Do I need a customer data platform? 8 questions to ask.

A person raising their hand illustrates the importance of not just asking the customer, but having the best way of capturing customer responses and interactions | Informatica

Many organizations are driven by the customer. Customer experience, customer interactions, customer surveys, compliance with customer privacy regulations, to name a few. This is because without customers there is no business and no revenue. Both B2C and B2B organizations are putting the customer first in today’s highly competitive marketplace.

So, the big question is: do I need a customer data platform (CDP)? Since data is such a huge component of a customer strategy—it drives decision-making, supply chain planning, compliance regulations, and many other customer-driven initiatives—you may think that a CDP is the answer. But there are several questions to ask yourself before jumping into a technology decision.

1. What type of data and I am looking to store and manage?

A CDP is focused on marketing data. Typically, this is structured data from digital marketing sources that includes IDs and tags used to link prospect data.

If your requirements go beyond a digital profile to include all data, marketing + other enterprise sources, as well as structured and unstructured data types, a CDP may not meet all your data needs, and you may need Enterprise 360 capabilities. An Enterprise 360 manages and links data that may not have known keys or identifiers and includes many variations and patterns that require advanced data matching capabilities to help decipher customer activity across various interactions.

2. What level of identity resolution do I require?

A marketing CDP uses known keys to join customer data together. Rules are deterministic in nature and include probabilistic matching.

Customer data requirements typically go beyond basic key matching as data volumes, and varieties have increased beyond the need for only marketing data. Enterprise 360s automate identity resolution and matching functions with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) matching algorithms that learn from human decisions and can scale to huge volumes of data. Enterprise 360s do not require known keys or IDs to match.

3. Do I need multiple views of the customer?

Customer data platforms support one record for each customer or one version of the truth. Filters may be set up to represent various views of that single record.

Your business teams may need multiple perspectives of the customer based on specific departmental or use case requirements. An Enterprise 360 supports unique views based on business-defined requirements and—because the underlying data is linked and not merged into a single record—an Enterprise 360 can easily provide these views. Linking is done based on confidence of match which can be defined by use case.

4. Do I need a complete 360 view of my customer?

CDPs focus on prospect data and partial customer data and are limited to the customer domain.

In reality, customer data resides in many different systems across an enterprise. In order to create an end-to-end Enterprise 360 view of the customer, you need to bring together all data related to a customer or prospect. This may include additional data domains related to customer, including orders, quotes, locations, as well as partial or incomplete data that can later be linked to the customer as more information is revealed.

5. How will my customer data be integrated with my IT environment including other systems and applications?

CDPs include pre-built connectors to specific applications requiring custom build for additional point-to-point, simple integrations.

More complex integration requirements require a more flexible approach and integration platform. An Enterprise 360 is capable of integrating to any system or application and can support complex integrations.

6. What type of analytics do I need?

Marketing CDPs leverage proprietary tools and functions for analytics and require separate integration for enterprise analytic tools. CDPs may lack key analyses such as customer lifetime value. Since analysis is performed on a subset of customer data, it could result in recommendations that are irrelevant.

If you require enterprise-level analytics, an Enterprise 360 provides an analytic repository for data science and integration with existing models. Analytic models are improved for things such as next best action and targeting with hyper/micro-segmentation due to a broader, more connected view of the customer.

7. What use cases am I trying to address?

CDPs traditionally focus on marketing uses which can include personalization, call center integration, or channel marketing. They typically lack the ability to perform cross-channel orchestration but focus on marketing automation.

For use cases that span beyond marketing, an Enterprise 360 supports marketing, service, and sales, as well as finance use cases. In addition, omni-channel marketing automation, web, mobile, and on-boarding is supported with a complete, trusted view of the customer.

8. What are my performance and scalability requirements?

Departmental requirements can be met with a marketing customer data platform which is adept at handling lower data record volumes and complexity.

For enterprise-grade requirements that need to scale to billions of records loaded and processed, an Enterprise 360 for CDP is integral to success in order to ensure performance.

Organizations that invest in Enterprise 360:

  • Are driven by a need to understand their customers as both customers & prospects before marketing to them
  • Have significant data complexity & want to utilize enterprise & marketing data
  • Lack a single identifier or way to stitch all data together reliably and comprehensively
  • Are equally concerned with individual interactions and personalizing them as well as segmenting customers/prospects for marketing campaigns
  • Are focused on the entire Customer Experience across all channels vs. focusing only on digital marketing channels

By addressing these eight questions, you can determine whether a customer data platform can support your customer data management need or if an Enterprise 360 for CDP solution is needed to extend and expand capabilities.

To learn more, check out this white paper by CDP Institute founder, David Raab, CDP Beyond Marketing.