Just when marketing thought it had sorted out the latest in data management tools, a high-profile industry analyst firm officially recognized another category of solution: the customer data platform (CDP).
In July, Gartner Research analysts introduced the CDP into its “Hype Cycle for Digital Marketing and Advertising, 2016.” And although it’s early in the hype cycle, it’s not too soon to ask how this platform, first coined in 2013 by technologist David Raab, fits into the marketing technology stack.
Marketers, of course, face steep challenges today when it comes to delivering on a more effective customer journey, including the growth in disparate marketing technologies, fragmented data sources, and the tough job of transforming and acting on data. How does the marketer connect the dots between channels and devices to engage customers holistically?
That’s the CDP’s role in a nutshell.
A CDP should enable marketers to collect and own first-party customer data across all touch points; build and own omnichannel profiles and segments; and trigger actions across the marketing technology stack, serving as a force multiplier.
Marketers have been struggling for years to unify and leverage data about customers as it’s generated from an ever-expanding number of interaction points, including websites, mobile apps, social media, email, digital advertising, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and so much more.
Raab says he agrees with Gartner’s definition and is pleased to see the analyst firm introduce the term into its hype cycle.
“It’s an important concept and represents one of the few fundamental changes in marketing technology in the past decade, because it shifts control of the customer database from IT to the marketers,” Raab told us in an interview. “That’s hugely important because IT could never keep up with marketing’s needs, while marketing at least has a chance of keeping up with itself.”
So how does a CDP differ from other data platforms, such as a tag management system or a traditional ad-focused data management platform (DMP)? Two of them are tightly linked, while another is similar, but with distinct differences:
• Tag Management Systems (TMS) — Tag management systems were introduced to eliminate the bottleneck between marketing and IT over the deployment of “tags,” i.e., snippets of data-collecting code that most digital marketing vendors require their customers to embed in web and mobile channels. But tags have always been about the data — first-party data, to be exact (the data you own about your customers) — not just the tags.