Knowledge of the customer is a top priority for marketing organizations. Our recent survey data demonstrates that CMOs are continuing to invest in customer retention and growth, with spending on existing customers outpacing that of new customer acquisition.  Customer analytics is a top priority for CMOs as they seek to inform these decisions.

To manage customer data and analyze it, marketers historically made do with systems built or deployed for them by IT, such as CRM systems and data warehouses. As enhancing the customer experience became a business focus across the organization, big data projects were launched to support deeper customer understanding and more targeted marketing.

Campaign management tools fit the bill for some, but as marketers demand more control, flexibility, analysis capabilities, and platform openness, these legacy systems begin to show their limitations. Marketers are ripe with discontent, which paves the way for a “shiny new thing” in the marketing data and analytics technology category — the Customer Data Platform (or CDP for short).

What is a Customer Data Platform? A CDP is a marketing system that unifies a company’s customer data from marketing and other channels to enable customer modeling and optimize the timing and targeting of messages and offers.

The CDP has piqued industry interest. In 2017, Gartner client inquiries about them quadrupled over the previous year, with marketers looking to understand what they do, what they don’t do, and whether or not they really need one.

Sometimes, it seems like the CDP category sprung up overnight. In fact, some CDPs evolved from a variety of mature markets, such as multichannel campaign management, tag management and data integration. Other pure-play, purpose-built CDPs have also launched to capitalize on investor fervor and martech spending.

Trying to make sense of this space, we asked: “Is the CDP a new technology market, or a convenient repackaging of features that have long existed across various alternatives in the marketing technology stack?”

In our recently published research, “A Marketer’s Guide to What Is – and Isn’t – a Customer Data Platform,” we  explore the answer to that question.

The new research seeks to demystify the CDP category, analyze the set of core features the market has generally converged on, and draw a distinction between CDPs and ten other neighboring technology categories. Finally, it provides a decision tree framework for determining how to get value out of your huge investment in both customer data and technology. Let us know what you think.

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