How to Select a Customer Data Platform?
So far we’ve looked at planning use cases and how you might identify your customers to build a single customer view. Now we take a look at how to approach selecting an appropriate Customer Data Platform (CDP) vendor from the sea of vendors available.
But wait…do you actually need a CDP, or do you already have everything you need in your technology stack. Reviewing your systems landscape against your use case planning should provide this answer for you.
Ultimately if you need to build a single customer view and integrate with your other systems to provide a highly personalised digital experience then a CDP will likely be the missing piece to accomplish this. As mentioned in our first article in the series, it requires data, technology, people and process for an optimal outcome. However without a high level of commitment, you may still be better optimising and increasing your use of your existing systems.
Features of a CDP
If you think a CDP is still the right thing for your business then let’s continue breaking down the vendor selection process. Most CDPs will have various levels of capability in the following areas:
- Data consolidation: ability to ingest enterprise volumes of unstructured and structured data and apply data governance by transforming, labelling and preparing data ready for the single customer view and to be activated on.
- Data analysis and visualisation: able to query and visualise the data for insights.
- Data activation: a vast number of integrations with external systems available out of the box, ability to create custom integrations and an intuitive UI for non technical users.
- Machine learning: ability to build models to predict specific behaviours and activate experiences based on these with the goal of improving your customers’ experience.
- Journey Orchestration: build multi step flows with branching logic for specific interactions throughout a customer’s journey with each potential touchpoint.
- Full suite: a built-in integration to a suite of their own products including email/SMS management, onsite testing and personalisation or analytics and visualisation tools
Each vendor will vary in scale and scope natively, as do their approaches to solving problems in-platform or in combination with other technology solutions.
The selection process requires identifying the functional capabilities that are present and where a combination of solutions may be required. The end result should be a pragmatic and balanced evaluation of the options which best meet your requirements.
Key Areas to Consider
In order to do this we normally split our assessment into the following areas to evaluate against our clients’ requirements:
Ultimately we are trying to understand the level of support for bringing data into the platform from multiple disparate sources and file types. It’s important to understand the options for data ingestion, what are the limitations, how flexible the data models are and what options exist relating to data validation.
Whether you’re considering multiple brands or regions, physical and online customer touchpoints, state of existing customer data will all add complexities to how your data will be ingested.
We need to understand how and where data is stored from the ingestion process and how that can scale with future requirements. At the same time the new solution must be able to integrate with existing data storage systems where necessary.
Data Governance & Security
We touched on the importance of this in the previous article and here we want to ensure that measures can be implemented for data integrity, oversight and compliance with a chosen CDP vendor. Over time the considerations here will become even more important with further regulatory and related technology updates.
Identity Resolution & Stitching:
Again this process was covered in detail in the previous article and relates to the consolidation of data and how it is keyed together deterministically and probabilistically.
Customer Profiles & Enrichments
The power of the CDP will come from profiles rich with data that can be activated quickly to ensure that the customers’ digital experience is as relevant and personalised as possible. Understanding how profiles are enriched, latency and availability of this profile data will determine some of the possibilities with this future solution.
Data Reporting, Insights & Segmentation
The ability to explore platform data to understand the customer value and pull insights to drive strategy will ensure a higher likelihood of success. Therefore understanding the native reporting capabilities and the external integrations that exist will help you plan for how this might be carried out. Also depending on the AI based capabilities of the system, this could help to further scale and optimise your usage. Furthermore understanding how segmentation works will determine the complexity of the targeting and personalisation that is possible.
Platform Capabilities & Ease of Use
What can the platform do & how easy is it to use? This should help understand how technical the interface is and therefore what type of resource you will require to use and configure it. Publishing flows, versioning and development environments are all key aspects to understand.
Connectors, Activation & Export
Ingesting data and pulling insights are two of the key areas of the CDP and the ability to activate this data is the final piece of the puzzle. Therefore identifying how and what external platforms can be integrated with to make use of the unified profiles is important.
Support, Resources & Pricing
We want to understand what support exists and more about the commercial model. For example, what product or business support and learning resources exist? What does the community look like and how could that support your team using the CDP? What does the commercial model look like and ultimately how much will this cost?
Consider Them Carefully
Your organisational structure, systems landscape and use case requirements will all need to be considered with the areas above to help choose the best fit solution. CDP vendors across the market vary greatly even though most say they do all of the same things in the most optimal way! So each will need careful consideration for you to provide the best digital customer experience possible and ultimately maximise your return on investment.
Vendor Questions Download
View a sample set of questions for CDP vendors relating to each of the key areas.