Customer Data Platform (CDP), as a marketing technology marketplace is seeing a lot of traction. And hype. CDP marketplace is very rapidly evolving and there are numerous CDP vendors. These include large enterprise software vendors such as IBM and Microsoft as well as several, niche CDP vendors such as ActionIQ, Tealium, Amperity and several others.
Analysts, vendors and users have their views on what a CDP can and should do. Also, given the hype that this category has generated, several vendors have started categorising their products as CDP.
So what should a perfect CDP do and does it matter?
Different Products, Different Sweet Spots
My short take: Don’t go by strict CDP categorizations. Instead look at product(s) that solve your problems.
I’ll explain more. But before getting into that, it is important to understand the lifecycle of customer data, or how customer data moves as part of customer journey.
There are roughly five broad stages in customer data lifecycle. These are shown in the graphic below.
The stages are hopefully self explanatory. Here’s the thing though. Most CDP vendors will claim they can do all these 5 stages equally well. But that’s not the reality. You will find a wide range of differences here, with different products offering you different combinations of functionality. And within what they provide, they have their sweet spots and can’t provide all functionality equally well.
As an example, most tools will say they can do analytics. But in reality, there are wide variances in capabilities. Some tools provide dashboards and reporting related to audience analytics, customer engagement and so on. While others provide advanced capabilities such as drill-down reporting, predictive analytics and integration with external analytics products for more complex and sophisticated types of analytics.
What Should You Do?
Categories should just be used as an approximate way to understand different marketplaces but not a definitive way to reject or select the right products.
Don’t let others tell you what your CDP should do. Instead, take time to understand your requirements and pick products that help you address those requirements. The product could be a CDP, a CDP with journey orchestration, a Journey orchestration product with CDP, a CDP from marketing cloud (yeah even that) or whatever.
For example, If you already have a personalisation engine but need to improve your data ingestion and management, then that is what *your* platform should do. On the other hand, if you already have good data and unified profiles, but need to manage customer journeys, then that is what *your* selected tool should do.
I am not suggesting that you completely ignore categorizations and definitions. In fact, they are a good way to make sense of the marketplace and I use them quite often. But these definitions evolve over time. Don’t keep them tight and strict. Categories and definitions are helpful but don’t let them drive your decisions.