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Thinking about a CDP: Why you also need to think about Data Management

You can hardly go a day in the marketing technology space without having several conversations (maybe more questions than conversations) about Customer Data Platforms (CDPs). I have worked with several different CDPs on several different retail client scenarios. I have heard CDPs touted as everything from “source of truth for a 360-view of your customer” to “complete customer orchestration, activation, and insights in the hands of the marketer”, and even “replacement to the traditional marketing database”. What I have learned is that no matter what the technology, the devil is still in the details of what goes into it (inputs), what comes out of it (outputs), and how prepared you are to use it (users and use cases). Here are some things about which you should be aware:


Understand and factor in the condition of your data and the amount and types of data for your use cases. Do you understand your customer journeys from a data flow and data connection standpoint? Can you clearly articulate this data flow and is this data easily extracted with all relevant keys? Have you thought about what additional methods may exist to tie data back to your customer and/or increase the identification rate of your customers, both on and offline? How much historical data will you need? How does metadata for product, stores, campaigns, etc. play into this mix? If you have a marketing database or some sort of master data management system, chances are that you are one step ahead and you will not need to rely solely upon a CDP to house potentially large volumes that may not be necessary for your real time personalization use cases. If you don’t have a marketing database or a master data management system, beware that this can lead to conversation loops and cause delays in your CDP implementation.


Understand what needs to be present in a CDP to set your organization up for success. CDPs were founded on the concept of operationalizing data (housing customer data for the purpose of building audiences and journeys across connection points and in sync with customer signals). This does not necessarily mean that they are ideal for all things data management, e.g., housing and structuring customer, inbound and outbound interaction, and corresponding meta data like product, promotion, store and loyalty information efficiently for the purposes of insights, analytics and business intelligence. Understand what you are looking to have access to within a CDP beyond just the audience and/or journey creation UI. Do you have access to the identity graph behind the scenes? What level of access do you have to individual customer events? Beware that these data management use cases may require additional modules or secondary solutions depending on the CDP partner.

Users and use cases

Understand who the users will be and what they need to get out of the CDP to set them up for success. CDPs are ideal for pure marketers who want to control the customer experience in a single UI, and do not mind glossing over the nitty gritty data connection details (audience management). They may not be as ideal for more analytic users who might be used to having every page view, email click, point redemption and profile change at their fingertips (examples: data/insight mining, advanced modeling, market basket analysis). All these users and use cases are important if you want to enable a less siloed customer experience and measure the value of that experience over time. Be advised that you may not get both in one tool.

More complex than you originally thought? The good news is that if you decide to go the CDP route, there are partners out there who can assist in the evaluation process as well as in the implementation process. Look for the next part of this blog series for more information about why having an implementation partner may be pivotal for your success.

Want to learn more on CDP adoption? Check out our eBook here.