The BlueConic team attended LiveRamp’s RampUp event recently. We took part in a dedicated session on a topic we’re fairly familiar with: the customer data platform (CDP) — and, more specifically, its status as the newest “shiny” object for marketing professionals and big-time brands today.
During this insightful panel discussion, many questions were posed to us from the intrigued audience.
So, we figured it’s worth it to provide answers to some frequently asked questions about customer data platforms that can hopefully provide some clarity to those interested in potentially using a CDP.
1. How do CDPs handle transactional data?
On its surface, this seems like a really simple question: It’s customer data, so, of course, a CDP should handle it. But it’s actually more complex than many marketers realize.
One reason is that historical transactions and offline transactions are typically stored in ERP-type systems. This means that different CDPs will actually handle transactional data quite differently.
Typically, they are handled in three ways:
- 1) Some CDPs will incorporate transactions into an events stream and map them to an “identity graph” or similar entity, but segmentation can be problematic.
- 2) Others, with more relational, rigid SQL databases, will tie transactions to customer records but will struggle to connect that data with unstructured sources like web data.
- 3) Lastly, some CDPs — BlueConic, for one — convert this data into customer attributes by flattening the transactions and data associated with them (e.g. product category, purchase date).
Which option is best for you will depend on how much data you have, what you’re trying to do with it, and where the data is coming from.
2. What about the typical ROI marketers get with a CDP?
Again, this can be really simple for the one-trick pony CDPs who expressly solve for one data challenge:
- For example, one CDP promises an increase in cart conversions in the first four weeks because that’s the use case they go to market with for everyone.
- Another CDP, rebranded as such after 15 years in campaign management, has nine-to-12-month deployments, so ROI calculation will look different.
Implementation aside, the impact of a CDP can broadly be bucketed as either efficiency or monetization — but it’s marketers that need to plug in the numbers to the equation to ensure they see ROI.
What’s the price of saving your data specialist one full day per week because you don’t need to request a new list every time you make a segment change? How much is a new identifiable visitor whose email address you were able to capture via personalization on your website worth?
Answers to these questions and others like them (which you, your team, and your C-suite will know to ask) can tell you if a CDP can help provide the ROI you’re looking to achieve.
3. Do CDPs and CRMs really work in unison together?
In the sense that both deal in customer data, absolutely. And, really, they should work together.
For example, our own marketing team here at BlueConic has dozens of attributes mapped between BlueConic and Salesforce, our CRM and system of record.
Since the two systems sync instantaneously, we can interact in real time — whether that’s on the website or via a sales rep following up with prospects directly.
If you want a deeper dive into the relationship between the tech, CMSWire provides a thorough explanation of how a CDP and CRM differ and (can) work together.
4. How much are CDPs starting to integrate with ad players?
“Ad players” is, of course, a very broad term. The short answer is that CDPs are integrating — and have been integrated for some time — with a variety of ad players.
Whether that’s DMPs or directly with AdWords or Facebook or with platforms like (you guessed it) LiveRamp, the CDP has worked with adtech for a while now.
While the technical capability is there, I do think the adoption lags. But the results speak for themselves.
Just ask BlueConic customer Franklin Sports, which has seen a 360% return on advertising spend using our pure-play customer data platform to refine its retargeting campaigns.
5. Can you note the differences between a CDP and DMP?
We can — and have. I’ll defer to our CDP-DMP differences infographic and “Do I Need Both? blog post, both of which explain how the two technologies are distinct from one another (and what a CDP can offer marketers that a DMP simply can’t).
If you want a few non-BlueConic resources, we’ve got some recommendations there too:
- “What is this thing we call a CDP?” — AdExchanger
- “Move over DMP, DSP, and SSP: CDP Is AdTech’s Hot New Acronym” — Digiday
- “What is a customer data platform? How is it different from a DMP or CRM?” — eConsultancy
6. How do marketers know if a CDP is right for them?
All marketers want to better utilize first-party data (especially with the continual demise of third-party data). We believe CDPs are the means to that end (shocker, I know).
But achieving this goal depends on your business, priorities, marketing goals, resources, and existing tech stack.
Not every CDP is going to be right for you. For example, if mapping every single data point — deterministically, probabilistically, and algorithmically — is your priority, then you want a solution like a master data management (MDM) platform.
Solving for the ways in which first-party data can make your marketing better and more efficient should be a top priority — but which solutions enable that vary widely.
Download our eBook to learn why the marketing cloud suites can’t compete with best-of-breed tech stacks centered around CDPs.