The competitive nature of omnichannel marketing in the digital era means that marketers are constantly adapting and innovating in response to changing trends. When a new channel or technology emerges, marketers need to be quick to explore its potential for customer engagement. Customer data platforms, or CDPs, have been around for a while, and its popularity skyrocketed in 2018, when every marketer was scrambling to implement CDPs in the hopes that it would finally help them maximize their omnichannel strategy.

The problem with the CDP space is there is a gap between marketers’ expectations and what CDPs can actually deliver. So, let’s clear the air.

There are four primary areas within which CDPs operate:

  • Data: As its name suggests, CDPs were primarily designed with the purpose of collecting and storing data from multiple sources and systems. Data unification is only the first step of an effective marketing strategy—marketers need to be able to make that data actionable, too.
  • Engagement: CDPs can then leverage aggregated data to inform customer engagement efforts, ensuring effectively personalized messaging across touchpoints. Determining the right message for each customer is an essential capability that many marketers struggle with.
  • Measurement: Some CDPs come with measurement systems that help marketers assess campaign performance through attribution and analytics dashboards. These systems enable marketers to identify which of their engagement channels are driving results.
  • Campaign Management: Lastly, some CDPs offer marketing automation, with customer engagement managed and measured from a single platform.

The truth is, while CDPs sound excellent in theory, the category has become so diluted and vague that very few so-called CDPs actually deliver what they purport to offer. As IgnitionOne COO Christopher Hansen says, “To achieve all the promises of a CDP, you would have to work with multiple CDP companies to succeed. The category has become an oversimplification of a bunch of companies that handle various marketer needs around customer data, but none live up to the hype.”

CDPs are limited in that they are almost universally focused on collecting first-party data for direct marketing use cases. Moreover, their principal focus is on “known” customers—that is, customers that a B2B marketer would normally find housed within a CRM system—into which their existing campaign management software (such as their email service provider) presumably integrates.

For many B2B marketers, the challenge isn’t marketing to their known customers—it’s discovering customers that they don’t know. Marketers have long sought to communicate with prospective customers with personalized conversations that generate leads. For these efforts, it is a much better investment to implement tools that can find these unknown customers and enable personalized messaging across email and website, as well as paid media channels. Rather than implementing a CDP—trendy as they are right now—marketers should invest in a platform that enables omnichannel personalization without having to rely on an existing customer file.

That’s the power of a Customer Intelligence Platform. A CIP combines the capabilities of CDPs—data unification, personalization, measurement and attribution, and campaign management—as well as additional capabilities that maximize reach and performance. With a CIP, marketers can leverage advanced data modeling algorithms to identify and engage with potential customers based on known attributes of existing customers. A CIP gathers real-time insights into each customer’s level of engagement, products of interest, likelihood to convert, relationship with your brand, and more—and leverages these insights to deliver personalized messaging across channels to boost customer engagement. Moreover, a CIP has identity resolution capabilities that recognize each customer as the same individual across channels and devices, so marketers can ensure consistent messaging through the customer journey. Not only can a CIP deliver omnichannel engagement from a single platform, it also enables omnichannel attribution, so marketers can identify the exact impression that drives a customer to conversion; this granular level of understanding enables marketers to build a more effective, efficient strategy.

CDPs have received a lot of hype in the industry, but we’re predicting the rise of the CIP in 2019. Marketers who work with a CIP are already enjoying unprecedented success in their digital marketing initiatives.

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