How to choose a Customer Data Platform: Pick your CDP in 5 steps

If you are looking to improve your tech stack to know your customers better, have unified and progressive user profiles, and deliver better customer experiences across all channels, it’s very likely that you need a customer data platform.  

Since there’s a wide variety of CDPs in the market and they do not all fully deliver the capabilities of a customer data platform, we prepared a great question list for you to think about when choosing the best vendor for your needs. 

Table of Contents
  1. What is a Customer Data Platform (CDP)?

  2. How To Choose Customer Data Platform in 5 Steps

  3. Final Thoughts

What is a Customer Data Platform (CDP)?

A Customer Data Platform is a software that allows you to unify customer data across all channels, keep that data organized, and make it easily available to all related departments in your enterprise to serve various goals. Keeping such detailed data in a unified way helps you know your customers in a more detailed way and offer them personalized experiences. The main goals of a CDP can be summarized in 6 points: 

  1. Unified Customer View: 360-degree visibility on each customer based on their behavior across channels
  2. Segmentation: Segmenting and targeting your customers on an almost individualized way
  3. Analyze: Analyzing customer data and providing insight for different parts of your business
  4. Advertise: Boosting advertising campaigns by predictive segmentation capacities and greatly improving Return On Ad Spend (ROAS)
  5. Real-Time Personalization: Delivering highly relevant customer journeys by real-time personalization across all channels
  6. Save costs: Automating the collection and organization of vast amounts of data can save your team a considerable amount of time and effort

To find out all about what a CDP can do for your business, check out our previous blog: What is a Customer Data Platform (CDP).

How To Choose Customer Data Platform in 5 Steps

There are a few things to consider when choosing a CDP. First of all to understand whether you need such a platform or not, refer to our previous blog that details how to understand if you need a CDP. 

Before considering a particular CDP vendor, analyzing the goals of your business, and the needs of different departments in your business is key. You need to be able to answer how you will benefit from detailed and unified data on your customers. Some fundamental questions to consider are:

  • What is your overall marketing strategy and how it relates to your business goals?
  • What are the gaps in your current tech stack and your program?
  • Where do you envision a Customer Data Platform to fit into your current marketing stack and team? 
  • What key capabilities are you looking for in CDP?
  • What would success look like with this new platform in place?

As you answer these questions, communicate with the teams who will be using and benefitting from this platform. The teams who will be interacting with a CDP on a daily basis will give the best answers to these questions and will guide you in the right direction.
After clarifying your needs and goals, you need to evaluate the capabilities of any Customer Data Platform by understanding and comparing how it performs across the following categories.

Collecting Customer Data

1- How does the platform collect data from various customer touchpoints?Customer touchpoints are changing and increasing. Your interactions with customers range from web, email, apps, social media channels in addition to offline stores. Your CDP needs to be able to easy collect and unify data from all these touchpoints 

Look for standard integrations like Web SDK, App SDK, and APIs to connect your data from all channels and ask if it can it collect data and behavior from:

  • Desktop and mobile web using client-side or server-side integration?
  • Mobile Apps on an SDK level?
  • Provide any API’s to inject CRM or offline purchase data from POS, Call centers?

2 – How does the platform enable onboarding data from your existing technology stack?

Chances are high that you might already have your own tools for collecting data. Ask whether the CDP can easily integrate with these systems or has the ability to extend it with API for other tools. Can the CDP:

  • Integrate with attribution tools to track and leverage ads, app installs, email conversions, and more?
  • Leverage the events and data collected in analytics for personalization?
  • Send data and segments from CRM? Create, update, and target contacts?
  • Integrate with DMPs to leverage 3rd party data for Personalization?
  • Integrate with CMS or shopping cart to send user, product, and transaction data?
  • Leverage data from customer support and service tools like NPS, CSAT to engage the customer?
  • Have a two-way exchange of offline data and online data, from the likes of POS/Call Centers?

Real-time Personalization

3 – Does the platform collect and aggregate data in real-time?To meet the increasing personalization demands of your customers, your data needs to be collected and updated in real-time. In the vendors you’re considering, look for how the data is collected and distributed to your touchpoints and how much it can support real-time use cases.

With timely data, you can tailor your personalization campaigns in a much more relevant and effective way, and convert leads without losing time.

Unified Customer View

4 – Does the platform create unified customer profiles?
Solving the problem of data silos is the main goal of all CDPS. The information your customer data platform provides should be able to deliver a 360-degree view of your customer profiles. It should help you know the difference between a VIP customer from an “At-Risk” customer and take appropriate action to improve your marketing strategy. To understand the scope of the unifies data, ask vendors if the platform can:

  • Create persistent User IDs for both anonymous and logged in users?
  • Resolve multiple customers across devices using logged in identifiers?
  • Do a probabilistic match of cross-device and cross channel users?
  • Show individual users’ reachability and preferences for different channels?
  • Display user preferences like their Discount affinity, Interest cluster, Brand affinity in one single View
  • Record and show all the user-level behavior and event history?
  • Provide the ability to export user-level data?


5 – What are the different types of segmentation supported by the platform?

It is vital to have effective segmentation for all your marketing campaigns. Segment capabilities that rely on a trait, behavior, predictive and rule-based segmentation are the ones you should look for. As the platform, if its segmentation capacities can:

  • Capture user source, traffic, or landing page URL?
  • Capture user actions such as; add to cart, product view, site login, and more?
  • Connect with other CRMs, POS devices, or call centers?
  • Capture and view in real-time both the online and offline transaction history?

Final Thoughts

There are numerous customer data platforms in the market and their number is increasing every year. In order to find the one platform that truly delivers the capabilities of a CDP, you need to carefully evaluate vendors. Aside from the questions we prepared for you, understand whether your vendor has expertise in your particular domain, has experience with other clients like your brand and make sure they complement your brand by plugging the gaps in your ecosystem.
Stay tuned to our blog as we explore more topics on CDPs.

With 12+ years of experience in consulting, building, and marketing technology products for clients across industries, Srikant is a product leader, storyteller, data fanatic, and UX/usability enthusiast. He often appears as a speaker on panels about personalization and optimization and has a passion for building simple solutions to complex problems, and is currently pursuing that at Insider.