Sometimes, it feels like everyone and their mother claims to either be a customer data platform or have CDP-like capabilities, from indie startups to the major marketing cloud providers.
But choosing the right provider is only half the battle. Marketers learned their lesson, often the hard way, back during the DMP days that mar tech isn’t “set it and forget it.” Similarly, CDPs require ongoing management.
Acxiom, which manages customer data for more than 200 large brands, sees an opportunity to help clients figure out the overwhelming CDP landscape. Earlier this month, it launched services and integrations with CDP providers, including Tealium and Treasure Data in the United States, and Exponium and Boxever in Europe.
“Acxiom has been managing customer data on behalf of clients for a long time,” said Chief Strategy Officer David Skinner. “The world of data and identity management, and all the heavy lifting that goes with it, isn’t going anywhere.”
When helping clients choose a CDP, Acxiom looks for enterprise partners that have overlap with its own client base, as well as strong data stewardship and privacy controls. Acxiom also lends a hand with CDP deployment and management, and offers ongoing measurement and analytics.
“Wading through reality vs. promise is an ongoing task,” Skinner said.
Acxiom is currently managing CDPs for 15% of its clients and is in the midst of roughly 40 active discussions with prospects, Skinner said. Its services are available directly through Acxiom as well as via ConneCXions, a suite of Acxiom solutions and software applications for parent company IPG’s clients.
Skinner spoke with AdExchanger.
AdExchanger: The CDP category is complex and not well defined. How do you help clients weed out the noise?
DAVID SKINNER: Working with first-party data is foundational. The CDP has to be able to manage first-party data and PII, because that’s what distinguishes it from a DMP.
The leading CDPs have built hundreds or thousands of integrations, [which is not] an area Acxiom is not investing in. We’re looking to push data into platforms with prebuilt integrations. Finally, we look for the ability to export segments and get real-time signals back.
Site personalization, email and paid ads are less important to us, because there are a lot of strong products [in the market].
What specific solutions do you offer related to CDPs?
[It starts with] helping clients select a CDP. If they’ve already selected one, we lay out a road map for use cases. How specifically does the brand want to use the CDP in the marketing lifecycle?
The second set of services is around implementation and stand up. In many cases, we’re managing a large, complex data environment on behalf of a client. A telco provider, for example, may have 80 million customers and lots of regulation around what it can do with that data.
Finally, we do ongoing optimization, operations and management. Once a CDP is launched, clients want the real-time data signals [to which] it’s exposed to flow back into enterprise and cross-channel measurement. They want propensity models flowing into the CDP for site personalization and email campaigns. We offer real-time data integration and the services around that, such as segmentation, modeling and measurement.
How do your clients use CDPs?
For acquisition [use cases], we help them build propensities for acquiring new customers most likely to respond to their offers. We use a combination of customer data and third-party data, which we can supply through our InfoBase data product. Someone in market for a product can deliver up to 140% greater ROI than the general marketplace.
We also do data enhancement. Let’s say you sell men’s clothes direct-to-consumer. You know what your customers buy and where they live, but you may not know that they’re also a business traveler or they rent their home vs. own it. These are the signals Acxiom can append to give a more complete view of the customer.
What analytics capabilities do you offer around CDPs?
At the highest level, we’re measuring ROI for marketing across all channels. But we also do campaign measurement to optimize performance. Is campaign A performing better than campaign B or C?
CDPs have great signals around website interactions and email behavior. We feed that into the customer measurement view to see what folks responded to offline against in-store transaction data. For customers that have worked with Acxiom for a long time, we measure lifetime value to drive upstream marketing decisions.
How long does it take to onboard a client to a CDP?
It depends where they are in their lifecycle. Selection and use case development tends to take between eight and 16 weeks. Implementation is another three to five months on average. The ongoing management tends to be multiyear engagements.
Are marketers getting value out of CDPs?
We see CDPs as the next wave of enterprise software. Brands learned from the DMP that you can’t just turn it on and expect results. You need to have a strategy, test use cases and provide ongoing feeding and care. The CDP is similar.
There is cutting-edge software in the market, but it does require heavy lifting to get the data into the platform and to manage campaigns. None of the platforms come with data.
What are the pros and cons of working with an indie CDP as opposed to a marketing cloud?
The marketing clouds have built multibillion-dollar businesses that allow for applications in the cloud. The next trend is moving data into the cloud.
They launched CDPs after startups entered the space, but they’re credible players. A lot of marketers want a single, integrated stack, [because] they’ve already made investments in these companies, and that’s where they feel best about making investments.
But I think there’s room for both.
This interview has been edited and condensed.