How customer data platforms are being defined

In this infancy state, customer data platforms are not well-defined. My take is that part of the definition problem has to do with getting into too many details around individual features in a software category that has something for everyone.


Martin Kihn of Gartner compares the promise of CDP to the promise of CRM in “What is this thing we call a CDP?” and notes synergy and potential convergence with data management platforms (DMP) in episode one of The Digital Measure Show.

For another entertaining read that dances around CRM and DMP in explaining CDP, try WTF is a customer data platform? on Digiday.

It only takes reading a few of these before conflict is encountered between them. In an interesting if not inflammatory article titled "Everyone Wants To Be a CDP. Here's Who's Actually Doing It." in Ad Exchanger last month, Kelly Liyakasa explained:

Even though CDPs are an emerging technology category unto themselves, they share a few common attributes, including the ability to collect, store and normalize large volumes of data while creating a persistent identifier that spans across data sets.”

This excludes a key point of customer data platforms, which is to enable marketers to make use of this data at the segment and individual level. Otherwise, as an introduction to a handful of vendors and to the industry of CDP, this is worth the quick read. 

A comment on this one points towards enterprise real time interaction management (RTIM) systems, proposing that CDP may be a re-branding of RTIM. It is easy to see how they would be confused, but these are not the same thing. And, RTIM is not just what customer data platforms look like for enterprise-scale organizations. Here are a couple reasons why not, without getting into specific features that one or the other provides or overlaps on: 

  1. within those organizations, the customer data platform could act as an innovation layer used in parallel and in combination to extend and support RTIM, or
  2. the customer data platform might be the basis for first-party data products that the RTIM has nothing to do with.

While I believe feature inclusion complicates the definition of customer data platforms, I do think that talking about the features is important. And, perhaps more important, is talking about how those features can be used by different types of organizations. This is where I hope to head over the upcoming days and weeks, starting tomorrow with "What can a CDP do for me?"

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