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The Best CDP: Selecting the Best Customer Data Platform

Eric Wendt

Senior Content Marketing Manager

On the hunt for the best CDP? There’s no shortage of customer data platform vendors competing for the title.

A quick Google search will pull up plenty: customer reviews, analyst insights and lots of marketing. But it won’t tell you which solution is best suited to your unique business needs.

To find the best CDP, you must first determine what makes the most sense for your enterprise company.

What are your must-have capabilities? What teams are you trying to empower? What problems are you looking to solve? Only by answering these questions can you select the best CDP for your business.

Before you start mapping out how different stakeholders will support a customer data platform implementation or drafting up a request for proposal, you need to get a firm grasp of what matters most to your organization.

That’s why we’ve put together this blog post — to help you narrow down the field and set your sights on the right technology for your enterprise company.

There will be plenty of time to ask technical questions, request customer references and seek out proof of return on investment. But first things first: Understand what you need so you don’t waste time on ill-equipped technologies.

Want a quick refresher on CDP basics? Check out our CDP 101 video below:

The Best CDP: Selecting the Best Customer Data Platform

How to Choose: CDP Capabilities to Consider

Your first step toward selecting the best CDP is understanding which capabilities are essential.

While there are different categories (and subcategories) of CDP in the customer data platform market — each with their own advantages and disadvantages — there are certain functionalities every technology must have to even be considered a CDP. No matter your specific business objectives, make sure any solution you evaluate has the following customer data platform capabilities:

Data Unification

This involves bringing together and matching all customer profiles and interactions across different channels to create a single view of the customer.

Questions to ask include:

  • Does the solution ingest, cleanse and store all customer data?
  • Does the solution unify data from all online and offline sources?
  • Does the solution resolve, authenticate and deduplicate customer records?
  • Does the solution support identity resolution via configurable, deterministic and probabilistic matching?

Data Analysis

This involves making customer insights available to the organization and using models to generate predictive insights.

Questions to ask include:

  • Does the solution allow non-technical users to self-serve insights?
  • Does the solution enable non-technical users to manage audiencing and segmentation?
  • Does the solution provide defined permissions and governance controls to support customer data security?
  • Does the solution facilitate advanced analytics based on the full history of customer behaviors?
  • Does the solution leverage machine learning-based models to support predictive analytics?

Data Activation

This involves orchestrating, testing and measuring customer experiences across all touchpoints to automate customer engagement and optimize performance.

Questions to ask include:

  • Does the solution allow for ad hoc, triggered and journey-based CX orchestration?
  • Does the solution support real-time customer experience orchestration?
  • Does the solution have a single user interface for orchestrating experiences across all marketing, sales and customer service touchpoints?
  • Does the solution provide test configuration across all channels?
  • Does the solution support performance measurement using customizable business metrics?
  • Does the solution leverage machine learning algorithms to support automation?

Enterprise-Grade Capabilities

Unlike small or mid-market businesses, enterprise companies must consider how a solution will account for extremely large customer bases, a much wider range of customer engagement channels and more complicated technology stacks.

These and other challenges unique to enterprise companies make scalability, flexibility, connectivity and privacy key considerations when searching for the best customer data platform.

Hear M&T Bank explain why the best CDP is the one that helps you provide better customer experiences:

Top CDP Platforms: Understanding Outcomes

Once you know which CDP capabilities are must-haves, you can begin filtering out unsuitable solutions by zeroing in on your specific business goals.

Some brands concentrate on centralizing siloed customer profiles in a single location. Others are focused on modeling and predicting customer behaviors. But many more want to leverage unified customer data and predictive analytics to provide personalized customer experiences at scale.

Data unification and data analysis aren’t valuable in and of themselves — their value is in how they inform data activation. To transform customer data from a cost center to a profit center, enterprise organizations must be able to take action on insights by operationalizing them into customer experiences.

With this in mind, there are two questions you should ask when beginning to explore different CDP options:

  1. What was it built to do?
  2. Who was it designed for?

As we’ve written about before, answering the “what” and “who” of an enterprise CDP reveals its original purpose and the teams it will empower.

This is covered more in depth in our 2022 CDP Market Guide, but as a quick summary, CDPs can generally be bucketed into three categories:

1. Data Consolidation CDPs

There are various subcategories of data consolidation CDP, including marketing cloud CDPs such as Adobe and Salesforce CDP, data integration CDPs such as Segment and identity management CDPs such as Amperity.

But the primary function remains the same: helping data engineers, developers and data analysts collect and unify customer data.

2. Data Science CDPs

The primary function of data science CDPs — including Treasure Data, Acquia and SAS — is helping data analysts produce customer analytics and predictive insights.

3. Customer Experience CDPs

There are two subcategories of customer experience CDP.

The primary function of website personalization CDPs — including BlueConic and Lytics — is helping business users (typically e-commerce teams) manage content and offers across websites and applications.

Meanwhile, experience orchestration CDPs such as ActionIQ are built to help marketing, sales and customer service teams seamlessly provide personalized customer experiences across all online and offline channels.

Check out the video below to learn more about the benefits of selecting the right CDP:

As we mentioned above, all CDPs must have some capacity for unifying, analyzing and activating customer data. The question you must answer is: Which is most important to your enterprise business?

Data consolidation CDPs are built with data unification in mind. But even if you overlook issues related to identity resolution and configuration across this category, you’ll need to invest in separate technologies to generate predictive insights or orchestrate customer experiences. And since these solutions are geared toward technical professionals, the everyday business users within your organization will still be forced to rely on IT teams for assistance.

Then there are data science CDPs, which specialize in data analysis. Beyond the problems associated with pre-configured analytic models across this category, a lack of omnichannel journey orchestration means you’ll need to transfer data to separate tools to manage cross-channel experiences. And since these solutions are designed for analysts, as opposed to non-technical professionals, IT will once again be required to move data to downstream tools to take action on it.

Finally there are customer experience CDPs, which are built to personalize engagement based on customer data. While website personalization CDPs are unable to support complex omnichannel experiences, experience orchestration CDPs (also sometimes called smart-hub CDPs) are purpose-built to help enterprise companies not only unify and analyze data, but activate it across all relevant channels. Since they’re designed for non-technical users, brands can eliminate bottlenecks and free up their IT and data teams to focus on higher-impact projects while business teams assemble, analyze and take action on customer insights.

Find out why enterprise brands such as Albertsons Companies choose ActionIQ as their CDP:

The Best Customer Data Platform Enables All Teams & Powers Superior CX

Selecting the best CDP isn’t about only focusing on business teams — quite the contrary. Multiple stakeholders are essential to the success of any CDP implementation, and teams across your organization — from marketing to data to IT — must work together to maximize business value.

Once you’re ready to dig deeper into different solutions, both technical and non-technical teams will have to explore the roles and responsibilities of CDP management, as well as what features and functionalities are necessary to help IT professionals, data analysts and customer-facing teams do their best work.

In a Forrester Total Economic Impact™ report commissioned by ActionIQ, enterprise brands achieved a 522% ROI. While this was certainly driven by metrics related to better customer experiences — such as an 80% increase in conversion rates and a 20% increase in average purchase value — the benefits of CDP implementation were felt across all teams.

IT professionals were able to significantly reduce their overall maintenance efforts. Data analysts saw a 40% increase in efficiency. And organizations as a whole saved $1.6 million by sunsetting legacy technologies and services.

But the best CDP won’t just serve your business — it will also serve your customers.

When businesses were asked to rate overall satisfaction with their companies as part of our 2022 CX IQ Index, 61% said their customers are “very satisfied.” Unfortunately, their customers didn’t agree. In fact, only 23% of consumers said they were “very satisfied” with brand experiences and interactions over the past three months.

This CX gap makes it clear: Too many brands are relying on the wrong solutions. The goal is to ensure you can get accurate and actionable customer insights into the hands of the people who need them to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

For marketers, salespeople and customer service representatives, that means increases in revenue, retention and speed to market. For IT and analytics teams, that translates to less time spent on ad hoc requests and more time for optimizing technology operations and investments, refining data security and governance and getting their work active in the market.

And for your customers, it means a reason to stay loyal to and grow with your brand.

Start by understanding what capabilities are non-negotiable and who you need to empower. Once you know what outcome you’re looking to achieve, you can move past the flashy marketing and take aim at the best CDP for you.

Learn More About How to Choose the Best CDP

Download the 2022 CDP Market Guide to help identify the best customer data platform for your unique business needs and check out the 2022 CX IQ Index to learn more about the state of customer experience.

Written By

Senior Content Marketing Manager

Eric is an experienced marketer who's passionate about the intersection of storytelling and enablement. He uses his expertise to help high-growth companies develop impactful content strategies, strengthen brand positioning and boost customer advocacy.

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