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What the future holds for customer data platforms

David Raab explains what to consider when it comes to CDPs, and where the industry is headed

What you look for in a customer data platform (CDP) will depend on how you plan to use it. Any

CDP needs to assemble a unified customer database

. The CDP Institute has recently released a five-point RealCDP™ checklist that defines what it considers core requirements for doing this:

  • Ingest data from all sources, both structured and unstructured
  • Retain full detail of ingested data
  • Store the ingested data indefinitely (subject to privacy rules such as GDPR)
  • Combine ingested data into unified customer profiles
  • Share the profiles with any external system.

Beyond those core requirements, you may also want to consider:

  • Completeness and accuracy of the ‘identity graph’ provided to find matches between identifiers, beyond matches made using your own data
  • Additional information provided by the vendor, both to enhance your existing customer and prospect records and to add new customers and prospects to your list
  • Analytics, predictive modeling, and segmentation capabilities
  • Message selection and orchestration features
  • Vendor experience with companies of your size and in your industry.

Unless you’re among the elite handful of B2B companies with a CDP already in place, the topics already covered i

n this and my previous article

will be more than enough to keep you busy as you decide how to take advantage of what CDPs have to offer. But you might also be interested in where the industry is headed.  Some trends are quite clear, including continued adoption of CDPs, entry of additional vendors into the category, expansion of features among current CDPs, and CDPs specializing in particular types of clients.  

The future of CDPs

What’s less clear is the role to be played by big martech vendors including Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle. Each has announced a CDP-like offering in the past six months, although none has delivered a product that meets even the five basic points on the RealCDP™ checklist. That’s likely to change in the future, if only because their clients are demanding solutions to the problems that CDPs are uniquely able to fix.

The real questions are how quickly the big vendors’ solutions will appear and how fully those vendors will overcome their natural preference to favor integration among their own products. Marketers with a pressing need for CDP capabilities today will need to balance the known benefits of buying an existing, independent CDP product against the possible benefits of an undefined future solution from a marketing cloud vendor. Enough buyers will almost certainly choose the independent vendors to ensure survival of a healthy CDP industry. But how many wait for the big vendors to solve their problem will determine the growth and direction of that industry over the long term.


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