2017: The Year of the Customer Data Platform

CDP 101|5 Minute Read

2017: The Year of the Customer Data Platform

So declared Todd Belcher, our inimitable director of customer success, when he joined the Digital Analytics Power Hour Podcast for their first episode of the new year.

Listening to the podcast was a bit meta for us on the marketing team. (More so than usual.)

We market a marketing technology while using that tech to market. All while listening to the guy who helps other marketers use that product do their own marketing.

(Insert dizzy face emoji here.)

It was also super interesting to hear the questions that (brilliant analytics professionals and) hosts Michael Helbling and Tim Wilson have about customer data platforms, as well as the way they worked through where CDPs fit in the landscape and in the marketer’s stack.

A lot of the questions (e.g., “How is a CDP different from a DMP?” or “Isn’t a CDP pretty much like my analytics tool?”) are ones we’ve heard and answered before.

Here’s a breakdown of the conversation — and what makes 2017 the “Year of the CDP.”

customer data platform

Point #1: A CDP relative to DMPs and CRM

Michael asked, “Does the CDP fall somewhere in this weak spot that brings both [CRM and DMPs] together or no?” This was based on the premise that CRM records the known individual while a DMP is focused on media and audience.

Todd got into a really nuanced answer. (One that I won’t regurgitate here.)

But the idea of putting at least part of a CDP’s purpose on a continuum of customer relationship management and data management platforms is pretty cool.

We’ve talked a ton about how CDPs are not either of those platforms, but in terms of capabilities it’s a solid, base-level framework to consider the CDP as the translator between the marketing activities that take place in the anonymous and the known domains.

That’s not where the functionality stops, but it’s a helpful starting point for sure.

Point #2: Known customers with anonymous data

I listened to this on the train during my commute to work and nearly burst into raucous applause at the back-and-forth on this particular topic. From Michael:

  • “Known customers but anonymous data, and so it’s potentially known customers, everything that you’re collecting, you’re saying, ‘It may be anonymous now, but I have a pathway to where you would become known?'”

Or, as Tim put it: “Do you have to be a customer to be in a CDP or no? You just have to maybe, gonna be a customer?”

That pathway is the magic of a customer data platform: the ability to know a distinct person — regardless of whether or not they’re known uniquely.

If you’ve interacted with the brand, you have a profile that identifies you and your behavior as distinctly you — even if you never link your identity to an email or customer ID. Because maybe, one day, you’re gonna be a customer. Or maybe not. But we’re still glad to know you.

“In essence, instead of bringing in a customer ID, you’re building a customer ID that may or may not have a customer attached to it,” Tim stated.

“So it could be like, ‘Hey, cookie 123 has visited us five times and never purchase so all I have is just their behavioral information, but they match all of these characteristics or attributes that I defined at this segment,” he added.

“So now I’m gonna just keep putting them in this segment the next time they come to the website.'”

real-time marketing

Point #3: Activated and real-time by nature

Todd made two points during the discussion that aren’t features of a customer data platform, but rather two fundamental traits. He pointed out that a CDP:

  • 1) Functions in real time
  • 2) Activates data by nature

Not all systems that identify as CDPs today are as emphatic about these points as we are. But it’s pretty hard to get around either while making an argument for a customer data platform being a new, essential solution.

“Adobe has a marketing cloud visitor ID, so it’s trying to be their bridge over top of everything,” Tim said. “And in a certain sense, it could be thought of as a CDP.”

However, Tim noted there is something really key there which is worth noting.

“I’m sure Adobe loves that I’m gonna bring this up right now, but it takes about 24 hours for attributes or segments you create to be available on the other tools,” Tim stated.

This, according to Tim, “makes a big difference potentially for marketers because, if I find out something new about you as a visitor today, the first time I can target content at you.

“Like I learned something about you via Adobe Analytics, then tomorrow, I can use Adobe Target to content target you, but I couldn’t do it on your next visit 30 minutes from now,” said Tim.

(We’d also add the Adobe ID doesn’t exist out of the box with the platform. It’s a services offering that you need to pay for and create, limited to the Adobe ecosystem. But I digress.)

On how data being activated by nature distinguishes the old from the new, Tim noted:

  • “As marketers, we’ve been doing this kind of work for a long time in terms of trying to integrate, back-end customer data with sort of digital behavioral data and building logic, and stuff like that. We’ve just been doing it in different platforms of what’s now called the CDP … [meaning] it’s basically now accessible. I can now hook into this in all the different ways.”

If you’re a marketer with an interest in analytics, customer data, or marketing technology, this is 50-ish minutes well-worth your time to listen — or at minimum, read through the whole transcript because there are many nuggets of wisdom in there not to be missed.

Download our in-depth eBook to learn how you and other business technology users at your company can make the case for a CDP to your C-suite.

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