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 organization, 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 personalized 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, personalized experience across channels.

The reality, however, is that personalized, 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 centralized 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 personalized 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 standardized and rationalized 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.