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Earlier this month, Adobe rolled out a customer data platform (CDP) built from the ground up, with first-party data in mind. Aptly named Adobe Real-time CDP, the platform promises to help brands navigate a brave new cookie-less world, where third-party data is no longer cash cow or king. Salesforce also just re-launched its Customer Data Platform with new innovations, joining not just Adobe and Salesforce, but Microsoft, Oracle, Twilio, and other business applications, analytics, and communications leaders in their endeavors to build the best mousetrap to enable brands to get closer to their customers—all of which have some, if not substantial focus on doing more with first-party data.
Before we get too deep into the capabilities of Adobe Real-time CDP or any other data platforms out there, I want to say this: it’s less important for your company to (immediately) purchase a first-party CDP than it is for you to begin shifting to a first-party data strategy. Whether you do that by building your own Customer Data Platform, adjusting the Customer Data Platform you currently manage, or investing in a new first-party centered CDP like Adobe Real-Time—it doesn’t really matter. There will always be advantages and disadvantages to each. The emphasis here is on first-party data management and how to make it work for you.
To better understand the aggressive pivot to first-party data, it makes sense to look closer at the Adobe announcement and some of the specific capabilities being developed for first-party data. The solution looks promising out of the box due to the fact that it is first-party data native and some of the key capabilities identified include:
- Helping users make the most of the data that customers choose to share, connecting points behind the scenes to help you build profiles based on the information you have available.
- Enabling enterprise customers to pinpoint the “right time” to ask for data from a customer to ensure that they feel comfortable providing it (Adobe Target)
- Supporting user requirements to adhere to governance policies, which will build trust and loyalty among customers
- Allowing customers to partner with other similar companies to build out customer profiles through a feature called Segment Match
This last feature is one of the most interesting, and likely a trend we’ll be starting to see as cookies and other third-party data become less and less reliable. What we’re going to be seeing is companies finding more creative and “acceptable” ways of mining the data they need to provide their customers the experiences they wish to have. This could mean “partnering” with other companies to share data (which, to me, is remarkably similar to using third-party data) or creating these “digital twin” type profiles that allow brands to build-out customer silhouettes based on other profiles that currently exist. It’s a strange space where we’ll be seeing AI and machine learning doing a lot of heavy lifting in determining the “most likely” attributes of potential customers, to be sure.
To be absolutely clear, Adobe is not the only company jumping on the first-party data bandwagon but given the recent announcement it served as a good example to elaborate upon enterprises at various stages of consideration and implementation of a CDP. As I mentioned, companies like Segment, Treasure Data, Salesforce, Oracle, and Microsoft, are just some of the enterprise software vendors jumping into the mix too.
As we see greater emphasis on privacy through Apple’s IDFA update, GDPR, and other increasingly fierce state-level data protection laws, we’re going to see proactive companies up their CDP and Data investments, while laggards will be left to panic-shop for new ways to gain insights about their users, and there are numerous options—none necessarily any better or worse than the other—to help. For instance, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Insights is also helping companies develop new ways to leverage insights through customer match targeting. Salesforce is offering a similar capability as well. Again—we’re seeing an emphasis on filling in the blanks that third-party data used to fill using AI, ML, and other tech. It’s an exciting shift and one that could allow brands to continue to deliver incredibly rich and meaningful content with less infringement of user data.
Again, I say all of this with one important caveat: it won’t matter what type of CDP you have if you don’t have a data strategy in place. Shifting to a first-party data strategy means changing how you look at data collection and use altogether. No matter which CDP vendor you choose—consider the following:
Get creative in registering your customers. Rather than slamming them with a pop-up as soon as they get to your site, consider better timing for requesting information and offer other ways to share it, for instance a free download.
Invest in your CDP—not just with money, but with time and clear goals. Your CDP can’t just be a receptacle for your data. It needs to be a living, breathing part of your business strategy. If you aren’t going to constantly refine, focus, and fine-tune your data strategy, don’t bother investing in a CDP—first-party or otherwise.
Re-think what you can learn from your data. Try out new content, games, or loyalty programs and track how they do with your customers. You’d be surprised what you can learn from people when you give them new opportunities to interact with you.
In the end, a company without a clear data strategy won’t go very far in the current marketplace. Shifting your focus to first-party data collection and building or purchasing a strong CDP that can support that focus will go a long way in creating a rich customer experience—and a rich business.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.