EngineeringFebruary 14, 2017

The App Gap: Why Customer Data Platform installations fail

As investment continues to drive innovation in both consumer media and B2B marketing technologies, fragmentation is not slowing down anytime soon. More than ever, marketers need real data infrastructure to power and coordinate all of these different components, ensuring the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts.

The growing interest in Customer Data Platforms is clear acknowledgment of this trend. Yet, the vast majority of these solutions won’t actually solve the problem, either.

Customer data platforms (lower case) have been around for a long time. The challenge to which they address themselves predates the Internet, and even predates direct mail. It goes something like this:

We have a lot of information about our customers and prospects living in silos across our organization [and sometimes across partners, too. How do we unify all that data into a single profile view, and connect this unified view into operational tools capable of driving better insights, more accountability, better experiences and higher marketing ROI?”

Attempting to solve for this challenge is hugely important – now more than ever – but the devil is in the executional details.

Customer Data Platforms: Fact vs fiction

If you ask large enterprise marketers if they currently have a customer data platform, about half of them will say yes. This is according to Gartner’s recent marketing technology buyer’s survey (Gartner subscription required). Yet, follow up conversations will reveal that number to be highly overstated (one reason being that many people confuse a customer data warehouse, or a data store, with an operational one).

Similarly, if you ask the sales rep at essentially any marketing tool vendor these days if their platform offers “omnichannel data integration” capabilities, they will say yes, too. Not to mention, there are now at least 27 companies that explicitly positioning themselves as CDPs according to the CDP Institute, and that number’s only going to rise.

There are some sobering facts that can distinguish the real ones from the pretenders. Just get someone with a technical background to look closely at their core capabilities like privacy, security, data governance, data model flexibility, master data management, identity resolution, prepackaged integrations, and so on. Not only are these areas where you need to have deep technology domain expertise, they also tend to be embedded into architectural choices from a company’s early existence, making it hard for, say, a tag management vendor to “pivot into” being a CDP, or an email provider to “bolt on” data management through acquisition of a cross-device identity tool.

Installation failure

These factors notwithstanding, the overwhelming concern for marketers—and the real reason why many CDPs installations will fail—is not an engineering challenge but a consumer-behavior one, which any marketer can easily understand. Most of the conventional solutions people are using or considering as their data layer cannot handle mobile and connected TV app data, and that is a major problem.

Most of the conventional solutions people are using or considering as their data layer cannot handle mobile and connected TV app data, and that is a major problem.

Maybe it wasn’t such a big deal five years ago, but now the majority of people’s time spent with digital media is spent inside apps; for people under 30, it’s the vast majority. So a customer data solution without a strong app data competency is like a TV with only two channels — and not the really good ones, at that.

If you want to see vendors who actually do understand app data, a good place to start is with the ones listed in Gartner’s Market Guide for App Analytics (Subscription Required; or download here courtesy of Adjust). The Venn diagram intersection between the list in that report and the ones considered by Gartner also to have a legitimate omnichannel marketing data layer offering (the CDPs and Marketing Data Hubs), is comprised of just two companies: Adobe and mParticle.

As for these two remaining options, mParticle’s bet couldn’t be more different from Adobe’s. Adobe describes themselves as the “most complete set of marketing solutions available” giving you “everything you need to get deep insight into your customers, build personalized campaigns, and manage your content and assets.” mParticle offers none of these services.

mParticle is focused on one thing: being the single best API for connecting all your customer data (which, increasingly, includes app data) to all the different measurement and marketing tools you may need in your stack.

Whether you choose to go with the Adobe Suite approach or the mParticle API model, the important thing is you choose a partner who deeply appreciates the intricacies of mobile data and can also connect that data to channels such as advertising, web, social, and customer support. Because mobile is the hub for consumer experiences. Don’t let it exist as an island unto itself.

The great news is that, in fact, you don’t even have to choose! As a certified partner of Adobe’s, mParticle works with Adobe customers to simplify data collection and connection to other vendors through our API-led approach. In fact, we’ll be sponsoring their Summit next month…so drop us a line if you’ll be there and want to learn more!

Want to learn more? Check out our CEO Michael Katz’s keynote at GrowthStack 2016, Data platforms: Why nothing has changed except everything.

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