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

What do you do with a customer data platform?In a really interesting new research piece in November from Gartner called ‘Distilling Marketer Adoption, Views and Misperceptions of Customer Data Platforms’ it showed the results from a survey to 504 marketers, whereby 51% of respondents claimed that their CDP was their 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 highlights the fact that there is still a lot of education to be had around Customer Data Platforms to help marketers understand the role that a CDP has 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 will 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. There are also some older articles about how a CDP differs from a Data Warehouse here and how a CDP differs from a DMP here.

Watch the CDP v DMP v SCV Webinar On-Demand 


When building your marketing technology stack, do you need a Customer Data Platform, a Single Customer View, a Data Management Platform – or all three? 

This webinar guides you through these technology solutions, the differences and how to make the right choices when looking at data unification solutions.

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Key Issues to Consider Before Committing to a Customer Data Platform

This is probably true for any marketing technology purchase, but which is often overlooked, you need to establish from the outset what it is that you want the CDP to help you do.

This comes in the way of writing and documenting your business needs and functional requirements. This is sometimes written and put together by one person but in most cases will require some input from various departments. Collaboration or contribution early on is actually a really strong starting point as it means potential blockers further down the road, such as the IT department, feel inclusive within the project.

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

  1. A detailed list and description of each of the different data sources/data feeds that need to come into the CDP (information you should think about is 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. You should also start to consider how the data should be linked. Some CDP’s will have a fixed data model where either it will have a standard match, merge and dedupe set of rules, or others will be more customizable to your set of rules. Establishing this in your requirements is therefore key for evaluating vendors further down the line.
  4. Take time to define who your customer actually is. What I mean by this is that you need to think about who buys your products/services. In a B2C world it’s good to think about a 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 for defining your customer.
  5. A defined 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'). This could also be the creation of derived fields. These are new fields that are calculated based on another field, such as calculating the age of a person based on a Date of Birth field.)
  6. Another key thing to consider is 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 need that data in each system, what the 3rd party system will do with the data and what fields will be necessary to feed into each system.
  7. The very nature of a CDP is that it gives marketers control over their data in a way that they couldn’t do so 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. Thinking about what those queries are, how much data wrangling the marketing is currently doing, and documenting those, is key to ensuring that these are rectified with a CDP purchase. Often these 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. Do you own the database? (ie. Is the IP of the clever matching, merging and deduplication retained by the vendor or 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 affect those needs.
  9. And finally, think about ‘future-proofing’. 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 with 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? What happens with IoT and new data is available? What about new social channels?

Need more Customer Data Platform Advice?

I hope this article has helped you to think about your customer data management needs and requirements. However, if you would like some further advice then we actually 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 requirements. Just fill in a contact form on the website to request a 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, through to writing RFIs and RFPs, creating shortlists, evaluating vendors, and more.

Or for a totally unbiased view on CDP vendors then you can also utilize the many great resources on the CDP Institute website, which is a vendor neutral organization dedicated to CDP knowledge, research and capabilities.

Now Download the ‘Marketer’s Guide to Customer Data Platforms’ eBook


This blog article is an extract from BlueVenn’s ‘A Marketer’s Guide to Customer Data Platforms’ eBook.

Download a copy of the full eBook for more CDP advice, how a CDP differs from other data management technologies, or the different types of CDPs and what to look out for when researching technology vendors.

Download now

Topics: Single Customer View Customer Data Platform marketing database cdp