How Customer Data Platforms Turn Big Data into Business Insights


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How to transform big data into business insights is one of the most pressing and complex questions CMOs want to answer in 2015. An Experian Data Quality Benchmark Report found that 95% of global companies feel driven to turn data into insight. How does marketing technology bridge the gap between big data and business insights?

Back in 2013, marketing analyst David Raab wrapped a definition around a new breed of technology platforms designed to solve revenue-generation and pipeline challenges through data. He called them customer data platforms (or CDPs), and here’s how he describes them:

“These systems… gather customer data from multiple sources, combine information related to the same individuals, perform predictive analytics on the resulting database, and use the results to guide marketing treatments across multiple channels” (Customer Experience Matrix, 2013).

The growing customer data platform category is imbued with innovative technology solutions built to deliver insights on terabytes of data, and investors are paying attention. Millions have been poured into customer data platforms over the last decade, and a recent burst of activity from entrepreneurs and investors alike suggests some exciting developments on the horizon.

customer data platform

Data pulled from Crunchbase and Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape Report for 2015

So how do customer data platforms solve one of today’s biggest marketing challenges?

marketing data

Experian Data Quality Benchmark Report 2015

Marketers are terrible at keeping healthy databases.

The more data marketers collect, the worse they become at keeping it in shape. You can’t extract insights from dirty data, so customer data platforms eliminate the problem of bad marketing data by building proprietary databases that they keep squeaky clean at all costs.

“One implication of data synergy is that the richest databases will live outside of your company’s own data center: they’ll be too big, too complicated, and updated too frequently to maintain a copy in-house.” David Raab

Customer data platforms don’t just plug analytics tools on top of questionably accurate marketing data, nor do they plug into your database and load even more data into your database under the guise of enriching; they build predictive models that combine your data with their data.

Growth in the customer data platform category means marketers will spend less time focusing on the quality of their data, and more time thinking about the customer journey.

Marketing technology companies maintain proprietary databases through the development of stellar data engineering and data science teams. These are companies that attract top talent and invest in premier tools.

data science
The companies that are changing the face of marketing technology are built with data science. They’re not just engineering great products – they’re engineering great products and great datasets.

Customer data platforms deliver a noticeable difference to marketers who’ve grown accustomed to a generation of technology built on experience: easy cross-channel customer interaction.

Where a prior generation of marketing tools grew out of a need to execute cross-channel campaigns to reflect an evolving customer journey, CDPs have grown out of the assumption that the customer journey is not a series of disconnected campaigns; rather, it’s a constantly shifting narrative with hundreds of touch points. Yesterday’s marketers designed the digital customer journey through marketing automation; tomorrow’s marketers will perfect it with predictive insights. Customer data platforms are essential to the transition towards modern marketing.

“These are companies whose architectures were built around data,” says Scott Brinker, heralder of the marketing technologist trend and Founder of interactive content vanguard Ion Interactive. “The previous generation of marketing tools – marketing automation, content management and experience solutions – was built on user experience and campaign execution, and data was a part of that. Customer data platforms evolved the other way around; they started with a vision for the data. Once you have data in the foundation, you can layer on top of it to coordinate campaigns and experiences, much like what all the predictive tools are doing today.”

As Brinker puts it, the new era of marketing technology is all about the data. As we move further into the generation of data-driven marketing platforms, Brinker proposes a new question to tomorrow’s marketing technology leaders – one that we’re all racing to answer in 2015:

How do you architect the evolution of technology-powered marketing capabilities?


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