Everyone wants to be a CDP. Here's who's actually doing it.
While CDPs are an emerging technology, the marketplace has already started to expand to include CDP providers and periphery providers.
Customer data platform (CDP) capabilities borrow attributes from CRM, tag management and even more traditional data onboarding.
Consequently, they are often conflated with ad tech systems like data management platforms (DMPs), despite having use cases that go beyond paid media and into revenue, sales and customer experience.
However, CDPs are really for enterprises that have a lot of first-party data.
As such, a more apt comparison might be tag management systems (TMS), said Gartner research director Martin Kihn, which is a shrinking category, as Google and Adobe bundle the functionality with analytics.
But tag managers also lack a few critical CDP components, including storage and analytics, Kihn noted. “Another challenge for TMS is that they’re built on a previous generation of architecture and will need to be replatformed.”
Early tag managers also weren’t adept at managing mobile app data, which left an opening for platforms like mParticle and Segment, the equivalent of best-of-breed mobile tag management systems, to tackle new turf as full-scale CDPs.
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.
The following are some of the key players in the CDP space – and those who play on the periphery.
What does a CDP do?
The following companies have always identified as CDPs, even before the category became the buzzword du jour.
Co-founded by Tasso Argyros in 2014 on the premise that customer data management needed to be lighter and transferred more quickly than traditional data warehouses could provide. ActionIQ clients include Verizon, Nutrisystem and Gilt. “Most of the data for a mid-market retailer is email and website data, but if you go to a bigger client, we will integrate and connect with email and help orchestrate, activate and measure beyond that channel,” Argyros said. “ We will also connect with call center, direct mail and other third-party or in-house systems that power their customer interactions.”
Founded 13 years ago, AgilOne considers itself one of the CDP OGs. Its solutions are designed to help brands do marketing and identity resolution in digital advertising and customer experience, said Omer Artun, CEO of AgilOne.
AgilOne’s customer sweet spot is ecommerce and retail. Servicing brands like TUMI, Clarks and DAVIDsTEA requires a solid understanding of transactional data, including purchase orders and ecommerce, which have their own unique business rules and configurations.
“There’s a lot of nuance, which requires a heavy-duty configuration engine that a lot of upstarts just don’t have,” said Artun. AgilOne claims it can pull in data from everywhere – including business analytics tools, web analytics, marketing automation systems and product analytics.
Marketing startup Lytics launched in 2012 and services a lot of retail and ecommerce brands, including lululemon, Nestlé and Dr. Martens.
It also works with media and telco brands like Comcast and DirecTV. Lytics’ claim to fame is its data science specialization; after unifying data on a customer profile, the company applies analytics to help marketers determine a user’s content or purchase affinities.
MParticle began more as a mobile data platform in 2012.
Today, however, it helps brands like Venmo, Starwood and Spotify unify their customer data across all kinds of emerging channels. MParticle said it built an added layer of security to ensure clients’ data sets never commingle.
No longer focused on just mobile, mParticle has multiple data inputs.
“It was about being able to get customer data from any consumer property or internal system, create a unified view of the customer and make it easier to integrate that data into any system primarily for the purpose of driving growth,” said CEO Michael Katz.“That includes analytic systems, marketing systems, data warehouses and customer success tools.”
However, mParticle claims its mobile background gives it the ability to wrangle data beyond websites, including from iOS and Android operating systems, connected TV devices like Roku, Xbox, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast. It is building support for other channels, like voice search platform Alexa, and gaming consoles, like PlayStation.
RedPoint Global clients include Green Mountain Coffee, Kingfisher and American Express.
Company CMO and Chief Strategy Officer John Nash said RedPoint Global has prebuilt connectors to different systems to pull in data through a flexible API. So unlike DMPs, CRM systems and web analytics, RedPoint isn’t as limited with the breadth of data it can process.
RedPoint also takes a “programmatic approach” to data hygiene by offering a data-cleansing tool. Like AgilOne, RedPoint claims one of its strong suits is identity resolution and matching by maintaining a “persistent, continuously updated, unified record of all consumer data.”
Segment only focuses on first-party data, collecting data from every channel where brands interact with customers. “We take an infrastructure-first approach to the CDP,” said Chris Sperandio, Segment’s product lead for privacy and compliance.
Segment, which raised $63 million Series C round in July 2017, says its capabilities extend beyond customer data management, aiming to create core infrastructure with strict data governance allowances.
“We never sell, share, or comingle customer data, [and we’ve] invested heavily in… a durable pipeline for data collection that can scale for companies with massive traffic,” Sperandio said.
SessionM is a CDP – although it also has a campaign management solution. So unlike most CDPs, it does some front-end marketing executions.
For instance, one of SessionM’s biggest advantages, according to CMO Patrick Reynolds, is its ability to connect to point-of-sale (POS) systems via API.
“We can not only recognize in-store purchases (or returns) as they occur, but even issue rewards or new offers before the customer has even left the register, based on their profile and what they've just purchased,” said Reynolds.
Unlike data warehouses, which house valuable data but don’t always enable activation, SessionM’s CDP is designed for real-time use cases that factor in a customer’s relationship with the brand.
“Any time the customer takes an action, not only is the profile updated accordingly, but a counter reaction can be taken based on this new information, directly from the same engagement platform,” Reynolds said. “If a cart was abandoned yesterday, the second the customer opens her app, for example, you could offer that product at a discount that factors her lifetime value.”
The Tag Managers
Tag management systems like Tealium, Ensighten and Signal serve as a source of data for CDPs, according to Gartner. Although these systems can fire up tags on a website and use those tags to collect “entry-level” data, the traditional use case for a TMS is more or less limited to site-based data.
However, many of these vendors claim to offer CDPs within their core tag management solutions.
For instance, Tealium has a CDP called AudienceStream and offers “visitor stitching,” which provides the basis for identity resolution by combining data from a variety of sources into a persistent customer record, said CMO Adam Corey.
And Signal has its Customer Identity Platform, which it claims aggregates data across CRM, site tags and custom APIs to connect digital and offline data.
Ensighten has jumped on the CDP bandwagon, too, saying it powers omnichannel personalization, mobile experiences and digital ad effectiveness through its customer data platform.
Where Martech Meets CDP
Traditional martech companies are skeptical about the CDP category.
“The term CDP or customer data platform is super generic,” said Michael Schoen, VP of marketing solutions for Neustar. “What exactly does that mean? Most of the solutions in-market being labeled as CDPs are really about providing some connective tissue between online and offline customer information.”
Mar-tech and CRM providers like Neustar, Acxiom/LiveRamp, Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle all offer some form of data, audience matching and customer identity provisioning, but none of the aforementioned have aligned with popular CDP positioning – yet.
One major difference between martech and best-of-breed CDPs is the fact that CDPs don’t typically commingle data between brand or publisher clients for media use cases – or get involved in data sharing or brokerage in any capacity.
Marketing clouds like Adobe, which has a data coop; Oracle, which has a data marketplace; Acxiom’s LiveRamp, which acquired a B2B audience marketplace; and Salesforce, which has a second-party data marketplace and powers data linkage via the former Krux (now Salesforce DMP) platform, all power audience data activation for media use cases.
But companies like Salesforce are also investing in data interoperability, evidenced by the CRM giant’s $6.5 billion acquisition of MuleSoft, a middleware provider that connects data across apps and devices, which will fuel Salesforce’s new Integration Cloud reaching far beyond marketing use cases.
Despite any skepticism that CDPs are just a shiny new object, the technology’s emergence underscores the need for enterprises to wrangle their first-party data. And as verticals like consumer packaged goods seek to create more of a competitive edge through direct-to-consumer offerings, harnessing one’s first-party data footprint becomes table stakes.
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