How Marketers Should Assess Marketing Clouds’ Upcoming Customer Data Platforms (CDPs)

Authored by James Meyers

It’s a fascinating time for data-driven marketing. Vendors have been heads-down, releasing ever-valuable features towards personalization, and marketing cloud vendors are revealing their much-anticipated customer data platforms (CDPs). Christmas may be coming early.

There’s one problem though.

If there’s anything bystanders observe about the CDP industry, it’s that building a CDP from scratch takes an incredible amount of time. Just peruse the public blogs and product announcements by any CDP vendor and you’ll see that building a complete solution is an iterative process that takes years to complete. Why? There are so many features and infrastructure to build.

Let’s use an example to explain more. 

Suppose an organization seeks a persistent database that resolves customer identities and stitches interactions into a single profile per customer, along with descriptive + predictive analytics features atop it, plus the ability to activate profiles through automated campaign journeys. Oh and if they want the solution to act in real time then they’ll also need a surplus of APIs to collect data and syndicate data out (to final-mile execution channels). But wait, then there’s the mandate of enabling data democracy/self-service which requires a non-technical user interface for all the aforementioned features.

See what I mean about a ton of features and infrastructure to build?

David Raab, the founder of the CDP Institute, says smaller, established CDP vendors are far ahead in their development and it could take years for the large marketing cloud vendors to catch up. 

Let’s review a timeline of marketing cloud vendors’ announcements on CDPs, as well as the conclusions we can infer about their current progress:

Salesforce

Adobe

Conclusions on Marketing Cloud Vendors’ CDP Offerings

  • Vendors are still deep in the development phases of their offerings.
  • Vendors have not released information on whether they will ever offer a one-stop-shop solution akin to an enterprise CDP (e.g. ActionIQ and others), versus forcing buyers to purchase multiple products in their portfolio.

Since many of marketing cloud vendors are still developing their solutions, one must expect additional time for them to:

  1. finish building all the required infrastructure
  2. develop all the must-have features  
  3. test the efficacy of the infrastructure and features together as a functioning solution (e.g. does it actually deliver value to buyers without significant add-on services being needed)

This leaves one remaining question for buyers– ‘Should I wait for the large vendors to develop their solutions, or should I trust a smaller start-up offering?’

David Raab reminds organizations of opportunity cost, or in other words the amount of ground one might lose to competitors by opting to wait for a large vendor to finish their CDP development. It’s possible, he asserts, that organizations cannot afford to wait.

An additional factor to consider is that marketing cloud vendors have less of a track record in building complex solutions (like CDPs) than they do with ingesting them through acquisition. It’s not to say a marketing cloud vendor can’t build a CDP, but it’s important to note that solutions of this breadth and complexity have not been built by marketing cloud vendors before. It may take more than one or two attempts to get the solution right.

So what do you need to do? Marketers need to exercise critical thinking when observing sales pitches, website jargon, and marketing communications. Beware of elevated buzzwords! 

If you’re interested in discussing the nuances of your marketing technology stack, contact us to setup a meeting. My favorite output here at ActionIQ is to help you be the hero with successful technology choices.

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