There are many different types of Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) available on the market, some that are specific to one vendor tech stack and others that are very vendor neutral and operate through the utilization of CDP vendor integrations. So how can you know which is the best platform for your organization?
How Will Integrations Matter Going Forward?
You need to assess your need for integrations and vendor neutrality in a CDP from both your current tech stack requirements and use cases as well as your future needs, which are changing rapidly and wildly as we move into web 3.0, the metaverse, and a whole new dawn of the digital age.
If you’re an organization that has invested heavily in a marketing cloud, aligning your CDP with that cloud offering makes sense on paper. Your data exists there already. You can seamlessly integrate with the tools you’re already using. Or so it would seem. In a marketing cloud, these tools do not always work as seamlessly as one would expect. This is largely because they weren’t built by the vendor, but acquired. We’ll explore that more later.
But also, what about tools you’re not already using, but may need in the future? What about tools that haven’t even been invented yet? Marketing cloud CDPs typically acquire their new functionality instead of building it, leveraging their deep pockets and the ingenuity of other organizations. It makes sense. But if you choose to heavily invest in a single cloud vendor CDP, your view of your customers will be dependent on available tools and not comprehensive across the board. There are many advantages in managing your customer data agnostic to the tools where you’re activating that data. Otherwise, you have to compromise….in a variety of ways. You lose the flexibility to apply your customer view wherever you want. Your customer view is narrower and less complete. If you can only access certain data, then your view is less useful. And if a vendor comes out with something super cool that isn’t where you hold the view, you’re handcuffed from taking advantage due to vendor lock-in. Oh, and by the way, that vendor is probably going to use your dependence on them against you in negotiations, so your total cost of ownership shoots through the roof.
Flexibility is power. By engaging with a vendor-neutral CDP partner whose entire DNA is making your data useful and integrated wherever needed, you can trust that your future needs are just as supported as your current requirements.
Single View of a Customer from Unknown to Known
Marketing cloud CDPs built on CRM hold a lot of value in integrating data for already known, existing customers within your databases. For companies who have invested heavily in systems like CRM, email marketing platforms, and other similar tools as a foundation for CX would naturally be inclined to invest further into those platforms to create a single view of those customers. The challenge comes when these vendors attempt to grow your account, claiming to provide a comprehensive customer data foundation, but the tools used all work on known customer data, leaving out critical insights into behavior prior to purchase. Vendor-neutral CDPs (utilizing technology like tag management and API hubs for data collection) that don’t rely on full, rigid customer identity data can much more easily collect and unify data relating to both new and unknown customers, thus forming a fuller and more useful view of the customer. This allows for a truer view of the collective “customer” base, stronger audience creation and activation into campaigns that engage intelligently and create ROI, and is useful for purposes across the customer journey (pre and post-purchase).
Because marketing cloud CDPs are relying on tools they’ve acquired instead of built, there is typically a slight lag in the communication between these different products. It’s like splicing two telephone wires together instead of having one clean line. Things have to be routed through a patchwork of networks. Also, they can struggle to create a true single view of the customer because they’re beholden to the information in their system and not the information outside the system that is equally as relevant. Many marketing cloud CDPs have answered this issue by creating the best guess predictive analytics approach to the customer profile. “Based on all the evidence available, we think this is the same customer.” But that’s not always accurate and those guesses can create little friction points that can worsen the customer experience and your overall success with a CDP.
Optimal Privacy Compliance
The probabilistic approach is also a concern for privacy compliance, if these guesses are being used with sensitive information about an individual, or if targeting them in a best guess scenario ends up being inaccurate. While it might seem a little counterintuitive, flexibility in a CDP actually enables greater privacy compliance. This is because CDPs that integrate with other tools as part of their core structure can orchestrate privacy across your whole stack beyond the tools supplied by that vendor. You don’t want privacy to function in a silo. It needs to live within the customer profile or else you create risk for the organization. The customer profile should be neutral, and CDP vendor integrations and flexibility create that needed neutrality.
Want to create a true omnichannel customer experience? Integrating with all the other tools you need to meet your customers where they’re at is the only path forward. Marketing cloud CDPs are reliant on the tools in their toolbox. And that toolbox is usually vast and impressive. But is it comprehensive enough? No. You will always have tools that are customer-facing that go beyond a single vendor. Plan on it.
The Ultimate Customer Experience
Ultimately, vendor neutral CDPs can deliver a comprehensive customer experience that will elevate your organization above the competition. And at the end of the day, customer experience leads to greater long term success – more upsells, greater lifetime value, and increased brand loyalty.
It’s up to each organization to determine their greatest need when selecting the right CDP. Marketing cloud CDPs have a lot to offer and certainly have their place. But the long-term, long range benefits of vendor neutrality and flexibility will help companies grow with a changing digital landscape and meet both current and future demands for customer experience and privacy compliance.
For more information on the role of CDP vendor integrations, check out our Definitive Guide to Customer Data Platforms.