What a Data Management Platform Is… and Is Not

Frequently, we are asked if Signal’s marketing technology is a data management platform (DMP). It’s not. But we understand the confusion.

As a data onboarding solution and identity resolution platform, Signal does manage data. Yet how we do it and what we do with it are very different than a DMP.

Here, we clear it all up. Because while it’s important to understand how each technology is powerful in its own right, it’s equally important to understand how these different solutions can work together to create more impactful marketing.

What is a Data Management Platform (DMP)?

A DMP, in its most basic sense, is a software system that gathers, sorts and stores information in one centralized location for data-driven advertising. Using a DMP, marketers can leverage combinations of first-, second- and third-party data to build audience segments, target them across marketing channels and measure campaign performance. DMPs are designed to help brands discover more about customer segments, not individuals, to create lookalike audiences, inform acquisition strategies and increase scale.

DMPs: The Audience Builders

Primarily, DMPs manage online audience data, relying on anonymous cookie-based identifiers to build customer profiles. To match and activate these profiles in digital media, they partner with one or multiple demand-side platforms (DSPs), each offering its own set of customer identifiers to match against.

In order to add a brand’s offline data (such as CRM, point-of-sale or loyalty program information) to the mix, a DMP must partner with a secondary vendor for data onboarding — the technical process of uploading offline customer data to the online environment to match with digital identifiers. This is where a solution like Signal’s comes into play — and where data-driven strategies begin to evolve into identity-based marketing.

Data Onboarders: The Matchmakers

As the foundational first step to customer identity resolution, data onboarding is baked into Signal’s platform. Yet because resolving customer identity is our endgame, our onboarding process operates differently than that of traditional third-party data onboarding vendors.

Typically, data onboarders process customer data in batch files, a five-to-seven-day process that involves uploading specific groups of data files, matching them against digital identities and pushing out customer profiles. Any data that is not matched to a customer during the initial batch upload disappears, and any customer activity that takes place afterward is not recorded. So while data onboarders often boast high match rates, incomplete and days-old data sets mean that their addressability rate — the metric calculating an onboarder’s ability to accurately recognize, reach and engage individuals across channels — is actually quite low.

Solving for standard onboarders’ lack of addressability, Signal continuously onboards data as new information emerges, refreshing data sets as customers enter or leave the system. To put this in context: our data onboarding solution can onboard and activate one million customer profiles in one minute. With an addressability rate equal to our match rate, we ensure brands reach the right customer at the right touchpoint.

Identity Resolution Platforms: The People Pleasers

While continuous data onboarding is absolutely necessary for resolving customer identity, it alone does not tie back all of a brand’s data to an actual person. Which leads us to the heart of Signal’s solution: the Customer Identity Platform.

Many customer identity solutions use probabilistic data (like IP address, device type, browser type, location or operating system) to create highly likely statistical connections between identifiers and achieve greater scale. But due to the transient nature of these identifiers, often more than half are expired, duplicative or incomplete, hinging customer identity on a guess.

Signal’s Customer Identity Platform, on the other hand, connects a brand’s offline and online identifiers to persistent customer profiles that are rooted in 100 percent deterministic and authenticated data, such as a hashed email addresses or anonymous login information that require users to “authenticate” their identity. By basing customer profiles in persistent, deterministic data that is continually refreshed with each new interaction, Signal ensures brands know precisely who they can address and on what channels.

DMPs and Signal: The Power Partners

Considering marketers’ rapid adoption of DMPs over the past few years, odds are your brand uses one. Equally likely, you’re not tapping into its full potential.

By adding continuous onboarding and identity resolution capabilities to your marketing stack, you can elevate the performance of your DMP and your marketing efforts. Here are four ways how:

1. Increase 1:1, real-time customer connections.
Your DMP collects and stores loads of data. With real-time data onboarding and identity resolution, brands can tie back all of this data to individual profiles and activate them in the moment. And by combining Signal’s additional integrations to a DMP, brands can increase their reach using the same identity asset across multiple systems.

2. Deepen insights and analytics.
No doubt you appreciate how your DMP manages and presents audience data and campaign activity at the segment level. But what’s even better is understanding your data and marketing performance at a person-based level. By continually onboarding customer data and resolving identities in real time, Signal helps brands build richer, fresher and more accurate people-based insights, so they can optimize campaigns and strategize more impactful marketing.

3. Build more high-value customers.
You already have great customers. Why not find more just like them? Whereas DMPs have historically built lookalike audiences using basic demographic data and limited attributes, marketers who incorporate continuous data onboarding and identity resolution can add up-to-the minute online search and behavioral data, as well as offline data, to create more complete profiles. This allows brands to use what they know about high-value customers to build larger, more relevant identity-based audiences that look just like them.

4. Ensure data governance.
Your DMP stores one thing your competitors can’t touch: your first-party customer data. But when working with third-party onboarders, many vendors modify your data for use within their solution, in turn enhancing their own data network. Signal’s onboarding solution, however, provides a closed environment throughout the entire onboarding process, ensuring brands maintain sole ownership and control of their customer data.

Without question, the digital footprints consumers leave are massive, and DMPs are well-equipped to keep pace. But only by connecting this online knowledge with real-world data can marketers gain the holistic understanding necessary to relevantly engage existing customers and, potentially, many more like them.

Sure, in the past, the task of merging offline and online data has been cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive, to say the least. But with the evolution of continuous onboarding and identity resolution technology, it is now possible to link CRM, point-of-sale and even call center data to digital identifiers in real time with one turnkey solution.

When it comes to understanding DMPs and Signal, it’s not a matter of using one or the other. It’s realizing how they can work even better together.