Marketing Data Platforms - Part 2

In Part One of our look at the data technology required to support modern customer experience programmes, we looked at the compromises marketers have to make if their marketing data is stored within a centralised System of Record (SoR). In this concluding part, we look at the different platforms that need to work together in a typical enterprise marketing technology stack, and what roles they can play in mastering the data that drives customer engagement.

A complex and ever-shifting landscape

The marketing technology landscape can be challenging to understand, even for the most technical of marketers. A wide range of platforms and tools typically come together to handle data from a variety of sources and deliver it to end systems - with the goal of driving personalised, relevant customer experiences. 

Some of the key components include:

  • Programmatic advertising platforms and networks that leverage data to target ads to publisher display, mobile and video unit inventory. These platforms include ad networks, ad exchanges, Supply Side Platforms (SSPs) and Demand Side Platforms (DSPs).

  • Tag management platforms that enable the tracking of user behaviour on web and mobile, and retargeting platforms that leverage these tags to target users with ads based on their previous browsing behaviour.

  • Direct marketing platforms and multichannel marketing tools that deliver email, SMS and other types of message directly to customers based upon segmentation and behavioural data.

  • Web personalisation solutions that enable marketers to test, vary and optimise the content that users are served on web and mobile based on a variety of behavioural, geographical and custom information.

  • Data Management Platforms and Customer Data Platforms that look to unify, transform and enrich data from multiple sources and then use it to power more targeted end experiences through marketing delivery platforms.

In addition to the sheer number of different tools and platforms available to marketers, an additional complication is the constant evolution and merging of these technologies. As Advertising Technology (AdTech) and Marketing Technology (MarTech) evolve, there are increasing areas of cross-over of capability between platforms, making it difficult for marketers to understand where individual platforms fit into the overall ecosystem.

Data Management Platforms (DMPs) and Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) are currently receiving a lot of attention from technical marketers due to their potential to act as a single, consistent source of data to power the many end systems that are involved in delivering modern customer experiences.

What’s the difference between a DMP and a CDP?

The biggest difference between DMPs and CDPs lies in how they manage data. DMPs deal in audiences, delivering enhanced insight for marketers so they can target their ads better. They leverage almost exclusively anonymised data – cookies, IP addresses and tags – and are focussed upon improving buying efficiency in programmatic media. By contrast, CDPs have a much broader focus, looking to integrate and transform data for use across the marketing spectrum. They also deal in both anonymised and Personally Identifiable Information (PII), enabling marketers to deliver campaigns that are truly personalised and highly relevant.

So, I don’t have a CDP - can I use a DMP as my marketing data platform?

DMPs were the first data platforms to be owned by the marketing department outside of the overall enterprise data stack after web analytics. DMPs sit in the intersection between web analytics, programmatic Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) and web personalisation tools to optimise the delivery of paid media and personalised web content. 

They are optimised to store online visitor traits (behavioural and derived) from web analytics data and enable their usage in the segmentation of those visitors into trait-based audiences that can be shared with Demand Side Platform (DSPs) or web personalisation tools. They can deliver real benefits to marketing programmes through optimisation of paid media spend and targeting.

However, DMPs are usually Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings and prohibit their users from uploading certain types of data, including PII like customer names and email addresses. They also have limited integrations beyond the programmatic media ecosystem and web personalisation tools. They often have little to no flexibility in their data models, which means that they aren’t an ideal candidate to act as centralised platforms for marketing data.

DMPs have the scalability required but are too inflexible to be able to operate across the whole marketing spectrum.

What about CRM platforms?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are a key part of any enterprise technology stack. They are typically the master store of all customer interactions and are used to inform and drive sales and ongoing customer/account management processes. There are very few enterprises that can operate today without a well set up and customised CRM system. 

However, because enterprise CRM deployments are often so customised, they quickly become almost like in-house developed applications that require dedicated teams or service relationships to maintain. This is especially true in heavily regulated industries where the processes enforced in the CRM must not be affected by any change, as doing so can lead to significant penalties.

In these regulated industries, most CRMs end up being Systems of Record (SoR) because it is important to retain a complete record of all customer interactions with the business. This means that there is a justifiable reluctance to change CRM systems once deployed in order to minimise the risk of critical data being affected.  

CRMs have the required flexibility, but the cost of change is too high for them operate as true marketing data platforms.

So, what is the answer?

In short, the answer for enterprise marketers is to have a dedicated Customer Data Platform (CDP) with the specific capabilities required to power a modern digital customer experience programme. Though this platform can be administered by the IT department, it should be owned by the Marketing department, and it should be marketers that decide what data should go into it and how it should be used. 

The characteristics of a good enterprise CDP are:

  • Flexibility: it should be quick to add, remove or modify data, sources and channels - either directly or through a managed service.

  • Marketing-optimised integration: it should be able to feed its data to other marketing platforms in a way that will make using that data as easy as possible.

  • Scalability: it should be able to scale up and down to meet the fluctuating demands of marketing with little to no penalty for doing so.

  • More a ‘gated community’ than a ‘walled garden’: marketers need to be permissive with data that they get from 2nd and 3rd parties so that they can drive relevant experiences. Therefore, it should be relatively quick and easy to add and remove external data sources to and from the platform once required approvals have been obtained.

  • Clear data ownership and control: ideally a CDP should be installed within the environment of the customer that owns the data - so that it is clear who ultimately owns and controls the data and under which legal jurisdiction. A good CDP vendor should provide services that enable their platform to be managed within the enterprise’s own IT environment. A CDP vendor should also never lock an enterprise to a particular marketing stack, as needs and relationships often change over time.

Damian Williams