A famous American novelist once opined that a sign of intelligence is the ability to hold two apparently opposing thoughts in mind. Well, I'm no F. Scott Fitzgerald, but lately I've been having a lot of apparently opposing beliefs about the Customer Data Platform (CDP) marketplace. Specifically:
- Enterprise customers should carefully assess the implications of working within a somewhat immature marketplace, but
- Enterprise customers should not heavily favor CDP solutions from big-name vendors out of fear of long-term viability concerns
I believe so strongly in the latter point that I penned a blog on LinkedIn about it, in the context of a vendor collapse in an otherwise expanding market. Nevertheless, there's still ample evidence that indie CDP vendors still have a lot of growing up to do.
Case in point: a single day last week brought a trio of interesting CDP vendor blurbs via David Raab's excellent CDP Institute newsletter, that taken together suggest a marketplace still growing up.
The December 5 edition summarized press releases from CDP vendors Lytics, mParticle, and Amperity. Let's look at each in turn.
Lytics is repackaging how they sell their otherwise somewhat bloated offering: separating data management from analytics from activation — all now for purchase separately. (They also sell orchestration separately, but you probably don't want to buy that and should instead look at a formal JOE platform.) In general this is a good thing and reflects the growing width of services in the CDP space, many of them impinging on capabilities you may have already licensed everywhere. The savvy enterprise buyer avoids these overlaps.
In some cases, this has even meant an enterprise licensing two different CDPs to perform different functions. I don't necessarily recommend that, but you'll know the CDP marketplace has fully matured when a majority of the vendors will give you real choices to set clear boundaries about what you want and don't want from their CDP.
mParticle announced the release of a "Profile API." You can query your data store via HTTP and get individual records. Pro tip: this should be table stakes for any CDP that purports to support personalization rather than just segmentation.
Amperity now allows licensees to access a sandbox environment to perform development, QA, and testing of various changes. The fact that this is newsworthy tells you how rare this capability remains in the CDP marketplace. I've listened, dumbfounded, during CDP sales demos where the vendor rep pretty much tells you to make all your changes in production. Or perhaps offer a "live / not live" toggle for certain features and segments.
What mature software vendors provide is separate instances where the enterprise can develop, test, and push changes live, in an organized way. Digital marketing needs to be fast, but not the Wild West.
What You Should Do
Here's how you should resolve this Fitzgeraldian paradox. You should remain optimistic about the promise of CDP technology, but skeptical about vendor and product maturity. Test carefully before you license, and test more before you deploy.