Nine Key Requirements to Consider When Investing in a Customer Data Platform

6 minute read

A really interesting research piece from Gartner, called ‘Distilling Marketer Adoption, Views and Misperceptions of Customer Data Platforms’, reveals the results from a survey of 504 marketers. The researchers found that 51% of respondents claimed that their Customer Data Platform (CDP) was their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

As the report states, “this misperception of a CDP as a CRM solution reflects a lack of appreciation for the advantages that many CDPs have over heritage CRM applications. These include scale, profile unification, segmentation and connection to marketing systems.”

The report is a great read, although you’ll need to be a paid Gartner member to access the research, and it highlights the fact that there is still a lot of education required around CDPs to help marketers understand the role that they fulfill within a typical technology stack.

So what is a Customer Data Platform?

The definition from the CDP Institute is that “a Customer Data Platform is packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.” Essentially, it is a marketing database that unifies data from many different sources, stores it and can easily integrate with other platforms to share a consistent Single Customer View around your business.

However, establishing what is, or isn’t, a Customer Data Platform is not the aim of this blog! We’ve done that many times before. If you want to understand what a Customer Data Platform is then download our free CDP eBook. We also have articles about how a CDP differs from a Data Warehouse, a CRM system and a Data Management Platform (DMP).

Issues to Consider Before Committing to a CDP

This is probably true for any marketing technology purchase, but people often overlook the fact that it is vital to establish from the outset what it is that you want the CDP to help you do.

This can be established by, in the first instance, writing and documenting your business needs and functional requirements. This summary of expectations is sometimes written and put together by one person, but in most cases will require some input from various departments. Inviting collaboration or contribution early on is actually a great move, as it means those who will potentially need to back the project further down the road, such as the IT department, already feel a sense of ownership.

Your plan, or functional requirements document, for a Customer Data Platform should include the following information:

  1. A detailed list and description of each of the different data sources/data feeds that need to come into the CDP (consider how often that data needs to be updated in the CDP – realtime, daily, weekly, monthly?).
  2. A statement and description of how the data needs to be stored. Which fields from each data source need to be brought into the CDP? You don’t always need all of them!
  3. A preference for how the data should be linked. Some CDPs will have a fixed data model with a standard match, merge and deduplication set of rules, while others will be more customizable to your set of rules. Establishing which you’d prefer in your requirements is therefore key to evaluating vendors further down the line.
  4. A definition of who your customer actually is, i.e. who buys your products/services. In a B2C world it’s good to think about both the household and the individuals in the family. In a B2B world it’s critical to define the purchasing hierarchy and how contacts role up into office locations and headquarters. Our eBook, ‘How Many Customers Do I Have?’ is a great resource to help you define your customer.
  5. A list of new data values that you will need. This could include the ‘normalization’ of fields that don’t make sense in their raw format. (For example, converting meaningless product codes into product descriptions or changing a gender field from ‘M’ to ‘male’.) It could also be the creation of derived fields, that is new fields calculated based on another field, such as calculating the age of a person based on a ‘date of birth’ field.
  6. A specification of how you want the data from your CDP to exist within other systems, or how other systems will access the unified data. You should think about how often you’ll need that data in each system, what the 3rd party system will need to do with the data and what fields will be necessary to feed into each system.
  7. An outline of what data drilling might need to be done. The very nature of a CDP is that it gives marketers control over their data and allows them to do things they couldn’t before. Most marketers in the world have issues with fragmented or siloed data, or have to request data extracts and queries from IT or 3rd party providers. Noting down what those queries tend to be and how much data wrangling the marketing team is currently doing will help to ensure any CDP purchased is capable of handling these demands. Often these standard requirements can be documented as Use Cases or User Stories very effectively.
  8. ‘Must haves’ – this is a chance to give emphasis to key things that your CDP MUST provide. For example, do you own the database (i.e. is the IP of the clever matching, merging and deduplication retained by the vendor or by you)? This is also the chance to refer back to your business needs analysis, to articulate how you intend to do your reporting, analysis, personalisation and execution of marketing campaigns and how the CDP must meet those needs.
  9. An idea of what ‘future-proofing’ means for your company. Do your research into future trends and try to think about your customers and how they might interact with you in 10-20 years times. How will the CDP help when the business grows and can it scale to handle double the quantity of data? What if you quadruple the quantity? What happens when you add a new brand or launch a new website? How will that data be added? How will the CDP cope with the evolution of the IoT and the flow of new data? What about new social channels?

Need more Customer Data Platform advice?

Hopefully, this article has helped you to think about your customer data management requirements. However, if you would like further advice, we have some of the most experienced Single Customer View consultants on the planet at BlueVenn, who can help you to build and define your Customer Data Platform needs. Just fill in a contact form on the website to request a free CDP consultation.

As well as helping you to understand if BlueVenn is the right type of CDP for you (there are many different flavors of CDP, by the way), we can help with the entire purchase cycle, from detailing requirements right through to writing RFIs and RFPs, creating shortlists, evaluating vendors and more.

Alternatively, to get a totally unbiased view on CDP vendors, you can utilize the many great resources on the website of the CDP Institute, a vendor-neutral organization dedicated to sharing CDP knowledge, research and capabilities.

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