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Should your view of the customer be singular or plural?

By Benjamin Bloom | March 25, 2019 | 0 Comments

MarketingData and AnalyticsDemand Generation and Sales EnablementTechnology and Emerging Trends

Here’s a game you can play with your family on the next game night.  Ask them what a CDP is! You can tell them it’s something everyone at work is talking about, and that it is supposed to be really important.  My guess is, your family won’t say, “it’s what CRM systems were supposed to be”  – despite the marketers and analysts who may say so.


I doubt they will say, “CDP – doesn’t that stand for  Customer Data Proficiency, a topic you will be covering at Gartner’s Marketing Symposium in April 2019?” Why yes, yes it is.  If your family volunteers something about a marketer-managed solution to collect, unify, segment and activate customer data, then your family probably needs a vacation.


Our clients say that collecting and unifying customer data is a tremendous technical challenge, and the skills needed to leverage that data are also in short supply.  For all of the ways that new technology and devices have made it easier for marketers and customers to connect, the “single view of the customer” has become more elusive, as well as less and less practical.   


Systems like customer data platforms and tag management solutions are part of a very specific martech trope, in which marketing teams first seek to do something new, feel stymied by inflexible data or interminable queues for internal development resources, and finally turn to external vendors.  CRM solutions are often a culprit – containing plenty of valuable and verified customer information, but lacking the big data architecture needed to support the collection of real-time clickstream data from the web, mobile, and other digital channels. By recognizing these limitations, or struggling to outgrow them, marketers aren’t using just one solution.


Instead of expecting a customer data panacea, recognize the prevalence of customer data plurality: the right data for the right use case to make an impact on your business. Forty-five percent of respondents to Gartner’s 2019 Multichannel Marketing Survey use their CRM application for customer data collection and aggregation. However, over 40% of respondents report using CDPs, DMPs, customer identity and access management (CIAM) tools and multichannel marketing platforms for the same function.  


As marketers grapple with the challenge of aligning their technology strategy to support the business, CRM must evolve. Salesforce joined Adobe and Oracle in announcing that a customer data layer will become part of their integrated suite offering for marketers (see Align Your Customer Data Strategy With Your Marketing Technology Strategy Gartner subscription required).  


In our 2018 Marketing Technology Survey, we asked survey respondents who had fully deployed or were in the process of deploying a CDP about the vendors they were using for this technology category. In line with our finding that marketers conflate CDP with CRM, 11% reported that Salesforce was their CDP vendor of choice (see Survey Analysis: Distilling Marketer Adoption, Views and Misperceptions of Customer Data Platforms Gartner subscription required). A Salesforce CDP might better connect the data that enterprises have in their CRM and other martech solutions, and help CRM evolve to where it needs to be.  If successful, customer data platform vendors will need to establish new differentiators besides mudslinging at legacy solutions.


I’m hopeful that both Integrated Suite and best of breed approaches can yield results.  One thing CRM and CDP do share are that they both start with the word customer. Whether looking to increase engagement or produce insights, focusing on how your technology will benefit the customer and your business is the right approach.

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