They say data is the new oil. Companies want to invest in tools to activate that data and gain powerful insights that give the business a view into how and where to gain return on investments. But is it better to start with the former or the latter? Activation or insights? There are two prominent toolkits in this space:

  • Customer data platforms (such as Adobe’s RT-CDP) for activation
  • Customer journey analytics (CJA) for insights

Typically, we see organizations go through the process of first implementing a CDP with simple use cases, increasing complexity to gain maturity, then extending to more advanced journey orchestration or customer journey analytics tools. Alternatively, they may invest in the Adobe Experience Platform stack as a whole (Real Time CDP, Adobe Journey Orchestration (AJO), and CJA).

CDP readiness has changed the game

We’ve noticed an emerging requirement for a different approach, related to a new buzzword in the market: “CDP readiness”. In fact, one of our recent clients had a certain set of circumstances where it made more sense for them to start out with advanced analytics use cases first, then expand to segmentation and activation. For this client, we helped develop initial use cases for a CJA implementation, with the goal of making them CDP ready by first driving insights and then looking towards activation.

Let’s address the two major approaches we are seeing in the market – 1) your more typical progression from segmentation, activation through advanced analytics; and 2) situations where the opposite has made more sense to start with advanced analytics.

A real-world example of starting with advanced analytics

A scenario where we landed on the latter involved a high-tech client team that was fairly analytics driven. The challenge was that their marketing investments were largely untargeted. Though their interest in user segmentation was growing, it was lower on the maturity scale -- driven by basic persona-driven segments with no audience-based test and learn program. Because of this, the questions they were asking of their data in many cases were audience-focused, namely, understanding how quickly their various audiences were progressing through the journey funnels that had been defined.

As heavy Adobe Analytics users, CJA was a good and logical first step for this client as they looked to make progress in the following areas:

  • Understanding and vetting the validity of their user funnels
  • Examining their highest-value journeys in more depth
  • Unearthing any opportunities and blockers not previously considered

The initial use cases developed to drive the phase 1 CJA implementation were all established with a CDP enhancement in mind. For example, our funnel insights ambition mentioned above has inherent activation opportunities that would be a natural fit for a CDP. The client could activate on specific audiences: serving personalized experiences and utilizing multiple channels to influence progression through the most important funnel stages.

To sum it up, for this specific client, it made sense to grow from Adobe Analytics towards CJA to achieve a point of maturity where they would be ready to make a case for investment in a CDP, based on insights gained from the CJA implementation.

But what if data is not actionable across the organization?

The alternative, and more common, scenario tends to involve organizations with disparate data sources needing centralization efforts to better leverage first-party data to build unified customer profiles and drive marketing initiatives. We worked with an organization who had a rich audience insights program that was being used predominantly to amplify brand targeting but wanted to make better use of data assets to improve their downstream activation and, ultimately, lift their overall ROI for digital marketing. The aim for such organizations is to evolve towards mature marketing capabilities with triggered campaigns and orchestrated journeys and integrate data science capabilities. A CDP-first approach helps solve for those needs.

As the martech stack and campaign needs mature, another approach organizations are leaning towards is investment in the entire stack. It provides a strong design and foundation that can power all the applications together, leading to faster implementation to measure value.  

Is it CJA first or CDP first?

While there are many different approaches, the fact of the matter is that CDP and CJA are intertwined! CDPs are purpose-built platforms to drive centralization, activate journeys, and enable orchestration. CJA unlocks cross-channel insights that help enhance and optimize that. There are a lot of factors that drive marketers to choose between the CJA-first or CDP-first path, but at the core, it boils down to what the organization’s needs and state of readiness are, what business promise they are trying to deliver, and what value they are trying to generate.