Managing 1% of Your Data: What Happened to the Other 99%?


Roadmap to Enterprise CDP

Over the next few weeks we will be publishing a series of blog posts about what an Enterprise CDP is and how it can help your organization better manage your data and make more informed decisions to better drive your business. The first blog post we are publishing is appropriately titled: Data.


Customer Data Platforms (CDP) are probably the most exciting thing happening in the CRM technology space in the last 10 years. Nobody should be surprised; nothing exciting has happened in the space since the late 90s when today’s most popular ESPs and campaign management tools were created. In the meantime, what changed? Everything. Perhaps most importantly, consumers are now in control, interacting with brands through dozens of channels and generating data on everything they touch (or click!). All that data and activity, all these marketing channels, were never the focus of the ESPs and Campaign Managers. As a result, relying on a traditional stack makes it absolutely impossible to achieve what consumers want today: personalization at scale, a one-voice approach to omni-channel marketing, and an agile marketing strategy that constantly adapts to changing consumer & market dynamics.

The answer to those challenges is emerging under the Customer Data Platform umbrella. But what is CDP? It helps by providing capabilities that used to be out of reach for most marketers. . These include:

  • the ability to connect ALL customer data, and make it accessible by non-technical users (including Marketers)
  • the ability to orchestrate campaigns across multiple channels (even vendors) while monitoring how these channels are performing and automatically optimizing the campaigns across channels
  • the power to create and test a new campaign concept in hours or days versus months
  • enabling hyper-targeting & hyper-personalization that drives customer experiences that surprise and delight your customers, thus driving much higher performance (conversions, sales, retention) and improving the brand (e.g. moving to hyper-targeted discounts from a blanket, brand-diluting discount strategy)

However, not all CDPs are built the same. Key capabilities separate CDPs that are built to support simplistic use cases in low-complexity environments, with Enterprise CDPs that are built for a combination of power & scale while maintaining a simple interface for business users. In the next few chapters we will explore what makes a CDP a true, Enterprise-scale CDP. And given that the year is 2017 we can’t start with anything else other than… data!

Chapter 1: Data

Thou shalt keep all your event-level historical data. Yes, ALL.

The big secret with most marketing solutions, including every Marketing Cloud out there, is that they can only manage 1% of your data. You may ask, how can that be possible? After all, your Marketing Cloud is “connected” to your web data. The sad reality is that most event-level data (e.g. web clicks, mobile taps, SKU-level transaction records, etc) are first summarized and then thrown away or stored in a manner that is not readily accessible for analytics and thus totally useless. Most CDPs can’t handle event-level data, either.

Enterprise CDPs need to be able to keep tens of Billions of events in a format that makes them always accessible and at the fingertips of the Marketers. This means never having to worry about not having enough data or the right data or the data in the right format. Why is this so critical? Because every time you need new data (or data formatted differently), IT has to spin up a new project. Besides the cost this can mean a delay of months or (worse but not uncommon) it may never happen.

Thou shalt connect ALL your offline & online data without ETL.

If Marketers are Superwomen and Supermen, then ETL is their Kryptonite. ETL is a concept that every IT person and probably every data-driven Marketer at a F500 company is familiar with. It stands for Extract Transform and Load, and it broadly describes the process of extracting data from one source (e.g. your web analytics system), formatting it properly and then loading it in another system (e.g. your ESP).

ETL is important because it’s the single most frequent factor in delays and overruns of IT projects that support Marketing initiatives. Even relatively simple projects may require 10s of thousands of lines of ETL code. Badly formatted data or rigid schemes can push deadlines months at a time. And, every time the Marketer needs new data or data in new formats (e.g. to support a new type of campaign or targeting, or because a new channel or customer data source has been added) all that monolith of ETL code has to be updated.

The latest generation of Enterprise CDPs, like ActionIQ, are innovating at the data layer to get rid of the requirement to ETL the data before they are connected to the CDP or to any marketing system. This can save months of work and delays, reduce the risk of any data-driven marketing project, and allow marketers to do in minutes what would otherwise require heavy ETL involvement.

On the other hand, most CDPs that do not have this capability are no better than yet another marketing channel tool: they, too, require IT (or expensive services) to ETL the data into the CDP and any new Marketing campaign initiative will require more tweaks of the ETL code and more costs & delays.  

Stay tuned for chapter two which focuses on freedom and flexibility.


Florian Delval
Florian Delval
Director, Technical PMM
For the last decade, Florian’s mission has been to empower enterprise organizations in their digital transformation process via the definition and deployment of a strong Customer Experience Stack. Florian educates enterprise organizations to increase the value of their technology investments in a complex and ever changing environment. Find him on LinkedIn.
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