Customer Data Platform Category Gets a Dose of Much-Needed Clarity

 In Customer Centricity, Customer Data Platform

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CDP Institute Releases “RealCDP” Certification, Marketing Clouds Join the CDP Party, and Big Increase in CDP-oriented Sessions at MarTech Conference.

It’s official. The CDP category is for real.

Or at least it’s more popular than ever with Marketing Clouds finally hopping on the bandwagon (after hemming and hawing for years that the category was a “passing fad” and little more than marketing spin).

RealCDP certification announced at MarTech conferenceAnd that’s emblematic of what’s happened from day one— companies using the overly broad definition of Customer Data Platform (CDP) to shoehorn their way into the category to benefit from surging market awareness. It’s great and all that everybody wants to be a part, but the reality is that the lack of clarity from vendors indiscriminately using the label is a real risk to the category. Which is why it’s so GREAT to see the CDP Institute (CDPI) ratchet up the criteria for being included in the category.

It’s also interesting to see the evolution of content at the popular MarTech conference. Two years ago at the show, it was clear that CDPs had entered the conversation, but they were by no means a focus. There were sessions on “What is a CDP?” and high-level use cases, but few mentions otherwise. At this year’s MarTech, however, CDPs were the clear star of the show (agenda). In just two years they went from being a curiosity to the main attraction. Just about every session at the show seemingly made mention of CDPs in one context or another, with a great diversity of topics…not just introductory ones for basic education. As a vendor in the space that’s very exciting, but also fraught with risk as confusion reigns among possible buyers of CDP technology who see a broad assortment of functionality among those labeling themselves a CDP.

The “RealCDP” certification being rolled out by David Raab and the CDPI is a breath of fresh air. We’re proud that Tealium AudienceStream Customer Data Platform has earned the new designation as well. In order for the category to be a meaningful entity in the market, being a CDP has to mean something. Or in other words, the definition needs to be such that some tech vendors don’t fit in. That’s the promise of this new certification, and we couldn’t be happier about it.

Included in the RealCDP Certification are the following criteria:

1 – Ingest ALL sources of data – Data ingestion is how data gets in to the system. With data being so diverse, it’s really important to have flexible options to bring in data from a variety of sources.

Not just email. Not just the website. Not just structured or unstructured data. Not just semi-structured. Not just data from a vendor’s own tools. Yes, even call center. It all has to be included. You could say this is the most important part. Hopefully, we will stop seeing email tools and personalization vendors, or campaign management tools spinning their way in now.

2 – Capture full detail of ingested data – This means capturing all the individual data points and making them all accessible, as opposed to just creating murky labels like “VIP” or “Inactive” without supplying what data is behind that label. For the customer profile to be valuable, it’s essential that the data isn’t summarized, nor only contain partial information.

3 – Store ingested data indefinitely (subject to privacy constraints) – This means storing the data for the long haul and means you need a database that captures all the data…not just accesses the data in other tools without storing it centrally. You’d be surprised this isn’t always the case. Certain Marketing Clouds will fall short here.

4 – Unified profiles of identified individuals – This means organizing the data around the person (not a “user” or “session”, etc) using the data from all those various source systems. Profiles are the whole crux of how CDPs operate. They have to include all that data from #1 and #2 above.

5 – Share data with any system that needs it – This means that the places where the customer data is activated aren’t limited to certain channels, or only a vendor’s own tools, or only in certain venues. This might be our favorite criteria. And it’s one that Marketing Clouds again have trouble meeting. It’s not a bad thing, they’re just not positioned to do this given the preponderance of owned tools they offer. It’s only natural they have a preference.

Also, notice what’s not included here. Analytics, personalization, and marketing automation tools, while certainly useful in a tech stack, aren’t core functions of a CDP (note the category name) and it’s not a difficult argument that they’re better off separate from your data platform. If you have a small company and require simpler tools or tools that consolidate functionality, maybe those make sense for you. But that comes with significant compromises. And they’re rightly not part of the definition.

So we couldn’t be happier about this step and we look forward to narrowing the list of CDP vendors to those tools that most accurately fit the “data platform” label. It’s a step in the direction of clarifying the market and providing value for technology buyers. It’s hard enough to evaluate straight-forward categories like email service providers, let alone a category with a growing hodgepodge of vendors like the CDP space has become.

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