My detailed study of Customer Data Platforms should be released next week. Now that the information is assembled, I can at last pull back and get a good overview of what I’ve found.
Perhaps the most interesting discovery has been that the CDP vendors cluster into three main groups.
• B2B data enhancement. These build a large reference database of companies and employees, which they match against records imported from their clients. They generally return corrected and enhanced data and lead scores based on models built from the client’s customer files. Their reference databases are built from multiple public, commercial, and proprietary sources, and are assembled using sophisticated matching engines. Most also perform their own scans of Web sites and social networks to extract sales-relevant information such as technology use and changes that suggest buying opportunities. These vendors vary considerably in the data they return, ranging from lead scores only to recommended marketing treatments to full customer profiles. Some also provide prospect lists of companies that are not already in the client’s own database. CDP vendors in this group include Infer, Lattice Engines, Mintigo, and ReachForce.
These systems compete with non-CDP products which also add or enhance prospect records but do not maintain a database with their clients’ customers. These include Web scanning systems such as InsideView, LeadSpace, and SalesLoft, and general data compilers including NetProspex, Demandbase, Data.com, ZoomInfo, and OneSource. The predictive modeling features also compete to some degree with end-user-oriented marketing analytics and modeling software such as Birst, GoodData, Cloud9 Analytics, AutoBox, and Predixion Software. Data cleansing competitors include services from firms such as D&B, as well as data management software for technical users such as Informatica, Experian QAS, and FullContact.
• Campaigns. These systems build a multi-source marketing database from the client’s own data and either recommend marketing treatments to execution systems or execute marketing campaigns directly. These are primarily used for consumer marketing although they also have B2B clients. Most have sophisticated matching capabilities. This group includes Silverpop with its Universal Behavior feature, NICE’s Causata, AgilOne, and RedPoint.
This group competes with conventional consumer marketing automation products, which provide similar campaign management abilities but lack the CDPs’ database flexibility, database management, and customer matching features.
• Audience management. These systems build a database of customers and their responses to online display advertisements. They then build models that predict the customers’ probability of responding to future advertisements and provide recommendations for how much to bid and which content to display. These systems perform the same basic functions as standard online audience management systems (Data Management Platforms, or DMPs) and provide the same very quick responses needed for real time bidding (usually under 100 milliseconds). The major difference is that they also recommend messages in other channels, such as Web site personalization or email campaigns. Like DMPs, they work primarily at the Web cookie level, can link cookies known to relate to the same customer, and can be linked to actual customer names and addresses in external systems. This group includes IgnitionOne, [x+1], and Knotice.
This group overlaps with recommendation and ad targeting engines and DMP systems. Those products provide similar functions but do not track identified individuals and are often limited to single channel executions.
Given that each of these groups addresses a very different business need, you might wonder why I think they should all be lumped together under the CDP label. Quite simply, it’s because they are all addressing a portion of the same larger problem, which is how marketers can get a complete view of their customers and use that view to coordinate treatments across channels. What marketers truly need is a combination of the features from each group: data enhancement from external sources, for consumers as well as B2B; sophisticated customer matching and treatment selection; and integration of online advertising audiences with traditional customer databases. Each of these systems has the potential to grow into a complete solution, and the normal dynamics of software industry growth will push them towards pursuing that potential. So I expect the categories to overlap increasingly over the next few years and eventually merge into complete Customer Data Platforms as I envision them.
Incidentally and tangentially related: I’ll be giving a Webinar with ReachForce on October 2 on Data Quality for Hipsters, a name that started as a joke but does make the point that data quality is essential for cutting-edge marketing. YOLO, so you might as well attend. I’m already working on the mustache.