs is a long-term challenge. Companies need to examine the data they use, the partners they have and their talent plan to ensure the CDP functions as well or better than expected.”

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