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Software CDP features don't equate to CDP branding

While many tech companies have software with customer data platform attributes, some vendors, such as Salesforce and Oracle, don't put the CDP label on them.

As businesses strive to improve CX, they also aim to speed up the time it takes to handle customer interactions. Customers want a personalized experience online, and when dealing with contact center agents they don't want to wait for them to check multiple systems to solve a single problem.

By unifying customer records from multiple systems in real time, customer data platforms (CDPs) can make more accurate e-commerce purchasing recommendations and help service agents find solutions more quickly; but while many cloud applications that manage customer data have CDP features, some vendors aren't branding them as such.

What is a CDP, exactly?

Fundamentally, any system that uses persistent data from structured and unstructured sources to gain a 360-degree customer view is a CDP, said Daniel Newman, principal analyst at Futurum Research.

A CDP's function is to collect customer data into one system to create a golden record of the customer. It pulls information from multiple systems, including CRM, ERP, e-commerce, sales, service, marketing and local systems. While it isn't a replacement for an existing system of record, it is an extension.

It's a position issue more than a functional issue.
Gerry MurrayResearch director, IDC

CDPs represent a type of software, but not necessarily a specific product, said Gerry Murray, research director at IDC. Vendors want to make it clear that their product is more than just a system for marketers and really for the entire enterprise. CDPs, for example, could also be used in customer service interactions.

"It's a position issue more than a functional issue," Murray said.

The reason the CDP idea exists is because it takes too long to send multiple messages to different systems and then respond to the customer, Murray said. It's not the only way to have a 360-degree view of the customer, but it's a way to reduce latency in the decision-making process and deliver content in real time to further the customer's journey.

CDP branding confusion

Salesforce, for example, rolled out a CDP in November called Customer 360 Truth; however, the CRM giant isn't branding it as such, as it is only one component of the new platform. Oracle did something similar with its own CDP -- CX Unity -- which it branded a "customer intelligence platform."

But large vendors aren't the only ones to put a different label on their products.

The Gladly platform enables travel, e-commerce, hospitality and retail businesses to have a single view of the customer and personalize CX across all channels of communication. But the vendor does not view itself as a CDP. The platform collects information from the same systems that a CDP would and has CDP-like features, but Gladly leadership sees the platform as being the system of record for customer service interactions that consumers have with a brand, said Mike McCarron, vice president of sales at Gladly.

"Gladly has given us a really useful overview of customer details," said Laurie Meacham, manager of customer commitment at JetBlue, one of Gladly's clients.

Meacham agreed that while the platform does have similar CDP features, the airline is not using it as such, but does have plans to implement a separate CDP. Through a partnership with Gladly, JetBlue is able to communicate with its customers via webchat, SMS messaging and in-app chat and personalize the experience.

"The decision by Gladly not to call its platform a CDP seems odd, but perhaps it is a strategy to avoid being grouped into the [CDP] category and being washed out," Newman said.

Another reason some software vendors choose not to call their platforms CDPs is because they could be gun-shy about the label, a potential negative in an era of increased consumer and regulatory scrutiny on privacy and data security, Newman said.

A CDP record could have vast amounts of data that, historically, would have taken several separate breaches or systems to encapsulate. Now, it can happen in one fell swoop.

"While one system of record creates less to secure, it does put all of the risk in one location," Newman said.

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