Who am I really marketing to? How CDPs and CIAM drive successful personalisation

A joined up, data-driven strategy is critical to boosting customer loyalty, and profitability; and data platforms (CDP) and CIAM (Customer Identity and Access Management) can play an important role.

Russell Loarridge, Director UK, ReachFive, looks at how marketers can better support and manage online and offline customer relationship building, sales and broader operations like product category management…

When faced with multiple marketing channels to be activated, ever-growing competition and increasingly fragmented buying paths, brands – especially retailers – need to do their best to stand out with relevant content and ultra-targeted messages. However, too often the corresponding and necessary customer data that is required to drive effective personalised marketing is divided across silos. These silos make it difficult for brands to form a true view of customers, upon which they can base marketing campaigns. 

Most marketers acknowledge this problem and recognise that information about their customers is scattered among different departments within their company, completely disconnected from each other. To make matters worse, this data is generally compartmentalised and unusable, and becomes obsolete very quickly. As obvious as it may sound, brands, therefore, need to work harder to improve how they manage data in order to support personalisation efforts more effectively. 

And it’s not just because this is best practice; consumers are actively crying out for this kind of targeted marketing to take place. 72 percent of consumers say they are ready to change brands after one bad marketing experience, highlighting why effective and accurate personalisation is crucial. But, how can brands improve personalisation and retain customer loyalty today? 

The CDP and importance of a clear vision for data

Developing a clear and shared vision of customer data across all marketing channels is a prerequisite for marketing innovation. But, reconciling this customer user data and activating it across the many marketing channels available these days is a real challenge. This is especially problematic when you consider that data needs to be gathered and interpreted from many different data sources in order to create effective customer engagement. 

Now, add in the fact that the majority of consumers buy products for people other than themselves (eg: children, partners, parents, and friends) at some point, if not regularly; will approach different product purchases with different motivations; and may abandon carts for different reasons at different times. What does your siloed, inaccessible data tell you about these scenarios? Is the identity of the shopper the same as the recipient? Was this a luxury purchase that was abandoned at the last minute because it just wasn’t necessary, or because the shopper found it elsewhere cheaper? Did something in your check out process put the purchaser off? How is your website collecting, storing and using data effectively in these scenarios?  

The challenge is complex and brands are, therefore, increasingly equipping themselves with Customer Data Platform (CDP) solutions to support capturing and organising data from multiple online and offline contact points in order to exploit it intelligently. For this technology to succeed, though, it must enable marketers to centralise data, remove duplicates and reconcile it effectively in order to strengthen knowledge about their customers for marketing. Ultimately, these platforms should create better personalised experiences, improve marketing campaign results and evolve product offerings. But, this is only possible if there is a clear and shared vision for data management within the organisation – one that joins up data silos to make insights truly actionable.

A complex reality – dealing with silo chaos

The reality is that in striving to set and execute this vision for data, many brands face what we call a ‘silos and chaos’ scenario. This is because most data processing within systems – eg: CDP, Data Management Platforms (DMP), ETL (Extract, Transform & Load) tools – is based on probabilistic reconciliation. Blocked by poor data quality, data warehousing and integration, systems cannot reconcile brand data without a lot of preparation work upstream (eg: data engineering). This process often requires heavy technological investments and only ensures an average reconciliation of 25 to 50 percent of the data. 

Deterministic matching, on the other hand, based on rich, verified and secure identity-based data can not only achieve 100 percent matching that supports marketing more effectively; but it also improves the quality of the data that feeds the personalisation algorithms. The customer data collection, cleansing and unification capabilities supported by advanced cloud-based customer identity and access management (CIAM) then enable companies to move to an optimal ‘silos and identity’ configuration for data management that helps marketers better understand who they market to. 

When CDP truly meets CIAM 

Looking again at the example of who is really visiting a brand’s website – what if that brand had CIAM in place? They’d be able to establish effectively who is visiting their site, for whom and why they are shopping, and to gather appropriate data to deliver personalised marketing effectively. During online shopping, a brand’s CDP typically centralises and stores transactional data from e-commerce and point-of-sale systems. But, it does not bring up information associated with customer identity. Without this missing piece of information, it can only deliver part of the value that data promises. Identity information – email, phone, social identity, loyalty ID – is the crucial variable for success here.

Moreover, one of the main challenges CDPs face is to be able to attach anonymous, cookie-based data to a known customer from the moment they create an account. CIAM, in contrast, collects zero- and first-party customer profile data, including communication preferences and consent. 

Added to this is the fact that we live in a world where consumers often move from one device to another. From the moment they hop from mobile phone to tablet, to computers, to connected TVs, it is essential that the message they receive can follow them wherever they go. CIAM reconciles all available data points for marketers to an identity, including those collected in first- and second-party scenarios. 

CIAM is a true complement to CDP. It makes it possible to manage identity and treat it as a data source, in the same way that purchasing or browsing behaviour are sources. It links all the data and allows the CDP to achieve its full potential by ensuring that all transactions and interactions are correctly linked to a customer's identity. Together they deliver and drive personalisation.


Complementing each other, CDP and CIAM technologies help brands to identify the customer across all touchpoints; and collect and leverage useful data associated with their identity. This combined approach to data management ensures better recommendations; contributes to the development of relevant offers and products; and provides real and necessary prerequisites for true personalisation. 

Beyond that, this type of joined-up, data-driven strategy is the critical component across the marketer’s entire business; because it helps organisations to support and manage online and offline customer relationship building, sales and broader operations like product category management – all for enhanced engagement, long-term loyalty and, ultimately, profitability.

By Russell Loarridge

Director UK