So, You Are Going To Add A CDP To Your MarTech Stack?

Executive perspective

The industry defines a CDP as a platform that centralizes customer data from multiple sources and makes it available to systems for insight and engagement tasks. This definition is dated as modern CDPs have the ability to access not only customer data but also prospecting data and partner data in a secure environment.

4 Key Considerations When Evaluating Customer Data Platforms (CDPs)



Key capabilities you’ll want to manage any CDP platform:

  • Data Management: Ability to assemble customer profiles – the infamous 360 view
  • Cross-Channel Marketing and Digital Advertising – Ecosystem and APIs
  • Data delivery for analytics and customer engagement
  • Security features that allow data to be shared with partners

The CDP market is highly fragmented, with each vendor type focusing on a specific industry and/or specializing in a specific functionality. It is important to note that most providers can claim to offer every feature functionality. However, the art and science of evaluating CDP vendors is determining which vendors are good on the dimensions you think are important for the business problems and opportunities you’re trying to solve.

I suggest conducting pre-RFP benchmarking and competitive intelligence using resources such as user experience interviews, industry publications, and trade research firms. The output gives you an overview of which vendors, software providers and consultants are good at solving various pain points important to your specific situation. Remember to first ask the client instructions from the CDP vendor. If you need help with benchmarking activities, there are service providers who can help with all aspects of these tasks, from organizational needs assessment to tool procurement and integration. Please feel free to contact me for more ideas.]

Some of the largest vendors in the CDP space include SAS, Tealium, the Twilio segment, and Zeta Global. However, many cloud-based data lakehouses (eg, Snowflake or Google, etc.) offer accelerators and partner APIs to link campaign data to CDPs, making the vendor/provider landscape more competitive than ever.

Evaluation decision criteria

Data Management Platform Concept


CDP capability sets are focused in four areas, and the relative importance of meeting requirements in these areas must be consistent with the organization’s decision. There are four competencies to assess:

1. What level of data management does CDP provide?

CDP data management includes:

  • Creates a 360° view
  • Data Governance
  • Data transformation and modeling
  • Attribute and feature calculation
  • Merge/Merge and Match – Classic marketing database features
  • A modern platform for streaming analytics and real-time data
  • Providing access and data sharing through internal and external systems

2. What level of cross-channel marketing and campaign automation does CDP offer?

CDP Orchestration for Cross-Channel Customer Engagement:

  • Ability to create profiles and segmentation for target marketing
  • Engagement management provides audiences with platforms for personalization
  • Ability to automate marketing campaigns with channel integrations and delivery capabilities:
    • Some CDPs include native campaign management software, database teams, and a GUI or campaign design interface to program marketers to initiate conversational decision rules based on customer behavior.
    • CDP may include native channel integration and channel sending capabilities (for example, email marketing, mobile messaging, etc.)
    • This flavor of CDP includes a native decision engine for automation of campaign rules

Note: While some CDPs may include personalization and product recommendation engines, these functionalities may not result in a fully automated campaign management CDP, which typically includes programming of campaigns through workflow and channel sending capabilities (see above).

3. What level of analytics and metrics does CDP provide?

Some CDPs (but not all) can:

  • Collect data on predefined metrics to measure campaigns
  • Provide customer analytics
  • Integrate and provide data to specialty analytics tools
  • Integrate third-party model code and apply model scores

Note: Measurement and insight-based CDPs may provide reporting, modeling, and other marketing and customer journey analytics features.

4. What security features are available?

  • Allow for partner data sharing without disclosing PII
  • Allow security and access controls based on internal standards
  • Arranged to comply with GDPR/CPPA
  • Some CDPs that are part of data lakehouses have highly secure data zones that allow data to be restricted at the field and user levels.

Evaluation process

Martech (Marketing Technology) concept


My preferred process for evaluating CDPs is to identify all solution options based on your understanding of:

  • Internal gaps in the current marketing infrastructure
  • Use cases your organization is trying to drive
  • Knowledge and skill sets in your organization

And remember, CDPs fit within the broader business ecosystem, but many come independently as well. For example, you can buy Adobe Campaign or Salesforce marketing solutions, or you can buy their entire marketing automation ecosystem.

In conclusion, CDPs should be reviewed in the context of the existing MarTech stack and feature functionality gap. A key factor in CDP evaluation is the work and resources required to integrate your existing infrastructure across upstream and downstream connection points.

As always, I’d love to hear from you. How have you and others in your organization evaluated CDPs? Are there other criteria that I haven’t mentioned? What challenges did you face during the evaluation phase…how did you overcome them? Contact me for more information at

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