How to sort through dozens of customer data platforms

There are dozens of software companies pitching their product, or one of their products, as a customer data platform. How is due diligence possible with such a crowded field? While some customer data platforms are similar, some are actually quite dissimilar. This can be used as an advantage to narrow down the list pretty fast as long as a high level plan for the platform has been formulated.

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[October 2018 edit] Here's another tip -- our buyers' guide comes out at the end of October! Click below for access:

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To start, consider the first set of features in the CDP Institute’s vendor comparison chart, the “Shared CDP Features” list:

These are just five of a list of dozens of potential features that David Raab categorizes these 24 customer data platforms against. As of the release of the comparison chart, the five shared CDP features are:

  1. Retain original detail
  2. Persistent data
  3. Individual detail
  4. Vendor-neutral access
  5. Manage PII

An exercise: how does your organization need to make use of these shared CDP features?

How does this set of features apply to your plans for a customer data platform? What does your organization need and want from a customer data platform on just these five topics? This is a critical exercise for those shopping around for customer data platforms. It is critical because as David points out in the document heading:

“Yes” answers mean only that the system meets the minimum requirement in that definition. This may not be adequate for a particular buyer’s needs. Buyers will need to explore the details of individual systems to find out.

All 24 vendors “manage PII”, for example, but they do not all manage it in the same way. What you need from a customer data platform will dictate the right level of data governance (e.g. validation, history, privacy) to look for in relation to PII.

Take a close look at “vendor-neutral access”, which is core to the definition of a CDP. What technologies do you need to integrate? For each vendor you are considering, you will want to know:

  1. What will integration look like (who does what, and what does it cost) for tying into systems already in place?
  2. What would it look like to switch out or add a system in the future?
  3. How much maintenance will be involved in order to meet your needs?


"Retain original detail" and "persistent data" are related. This may be the area where both the needs and the systems vary the greatest. Some systems can not reprocess data without you providing the original source. Some systems generate more data than others in the first place.

For some organizations, machine learning and AI really don’t apply to CDP use cases any time in the next few years, except by way of generalizations made based on other datasets. The CDP is needed right now to facilitate the use of customer data they have right now. Others have expectations of unique data collection capabilities, or warehousing capabilities that will feed their big data programs. Although there is quite a spectrum of needs, there is a spectrum of platforms to suit the needs. While convergence might seem logical, there will always be customers who need the infrastructure help and others who prefer to handle it themselves or elsewhere.

That's not all folks!

I hope this has been a helpful way of thinking about how to sort through all of the customer data platform vendors out there! As you dig further into the comparison chart, the comprehensive list of potential features add a lot more detail, and even provide a little more granularity to these shared features. It is truly amazing to have a couple dozen lined up like this, but note that these are not all of the vendors. Some amazing platforms and key comparative players like Celebrus Technologies, Zaius, and Segment, amongst others are not included at this point. There is a full directory of CDPs on the CDP Institute site that does include all of these vendors, however.

See you soon!

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