The vast majority of marketers are unhappy with their Customer Data Platforms, but then again, not many are sure what they really are

Only 10% of marketers to have bought into the first-generation of customer data platforms believe their purchases are fit for purpose with even less (1%) certain such technology will stand up to the requirements of tomorrow.

Despite 66% of marketers classifying CDPs as a “strategic priority” many find such technologies fall short of requirements with sources citing martech-providers’ self-certification, aided by confusion over the capabilities of such technologies, as the genesis of the problem.

The results are contained in a report released today from marketing technology provider Zeta Global and Forrester Consulting which also concluded that marketers believe that data management is the most important feature of such technologies, but they now require further capabilities.

For instance, they also require martech providers’ wares to analyze data and generate insights, tailor campaigns (including the ability to personalize messaging) and measure performance across channels according to the Forrester report commissioned by Zeta.

Zeta’s CTO and head of product Christian Monberg said the results demonstrated the growing gap between the promise, and performance, of most martech-providers’ offerings, a byproduct of complexities in the contemporary marketing landscape.

Forrester quizzed over 300 sources to generate the results with Monberg citing further studies that document how the average enterprise organization has more than two CDPs, a sign of how many organizations silo their data when they need to unify it.

If you bought one of those [CDPs], and you don’t know what to do with it, you’re going to be pretty unhappy.
Rob Webster, co-founder Canton Marketing Solutions

Monberg further recounted how much of the existing technologies that are popularly labeled as CDPs evolved from the tag management ecosystem and data management providers — the latter is a sector of the ecosystem threatened by the decline of third-party cookies.

“Anecdotally, what I hear from customers is [there are many] niche solution providers,” he added, “a marketing provider will try and solve one problem and take data from, say, Shopify and into Google Analytics, and that solution probably grew into the label of CDP.”

The evolution of the space has meant that many, both marketers and martech-providers, have assembled marketing clouds that now contain “a series of gaps” leading to dysfunctionality on such platforms.

“What we’re hearing from our customers is that RFPs [request for proposals] for CDPs are on the rise,” noted Monberg, adding that potential customers are increasingly asking for an integrated offering. “Every conversation turned into a joint marketing cloud and CDP conversation … people would come to us asking about email but then within two weeks, they’d come to us asking for an email plus CDP offering. So, it’s fairly obvious that you can’t really do your marketing without a centralized understanding [of the customer] full-stop.”

Privacy regulations fragment tech, spreading confusion

Robert Webster, co-founder of Canton Marketing Solutions, a consultancy that helps marketers better hone their online efforts, told Digiday a lot of the dissatisfaction stems from the investments of large marketing cloud providers in the early-to-mid 2010s.

However, a lot of these technologies have grown defunct because of evermore restrictive data privacy laws meaning technologies like DMPs are largely redundant, and the immediate substitute solutions on the market fall short of requirements.

Webster also pointed out that for most martech offerings to demonstrate value to a marketer, first-party data is required to fuel them, but not every brand possesses that luxury. “In the DMP-world, all you needed was a tag on a website, and off you’d go,” he said, “but with a CDP, if you haven’t got anybody signed up [with their registration data], then you can’t do much.”

He further cited skills shortages in areas such as advanced data analytics, or even sophisticated media buying techniques, across the industry as another crucial factor as to why so many marketers are frustrated by such technologies.

“This causes stress and confusion, you have over 100 CDPs out there, and they all have different claims, and they cost quite a lot of money,” explained Webster, adding that few CDPs on the market have customer support that is widely regarded as worthwhile. “And if you bought one of those, and you don’t know what to do with it, you’re going to be pretty unhappy.”

Few standards and not much communication

All sources consulted by Digiday spoke of widespread confusion over what exactly constitutes a CDP with many stating that martech vendors, be they simple providers of point-solutions or more comprehensive marketing cloud providers, capitalizing on this ignorance.

Tasso Argyros, CEO of ActionIQ, pointed out how the term “CDP means different things to different people” with some classifying “a data lake with customer data” in this category, while others would say a “fancy web tag manager” qualifies.

“The biggest reason CDP projects fail is lack of definition of what a CDP is and lack of clarity on requirements,” said Argyros in an emailed statement, adding that few vendors in the space can handle the sheer amount of data required to offer services that are fit for purpose.

He added, that it is “common knowledge in the industry” that many of the sector’s household names have been selling “CDP solutions” for years but that many of them are repurposed, incomplete technologies that “look great on slides but consistently miss customer expectations.”

Meanwhile, David Raab, founder of the CDP Institute, pointed out how his organization’s “RealCDP program,” which is subject to third-party verification, poses six criteria for vendors to meet before they can receive accreditation.

These include the ability to:

  • ingest data from any source
  • capture full detail of ingested data
  • store ingested data indefinitely (subject to privacy constraints)
  • create unified profiles of identified individuals
  • share data with any system that needs it
  • respond in real-time to new data and to profile requests

Speaking with Digiday, he said that many marketing teams can have such technologies foisted upon them from their peers in the IT, or even procurement department — an observation Zeta’s Monberg also noted — and that the subsequent communication and skills shortages can lead to shortfalls in execution and widespread frustration.

“Sometimes, it’s not the technology, it’s the implementation that goes wrong,” he said. “One thing that happens within organizations is that someone will get excited about CDPs and they’ll get a project team together and then go out and buy the thing. But if most of the people who are actually going to use the thing are not engaged in the project then they’re going to say, ‘What is this thing, I didn’t ask for it, and how am I supposed to use it?'”

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