There are three things we know about the customer experience.

First: Nothing should matter more to a business than its customers and future customers. There would not be a business without them.

Second: Customer data is essential for relating to and caring for those customers. Unless all customer interactions take place between one single employee who can remember everything about each customer, a company needs to store and access data to recognize a customer from one interaction to the next — both online and offline.  

Third: Most companies’ customer data is not in great shape. It is siloed across different systems and business units. As a result, it’s not easy to create a single picture of each customer.

With all of that in mind, it’s no surprise that the promise of a customer data platform (CDP) is appealing to marketers. A CDP offers the potential to help businesses unify their data and use it to deliver individualized experiences to each person. But this is a lofty promise. Can a CDP deliver on it?  

To address the promise of CDPs, Evergage hosted a conversation between experts Joe Stanhope (VP, Principal Analyst at Forrester) and Karl Wirth (CEO and Co-founder of Evergage) in the webinar “CDP Hype vs. Reality: A Discussion Between Experts.” I’ll summarize a few of the takeaways in this blog post, but be sure to watch the full webinar replay to learn more about both Joe and Karl’s perspectives on CDPs.

The tech landscape is complex, so don’t expect a single solution

It goes without saying that technology is incredibly important to marketers today. Technology is what allows us to collect and act on customer data. According to Forrester, one-fifth of today’s marketing budget goes to technology.

But this technology that was supposed to make marketing easier has created some new challenges. Forrester found that 36% of marketers believe that their current technology portfolio is too complex, while 40% find that there is redundancy in the capabilities offered in their current tech stack.

The right CDP can help simplify your tech stack — specifically if you select one that doesn’t just store customer data, but collects and acts on data as well. With all of these capabilities in one solution, you may be able to eliminate some systems in your tech stack.

But don’t expect it to be a single solution that solves all your needs. You should always be wary of any solution that sounds too good to be true. There will almost certainly never be a single system that covers all of your marketing needs. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth it for your organization to invest in a CDP, it just means that you shouldn’t view it as a silver bullet that will solve all of your marketing problems.

Don’t get caught up in the buzzword

With that in mind, Joe encouraged marketers not to get too caught up in the “CDP” buzzword. You don’t want to simply check the box to say that you have a CDP because that’s what’s new in marketing today. If you invest in a CDP, you should do it because it actually makes sense for your business.

Joe’s perspective is that CDPs are too new to be considered a martech category. In his words, it needs a “stronger sense of self” before it becomes a defined category. That definition will likely come over time, but for now, it’s not clear which vendors fall into the category.

So don’t focus on the term. Take a look at your tech stack today. Identify what your needs are. Find a solution that fits those needs, whether it’s officially called a “CDP” or not. If it helps you bring together data and deliver better experiences — it’s the right solution for you.

Always keep the end in mind

Finally, both Karl and Joe agreed that marketers must always keep the end in mind as they work toward acquiring and implementing a CDP or the like in their organizations.

It’s easy to get caught up in the promise of bringing all of your data together in one central place that you lose track of what you’re trying to do. Ultimately, you’re trying to use the data you’re collecting to deliver a better customer experience. But if you lose sight of this end goal, you may end up in a situation where you’ve spent a lot of time and money implementing a solution, only to find that you can’t do anything with it or that it is cumbersome to use.

As Joe said in the webinar: “It’s not just simply about collecting data. It’s about getting the right data, bringing it into a central place, and then activating on it because this isn’t an academic exercise for brands, they want to be able to use it. That’s the biggest and sometimes the hardest part.”

Karl’s advice was to begin with a “quick wins” approach — one that will allow you to see results right away. You’ll be working for years if you embark on a big exercise to bring all of your customer data together in your CDP before you use it to affect customer experiences. Your organization will start to wonder what the value of the project is and if it’s worth waiting for. Rather than making it a huge project, you should start small. Begin with one channel. Bring together a few data sources and use them to affect the customer experience in that channel. With that approach, you’ll start to see results right away, and individuals across teams will get excited about the potential and, hopefully, will even get involved. This is unlikely to happen if you don’t keep the end in mind from the beginning.

Final Thoughts

The CDP classification is a new one. There are no hard-and-fast rules to follow right now. But Karl and Joe both offer some good advice for forging your own path and making your own decisions about whether you need a CDP and how to proceed once you make your decision. Watch the webinar replay for more of their explanations and advice.

And to learn more about whether the Evergage platform is the CDP for you, request a demo today.