Introduction

A Customer Data Platform (CDP) is software that collects and unifies data about your customer in real time. Integrated into a wider marketing tech stack, a CDP ingests and centralizes data (such as from a website, or Data Management Platform (DMP)) to create a more holistic customer view.

Helping you create personalized, timely customer experiences on every channel, CDPs use this data, along with business rules and AI, to make intelligent decisions about what relevant content or service each individual customer needs.

2 / The Importance of Unifying Customer Data

Today, customer expectations for real-time, personalized brand journeys that ‘show me you know me’ in every channel, have never been higher.

To meet those expectations, you need to be able to recognize customers as individuals, and understand their values, preferences, and history of interactions with a brand. And you need to be able to do so in real time, across every channel and device, both on- and offline, to create the most relevant customer experiences, build trust, and grow loyalty.

This requires a truly unified approach to data.

When integrated effectively into your martech and adtech ecosystem, a Customer Data Platform (CDP) is designed to collate, centralize and support that unified data view, giving marketers the clarity needed to deliver true relevance.

At a top level – and note that features vary between CDPs – they are designed to help marketers:

  • Address the need for a single customer view across marketing channels
  • Collect and integrate customer data from digital and offline systems – connecting with source systems, such as marketing applications, your CRM or DMP
  • Manage customer views (combined with an effective first-party Identity Solution, a CDP may support a true single customer view)
  • Create segments for real-time marketing applications
  • Expose data to other systems – including customer analytics and customer engagement platforms

However, a CDP is not a complete solution in its own right.

It’s true that, at its core, a CDP works to unify information about your customer from on- and offline channels to support a single view. But a CDP should always be implemented as part of a wider data ecosystem, supported by an effective data strategy, identity resolution, and data management tools.

A CDP can only be as good as the data that goes into it!

Creating a single, unified view – the cookieless challenge

With the ‘cookiepocalypse’ – or deprecation of third-party cookies – effective from 2023, brands face a major shift in how they understand, connect and engage with customers in the digital ecosystem. Brands who have not prepared a strong data strategy may lose a substantial amount of the insight they need to recognize and resonate with customers.

It is a sizable change. Yet the loss of third-party cookies does not equal the loss of truly relevant, real-time customer experiences; in fact, it’s the opposite scenario.

The ‘cookiepocalypse’ presents an opportunity to take control of first-party data, and prioritize your approach to first-party identity management. It’s a chance to connect digital and offline intelligence into a single identity graph, enabling truly personalized marketing that recognizes each customer as the individual that they are.

When considered within your wider data ecosystem, prioritizing your approach to first-party data not only supports effective identity resolution, and more relevant customer experiences – it also builds a much stronger, more accurate data foundation to support your CDP.

Many CDPs claim to collate a complete, unified and single view of the customer. Yet only with a considered identity strategy, identity management and data quality all feeding into them, can CDPs truly attain a holistic, single view of the customer.

3 / Considerations When Selecting a CDP

A number of considerations must be taken into account when evaluating a customer data platform, such as heritage, experience, flexibility, scalability, and the scope of integration in the enterprise.

It is also important to remember that there are hundreds of CDPs available in the market. Not all do the same thing; some mainly look after the data, and some specialize in decisioning, or analytics, etc.

Identifying the gaps in your organization and the business objectives you want to achieve, and then using these as a guide to evaluate a CDP, is a good starting point.

So, what else should you consider?

Acxiom follows six ‘pillars of success’ to guide you, as you evaluate, select and implement a CDP across your organization, leading through:

  • Evaluation: Assessing which CDP you should choose, and what challenges you need it to resolve
  • Use Case Roadmap: Identifying your CDP use cases and plotting a 6-, 12-, 24-month roadmap
  • Data: Identifying the data fueling your CDP, its origin, and how to activate it
  • Operational readiness: Assessing if your organization is ready to adopt a CDP, and what changes it will introduce
  • Planning: Determining your CDP rollout
  • Governance: Identifying the appropriate governance model for your rollout

Evaluating the best fit CDP for your ecosystem

For the best success, considerations when evaluating a CDP should include:

  • Platform fit: Be sure to step back from the ‘hype’ to conduct a careful assessment of your organization’s needs. Is a CDP truly the right solution for your use case, and if so, does it include all the capabilities you need? Start by reviewing your existing technology, and identify the gaps in your organization and data ecosystem. Use this to determine CDP requirements. For example, do you need a solution to unify your data and give you a single customer view? Do you need a next-best-action engine?
  • Scalability: Is the solution scalable, both from a configuration and SaaS perspective?
  • Decisioning and Real Time: Do you need a decisioning capability within your CDP to inform your next-best action? A good CDP will ingest and activate real-time data, supporting your single customer view, so you can act and serve relevance in the moment.
  • Usability: Can your wider marketing team operate and use the CDP, create segments, customer journeys etc? Some CDPs require more technical expertise – check that your technology and your internal skill sets align.
  • Data Strategy: Make sure you have a data strategy in place that supports your CDP use case. Remember – your CDP is only as good as the data that feeds it, so explore what data your CDP can manage. Make sure the solution can manage data from all systems needed, and can provide data governance rules to ensure personal data is used correctly.
  • Implementation: Consider if you have the resources, experience and skill sets to implement the solution. Will you need third-party technology and services? Keep in mind that many organizations struggle to realize the full holistic value of a CDP without expert support.
  • Measurement: Many CDPs are not designed to support omnichannel analytics and closed-loop measurement use cases. Consider if you have – or require – a solution to achieve this, and whether the declared capabilities of a particular CDP can address all your requirements.

Assessing and weighing these factors is key in order to determine the best solution that will align with your existing technology – and that addresses the full spectrum of your organization’s needs and objectives.

Of course, this path can be complex, and with many solutions available, it often helps to partner with an experienced expert. Providing end-to-end, holistic support, Acxiom can provide the flexible foundation, advice and support your organization needs, to create and implement a scalable, enterprise-class solution.

4 / CDP Implementation & Integration

A CDP is not a standalone solution; it must integrate effectively and be supported by your existing marketing technology ecosystem.

From assessing your capability to identifying technology gaps – and ensuring you have the right data assets, strategy, identity solutions, governance support, and more – there’s a lot to consider to ensure your CDP is fueled by, and can output, the quality data and insight your strategies need.

Integrating a CDP: Acxiom’s 5 Es Framework

Working to inform, advise, and make recommendations to clients as they navigate through the complex MarTech landscape, Acxiom follows a modular professional services framework – ‘the 5 Es’ – designed to help you select, implement, integrate and get value at speed from your CDP.

These 5 Es are:

  • Evaluate: Validating the current and required capabilities from an audience, investment, technology, people and skills perspective.
  • Experience: Ensuring the solution meets all business requirements for achieving your goals.
  • Enable: Designing the right end-to-end solution to meet business objectives in prioritized phases.
  • Engage: Developing the required marketing communications strategy and processes based on the power of the technology platform.
  • Embed: Supporting internal teams to realize the full potential of the new platform.
CDP Framework for Success

Planning to implement a CDP

Before any rollout or integration of a CDP, a number of considerations can streamline its effective implementation, keep it aligned with your organizational goals, and ensure every stakeholder is on board:

Secure Internal Buy-in

Do you have the internal skill set to implement, integrate and optimize a CDP within your data ecosystem? Or, are you partnering with an implementation expert who can support these skills?

Whichever approach you take, it’s important to make sure that all internal staff who participate in your data ecosystem are ‘on board’ with your CDP implementation, and have a plan to commence fueling your CDP with data. Your internal IT teams, stakeholders and partners all need to be involved and briefed, and must understand the plan, goals and objectives, well in advance of any implementation.

Secure External Buy-in

Just as your internal team needs to understand the implications of a CDP rollout, your external teams and partners must also be on board, aligned and prepared in advance. Be sure to allow time for impact assessments.

Support Discovery

Running planning workshops and discovery sessions that include all subject matter experts (SMEs) and stakeholders within your business is key to a successful CDP rollout, and its effective long-term use. In these sessions, you should make sure all of the stakeholders are on board with the investment, and identify and resolve any concerns, gaps or roadblocks that may arise.

Assign Ownership

To keep the implementation process running smoothly, once all stakeholders understand and are on board with the implementation, it helps to assign key project ownership roles and responsibilities to each SME per functional area.

Plan

Finally, you should plan simple, clear weekly updates, and track how the CDP implementation project is progressing. This should highlight key milestones, and give each of your stakeholders a clear update of the status of implementation, rollout and use.

With the right consideration of project management and framework, implementing and integrating a CDP into your organization and data ecosystem can be straightforward.

Getting it right is key; without effective integration with your other data tools, your CDP will not have the insight necessary to perform well. Equally, ensuring your wider team are on board with the rollout, understand use cases, and are trained in how to use the CDP is critical for its effective long-term use – and ROI.

Not all CDP providers offer this level of end-to-end support, so it is wise to check that you’ll have the insight, expertise and support level your organization needs for success, ahead of any CDP investment.

5 / Customer Data Experience Platform

Of course, choosing, implementing and integrating the right CDP into your organization is just one half of the CDP picture.

The other is remembering why getting it right is important in the first place.

Having the correct data technology ecosystem in place that will allow you to cut through the noise, and earn people’s brand love and trust, is paramount.

With the ability to create truly personalized experiences for people – with interactions that are relevant and meaningful to them, in the moment – brands can demonstrate a deep, ongoing understanding of customers’ needs, and maintain truly outstanding customer experience (CX).

Integrating the right CDP into your organization is just one piece of the puzzle – but when it comes to enabling superior CX, and growing long term, quality relationships with customers – it’s a truly key piece to get right.

6 / Conclusion

Having the right technology, data, insight, and advice is critical for businesses looking to maximize their investments, and to elevate their customer experiences today.

Acxiom’s “smart hub” CDP can consume customer data from any source, combine it with in-stream analytics models and machine learning, and present marketers with an interface where they can quickly build and deliver superior, real-time customer experiences. Acxiom CDP services ensure brands quickly meet their goals to boost ROI and performance.

By choosing a partnership with Acxiom, marketers can gain the confidence, clarity and end-to-end support they need to make the best decisions mapped back to their business requirements.

Is a customer data platform right for your needs?

Download The Winterberry Report, ‘Deconstructing Customer Data Platforms - Myth vs Reality,’ for an assessment of the CDP landscape and provider capabilities.

Download the Report