What is a customer data platform?

In which we describe the Platonic Ideal of the CDP and its four core capabilities.

A customer data platform (CDP) is a marketing and CX technology intended to unify a company’s customer data across online and offline sources. This capability’s end goal is to allow marketers to independently use data for modeling, segmentation, targeting, testing, and other marketing functions.

A CDP connects and improves the performance and efficiency of your marketing stack. A good CDP is like an orchestra conductor — a brilliant, capable musician overseeing a carefully selected group (e.g., best-of-breed point solutions and multichannel marketing hubs like Salesforce, Adobe, or Oracle) to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

Just as a conductor must have an impeccable sense of tone and rhythm, in-depth knowledge of music, and immaculate attention to detail, a CDP has its own set of minimum requirements. It doesn’t need to be able to play all the instruments, but it must have the skills to guide them all.

CDPs initially offered four core intersectional functions. Since 2015, many claimants to the CDP throne have grown out use cases and capabilities, some of which are truly useful and some of which are like putting racing stripes on a minivan.

The Core Four are:

1. Data collection

One of a customer data platform’s critical capabilities is gathering, standardizing, and validating data from across all online and offline sources.

2. Profile unification

As a customer data platform, the next step after bringing together data from across sources is deduplicating and consolidating customer data, so you have a single, optimally informative profile for each customer.

3. Segmentation

The first two capabilities are only necessary insofar as they enable self-serve marketing activities. Consolidated customer profiles allow marketers to build custom segments from a single platform to get increasingly personal and granular in communications.

4. Activation

The last core capability allows marketers to make immediate, seamless use of segmentation by integrating with end channels, like ESPs or advertising platforms, to create and deploy personalized experiences.

Combining these capabilities into a single, accessible HQ for marketers and CX professionals shortens the path from idea to execution, and execution to measurement, that can automatically feed into the next idea and the subsequent undertaking.

Chapter 3: Why is it necessary to understand customer data?

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