How to Create a Shortlist for Your Customer Data Platform Vendor Selection

Are you considering a customer data platform (CDP) to drive an improved customer experience, but find that you’re overwhelmed with the list of vendors, technology terms and marketing promises? Ultimately your selection will be based on how well the CDP executes on your top use cases. Yet, jumping into the details of your use cases with numerous vendors takes far too much time.

Vendor selection for a CDP is a phased approach. There are a few questions that will quickly identify the CDP solutions that most closely match your key requirements and warrant a deeper dive. Once you’ve created a shortlist, you can investigate capabilities with more detailed criteria, specific to your use case.

David Raab of the CDP Institute recommends looking at CDP vendor capabilities within each of 3 categories: unify, analyze and engage. Unify is a great place to start since you’re looking for a single, complete view of your customer that will enable you to analyze and engage effectively. As a marketer, I find the category of unify to be the most challenging to understand. When I start reading about API queries, deterministic matching and schemaless ingestion, it becomes all too clear that a CDP vendor should handle the backend technology and enable me to focus on my business. This is also why the unify category surfaces as the most vital CDP capability to evaluate. That said, a unified view of your customer only becomes a corporate asset when that data becomes actionable in a timely way.

Here are four questions to consider early in the vendor selection process for an enterprise customer data platform.

  1. Can the CDP unite data from ALL your data sources?
    I’m not talking about going through an integration list. Some CDP systems work better with online or mobile data. Others come from the digital ad world and focus on cookies. Integrating with your custom loyalty application or uniting offline data such as from a physical store requires different expertise. The list goes on. Here is the critical point: A CDP vendor should be able to bring all your data sources together, regardless of data type, without the need for a lengthy IT project. This will shorten the list of CDP vendors significantly right off the bat.
  2. Can the CDP adapt to your business with the ability to customize features such as segmentation?
    A small or mid-sized company may be able to get away with standard templates. But for an enterprise or a company doing business at scale, the complexity in serving your customer requires a platform that can grow and adapt to your current — and future needs. Since customer segmentation drives personalized engagement across all your marketing campaigns, customizable and adaptable segmentation offers such great value that it should be considered as a must-have requirement.
  3. Does the CDP leverage machine learning?
    The ability to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning for predictive analysis and complex workflows also surfaces a vendor’s ability to meet your business needs. Check not only if the CDP offers machine learning, but also if machine learning expertise can be available to you with a friendly user interface (UI) that eliminates the need for specialized machine learning engineers or data scientists. If you seek to use a CDP as an asset to drive competitive advantage and future growth, add this capability as a selection criterion.
  4. Can the CDP perform at the scale you require?
    Think for a moment about the enormity of the data you’re trying to harness. This is probably, after all, one of the reasons you’re looking for a CDP in the first place. You don’t have to get into the tens of petabytes of data or the millions of events. Consider the number of customers you have and hope to have, the number of data sources you’re bringing together and the data intensity of your business. A gaming company, for example, generally wants to capture more data — data about how the games are played. A CDP vendor that lacks the capability to manage huge amounts of data will slow your business to a crawl and not allow for the growth you expect to handle. If you desire to personally engage your customers in real time, the scalability of the CDP is an easy way to rule a vendor in or out. Never underestimate the scale of your data needs in the near future, nor the ways you may hyper-personalize your customer interactions. You may not know exactly what or how you will do this, but with a CDP that is built for scale and allows for any manipulation of the data inside, you will be ready.

If your objective is to quickly pare down a long list of vendors into a shortlist, start first by seeing how vendors stack up to your needs around these four questions. Then do a deeper analysis of the features and capabilities you need to execute on your use cases. While there are many options out there, you’ll probably find only a handful will serve your needs, and grow with you over time.

Check out Treasure Data’s deep dive in this CDP Checklist for Marketing Analysts.

Rob Parrish
Rob Parrish
Rob Parrish is Director of Product Management at Treasure Data. Prior to Treasure Data, Rob worked most recently as a Data Scientist & Product Manager at Radius Intelligence focused on enabling predictive data products for SMB-focused marketing teams, and, at Nomis Solutions, helping consumer banks with pricing optimization.
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