Solving the Customer Data Platform Problem

In recent years, the cus­tomer data plat­form (CDP) has emerged to solve one of the hard­est chal­lenges fac­ing busi­ness­es today. In the­o­ry, a CDP allows mar­keters to uni­fy their cus­tomer data across their organ­i­sa­tion, includ­ing known user data, to deliv­er tru­ly con­sis­tent expe­ri­ences across chan­nels. In prac­tice, things are not always so simple.

The term “cus­tomer data plat­form” gen­er­al­ly refers to a spe­cif­ic point solu­tion designed to bring data togeth­er so it can be accessed by oth­er sys­tems. They are dis­tinct from most data man­age­ment plat­forms (DMPs) because they can store known data such as email and phone num­ber. In addi­tion, they sur­pass CRM sys­tems in their abil­i­ty to acti­vate data in real time. And while both CDPs and data lakes aggre­gate data togeth­er in a sin­gle place, CDPs con­nect with oth­er appli­ca­tions to acti­vate audi­ences across the broad­er ecosystem.

While a num­ber of point solu­tions have adopt­ed the name CDP and claim to solve the use cas­es CDPs are sup­posed to solve, the real­i­ty is that sep­a­rate point solu­tions strug­gle to actu­al­ly deal with the com­plex, nuanced tech­no­log­i­cal chal­lenges asso­ci­at­ed with uni­fy­ing data and acti­vat­ing it across chan­nels. But it’s clear the chal­lenge is real. The CDP use cas­es must be addressed, and mar­ket­ing and IT teams need a solution.

The customer data platform landscape

Exist­ing point CDPs may not be the solu­tion these teams need for a num­ber of rea­sons. For one thing, there’s a lot of con­fu­sion about what a CDP is and what exact­ly it should do. But beyond that, ana­lyst firms like Gart­ner and For­rester are wary about whether CDPs in their most basic form can take busi­ness­es all the way to the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence fin­ish line.

For­rester notes that “CDPs lack cru­cial capa­bil­i­ties to solve for iden­ti­ty res­o­lu­tion, data hygiene, and cross-chan­nel orches­tra­tion,” in its recent report “For B2C Mar­keters, Cus­tomer Data Plat­forms Over­promise and Under­de­liv­er.” The ana­lyst firm goes fur­ther, not­ing that with­out these capa­bil­i­ties CDPs “can’t meet enter­prise B2C mar­keters’ expec­ta­tions for per­son­alised and tar­get­ed cus­tomer engagement.”

But anoth­er con­cern with point CDPs is the com­plex­i­ty they add to a company’s tech stack. No CDP is an island. To be effec­tive, it has to work in con­junc­tion with oth­er tech­nolo­gies. Adopt­ing a new tech­nol­o­gy into your stack is always chal­leng­ing, but when that tech needs to inte­grate with exist­ing func­tion­al­i­ty, the com­plex­i­ty and cost can quick­ly become unmanageable.

This is why the same For­rester report says that “CDPs’ great­est com­pet­i­tive threat is the mar­ket­ing clouds, such as Adobe… that are already ingrained in most enter­prise martech stacks and are invest­ing in capa­bil­i­ties far more sophis­ti­cat­ed than CDPs’.”

Getting the value of a CDP without a point CDP

The CDP has come to rep­re­sent this spe­cif­ic prob­lem that com­pa­nies need to solve. They have anony­mous data from cook­ies and devices. They have known user data from CRM, email, and more. None of this data alone can help a mar­keter craft a con­sis­tent, per­son­alised expe­ri­ence across channels.

The real­i­ty, how­ev­er, is that per­son­alised, real-time expe­ri­ences require more than sim­ply uni­fy­ing data. A cus­tomer pro­file — the kind that allows you to real­ly act on your data — is more than just the sum of the data that goes into it. Not all data is cre­at­ed equal, nor can you expect to use it all equal­ly. As such, to real­ly suc­ceed with the CDP use case, you have to go beyond cor­ralling data into a cen­tralised data loca­tion. You also need func­tion­al­i­ty such as the following:

But it’s not just about the data. The real val­ue busi­ness­es are look­ing for is in what they can do with that data. So any tech­nol­o­gy claim­ing to solve CDP-ori­ent­ed use cas­es needs to help solve the larg­er prob­lem of deliv­er­ing expe­ri­ences that meet cus­tomer expec­ta­tions and deliv­er busi­ness val­ue. Yes, this means man­ag­ing the data more effec­tive­ly but it’s also about the following:

Real-time customer experiences with real-time customer data

Accord­ing to eMar­keter, top con­sid­er­a­tions when select­ing a CDP include data secu­ri­ty, data con­trol, and inte­gra­tions. At the same time, CDP-relat­ed tac­tics used by senior mar­keters include per­son­alised email, adver­tis­ing, and real-time tar­get­ing. As each of these are areas in which we are indus­try lead­ers, it should be no sur­prise that we offer a world-class solu­tion to the CDP use case.

Our real-time cus­tomer data plat­form offer­ing — which brings togeth­er the pow­er of Adobe Expe­ri­ence Plat­form with capa­bil­i­ties from Adobe Audi­ence Man­ag­er — allows you to bring togeth­er known and unknown cus­tomer data to acti­vate real-time cus­tomer pro­files with intel­li­gent deci­sion-mak­ing through­out the cus­tomer jour­ney.

First, Expe­ri­ence Plat­form ingests all of your cus­tomer data from across the enter­prise, includ­ing known cus­tomer data — like CRM IDs, email address­es, and tele­phone num­bers — and unknown user data such as cook­ie or device info. And because we sup­port stream­ing data, you can ingest and use this data in real time. The data is then stan­dard­ised and ratio­nalised using Expe­ri­ence Data Mod­el.

Adobe Expe­ri­ence Plat­form then pro­vides a robust and pow­er­ful data gov­er­nance frame­work that helps cus­tomers man­age com­pli­ance with reg­u­la­tions like GDPR. Plus, because all the data is in one place with the abil­i­ty to apply AI and machine learn­ing through our AI plat­form, Adobe Sen­sei, you have access to faster pre­dic­tive insights.

But most impor­tant­ly, because Adobe Expe­ri­ence Plat­form was built as an open and exten­si­ble ecosys­tem, enter­pris­es can use APIs and tight inte­gra­tion with the rest of Adobe Expe­ri­ence Cloud to con­nect Adobe Expe­ri­ence Plat­form with oth­er tech­nolo­gies in their mar­ket­ing stack. There’s an added ease to work­ing with Adobe’s real-time CDP, espe­cial­ly when you com­pare it to bring­ing in a whole new point solu­tion — a solu­tion that would need to be inte­grat­ed with all sys­tems and, ulti­mate­ly, could lead to a bloat­ed tech stack.

Audi­ence Man­ag­er com­pletes the CDP offer­ing by allow­ing busi­ness­es to acti­vate their cus­tomer pro­files in real time to all of the following:

Use your data to start delighting

Com­pa­nies need to solve the prob­lems of dis­parate data and dis­con­nect­ed jour­neys. Adobe’s real-time CDP offer­ing pro­vides an inte­grat­ed, robust solu­tion that builds on your exist­ing tech­nol­o­gy. This allows you to focus your atten­tion on your cus­tomers instead of com­pli­cat­ed inte­gra­tions or cost­ly workarounds. Just because point CDPs have failed to live up to their hype doesn’t mean you can’t solve the prob­lem they were meant to address.

Learn more about the val­ue of a CDP with the pow­er of Adobe here.