If you want to develop a deeper understanding of your customers and give them a more personalized experience, then picking the right customer data platform (CDP) is needed. What is a customer data platform? It is software that has emerged onto the business scene a few years ago. While there is some confusion as to what it is, it has overlapped with related technology.

To put it easily, a customer data platform is a marketing system the centers around a company’s customer data from their marketing efforts and other related channels to analyze, optimize timing, enable modeling, and target ongoing communications. They usually have a user-friendly interface that activates a customer’s data to allow more personalization across the board.

It is a packaged software that creates an ongoing and centralized database of customer data that is accessible across multiple channels. For it to be an actual customer data platform, it must:

  • Have a primary focus on marketers for their use.
  • Save customer data from presenting a more unified view of the target customer.
  • Work with other systems to use this customer data for marketing end goals like personalization.

Customer data platforms pull a customer’s data from every relevant channel, whether it be a social media profile, company website, or customer service software. This will help the marketer create a better understanding of their company’s customers. This knowledge is then used to segment audiences and push more data back out to these channels to enhance personalization, targeting, and all marketing efforts.

The four capabilities used to evaluate a customer data platform

  1. Collecting a customer’s data. When it comes to collecting data, any customer data platform you may consider should at the very least, be able to mine first-party, individual-level data from all your customers from multiple channels whether it’s online or offline. Each interaction will help build your understanding of your customers. The data you gain will persist as long as you need it for processing. It’s also important to understand that many platforms now contain functions related to GDPR which deals with a customer’s request to remove data. All individual-level data includes information on identity like names and emails, demographic information, along with behavioral interactions with the company you market for.
  2. Unifying Profiles. If you focus on individual-level data, your customer data platform should consolidate all profiles from multiple channels and devices. It should also separate these customer records to the correct customer they belong to. It is also imperative that the system removes or consolidate all duplicate information (a customer with multiple emails). Some systems will aggregate customers into household accounts if you so desire.
  3. Segmenting customers. At the bare minimum, customer data platforms used by marketers should create and manage customer segments. There is some advance customer data platform software that offers a way to leverage predictive analytics to suggest new segments and automate the work.
  4. CDP’s that enable action. At the core of their programming, all customer data platforms will promise marketers an ability to create personalized customer experiences driven by data. Unifying this customer data and knowing more about your customers, you’ll be able to generate narrower segments that are smarter and offer more personalized experiences.

When you choose to use a customer data platform, it should have the ability of at least three of the above features to prove it is actionable. All customer data platforms should send these segments and instructions to a tool for further execution like email marketing, DMP, DPE, mobile messaging, or DXP). Some advanced customer data platforms carry out many of these functions and features themselves without you having to move them to another tool for use.

What disqualifies a program from being a customer data platform?

Due to a lot of confusion over what makes a customer data platform what it is, many vendors will push their related technology off as a customer data platform. While there are hundreds of associated programs, few are appropriately classified as actual customer service platforms.

So, what is all the confusion of customer data platforms? Any of these that are marketed as CDPs won’t contain new features that are radically different. Things like data integration, personalized features, and segmentation are familiar to many marketers and exist in many other products. Vendor around has simply repackaged current technology to appeal to the growing demand for customer data platforms.

There is a difference between a customer relationship management solution (CRM) and a customer data platform. Same with a data management platform (DMP), a digital experience platform (DXP), a digital personalization engine (DPE), or a master data management solution (MDM). While some of these may overlap in some features, most of them have specific or unique strengths and uses that will work alongside a customer data platform. Customer data platforms have the sole benefit of speed and volume in processing information without the need of IT personnel to use it.

When it comes to customer data platforms, they may not be the right fit or solution for your company. If your business has already invested in a customer relationship management solution or a digital personalization engine that offers a CDP package as an upgrade, you may want to add this to your existing systems. If you’re looking for a solution that will help you understand your customers more and help you deliver a more personalized experience to your customers, than a customer data platform may be what you need to unleash your marketing potential.

If you decide to get a CDP, keep in mind that each one differs in feature and overall technical complexity. Be sure to ask to communicate your questions to any potential vendors you are considering to work with before making a purchase. Many times, you will find that software you thought would be a great idea, turns out to be just short of your business’ needs after talking to a vendor. Make a list of questions you need answering before you go forward and if a vendor can’t answer them, then move on to the next CDP you are considering.

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