Every year or two we have seen a new technology concept emerge we’re told our organisation simply cannot do without. While sometimes it can seem like a dog chasing its tail, this phenomenon is no surprise considering the increasing expectations we all have as customers, paired with the continued need for organisations to optimise operations. Technology concepts looking to address these needs often come in funky three letter acronyms – CMS, CRM, DMP, DSP, DAM…– and CDP is no exception here. Customer Data Platforms (CDP) follow the concept of ingesting data from multiple sources (including the ones you have invested in so far) to form a unified customer profile, enabling segmentation based on these combined data points and pushing out to various destinations for activation. There are several vendors out there to choose from and it is a matter of finding the one that will best address your needs.
Why do you need one in the first place?
While CDP is considered the latest “must have” to meet your customers’ expectations as well as run a profitable business, it is worthwhile evaluating whether you really do need one. Perhaps improving the integrations between other systems – marketing automation, data management platform, onsite analytics, point of sale etc – could achieve similar outcomes. However, this could lead to a setup that is complex to operate, making a purpose-built Customer Data Platform (CDP) seem as a more optimal approach.
Typical use cases leading to CDP are around building a unified customer profile from various data sources where instead of needing a single key to join them all the CDP can use multiple values across the different fragments to form a unified profile cluster. Another bonus of CDP is that they are designed to ingest and combine data from both online and offline sources. The ability to build customer segments based on the data combined from varied sources and activate (or supress) across all relevant channels (display, social, email, onsite personalisation, POS etc.) in one platform provides some powerful optimisation capabilities.
You cannot lose, they all are the best for you.
When approaching CDP vendors, you may find they are all delighted to hear how relevant YOUR particular use cases are in relation to THEIR platform.
It may seem difficult to differentiate the offerings at first, but you will soon realise all vendors have strengths in particular areas and less so in others. It becomes a matter of identifying which areas have more weight for your organisation than others.
Unified Profile – All CDP vendors offer a unified profile function as it is the centrepiece of the whole concept. There are some variances on what is available to view or attach to the profile. But it is worth keeping in mind that, unless you have a use case for feeding the single profile views into other systems (e.g. customer service or point of sale), the capabilities around segmenting these unified profiles may be more important than viewing the precise itemised data.
Integrations – While all vendors are likely to have native integrations developed for connecting to other business systems, some have invested more into this space than others. If a vendor does not list your particular sources or destinations among their integrations, it is pivotal to query what would be their approach for addressing this.
Segmenting and real time targeting – This is the area where the CDPs tend to differ quite a lot in terms of logic, functionality and interface. Some have great query builder functionality to formulate the segments based on attributes as well as online and offline interactions. Others have developed good capabilities around real time targeting based on incoming events. In most cases you would want to ensure that there are decent possibilities for both batch segment pushes as well as real time journeys.
Wasn’t the CDP going do that?
There is a big variance in CDP providers when it comes to reporting and insights. Pretty much all of them offer the capability to export the unified data back out to be analysed deeper using Power BI, Tableau or the likes. This really is great if your data science and business intelligence teams have the capacity to generate insights, build dashboards and develop models for the CDP data. However, in many organisations those teams are already carrying a huge weight and there is a need for more self-efficient way for generating insights and analysis to inform marketing decisions. If that is the case in your organisation then you might want to choose a platform that has good capabilities for generating reports, visualising results and tracking cohorts. Many vendors also cater for either developing AI models in platform or importing them from external sources.
Take a step back and reflect
When choosing a vendor, price is an important factor, but it should be measured in proportion to the capability you require. Develop a score card covering the core concepts and functions that are important to your organisation so you can evaluate them against each vendor. In addition to this, take into consideration the potential partnership dynamics such as training and enablement frameworks or existing vendor relations. This should give you fairly straight forward formula for narrowing down to the preferred vendor(s).