What you need to know before buying a customer data platform

Updated: Apr 29

Four capabilities to keep in mind for eCommerce businesses


If you run an online store, you know that customer data is essential for understanding your customers and what they want. But collecting and analyzing customer data can be difficult, especially if you don't have the resources to do it yourself and don’t want to stay dependent on a vendor. A customer data platform (CDP) can help by automating collecting and analyzing customer data. But not all CDPs are created equal, so you need to be careful when choosing one.



Here are four things to look for when choosing a CDP:

1) Capability to collect data from multiple sources

2) Capability to analyze data in real-time

3) Features sets that align with your business

4) Usability- you are going to have to maintain this beast


Customer data is key to your business’s success. But what if you could take your data collection and analysis to the next level? In this post, we'll tell you what a customer data platform is, what features to look for, and how to decide if one is right for your business. The goal is to make you are ready to make an informed decision.


For a common definition, a customer data platform is a marketer-managed system designed to collect customer data from multiple sources, normalize it, and build unified profiles of each customer. The result is a persistent, unified customer database that shares data back to other marketing applications.


Capability to collect data from multiple sources


There is some debate amongst the community whether to collect all data or just the data you need. Customer data platforms are intended to connect everywhere a piece of customer information is collected. This customer data can be in the forms a customer fills out on your website to the notes your sales team enters in a customer relationship management system (CRM) to the support calls taken in your customer support software, and of course, the purchase and conversion themselves.


Before starting, take stock of the applications that you plan to connect. You can go by the customer experiences you are designing or the workflows you would like to optimize. For example, if you sell on Shopify and Amazon, Advertise on Facebook, Instagram, and Google Ads, use Klaviyo or SendGrid for email marketing, and Attentive for real-time SMS, then go with these major applications.


The specific capabilities you are looking for depending on the marketing systems and applications you use now. Hopefully, you are on board with cloud-based software as a service and understand the benefits by now. One of the biggest benefits is the ease of integration. Many brands new to this technology will be tempted to start small by just sending .csv files. Don’t be tempted and believe that technology has evolved. CDP cloud technology works nicely. Newer technologies accept .jsn formats and utilize webhooks that can send information in a blink of an eye. The speed of information leads us to the next capability to consider.


Capability to analyze data in real-time

Keep in mind that every source has a different definition of real-time. You need some information daily, monthly and quarterly, and for other things, you need it under three minutes.


Ecommerce is changing from search-based shopping to browsing-based shopping the buying experience is more impulsive. A real-time view of what the customer is doing becomes critical. You require quick instantaneous updates of your customers’ interactions where minutes are very important. Seconds are a priority to many customer experiences in deliveries and upsell opportunities.


The shift to browsing-based purchasing journeys also means that your brand and offers need to appear across the channels, usually multiple times before conversion. A recent survey showed that 73% of customers are most likely to use multiple channels during their purchase journey. So, don’t lose out by not utilizing an omnichannel marketing strategy.


Features sets that align with your business


CDPs differentiate in their more advanced capabilities, so understanding what kinds of capabilities can save you from ripping and replacing a system down the line. You also don’t want to be paying extra for something you will never use.


Some advanced features you’ll tend to hear about are:

  • Identify Resolution: Identity resolution is set up to continuously s stitch customer data pieces from disparate sources to build profiles and customer journeys. If you want to stay closer to advertising, then the robustness of identity resolution is prioritized.

  • Integrations: The amount, quality, and robustness of pre-built connectors to other marketing technologies. You will hear software vendors talk about the near-universal availability of APIs and how this means that connections are always possible. To get set up faster with standardization, consider pre-built, battle-tested integrations.

  • Analytics: Especially those analytics involving machine learning and artificial intelligence surface insights, enable customer journey mapping, autonomously assign audience segmentation, and predictive modeling in the area of recommendations and retention. If you have a high-volume B2C eCommerce store, analytics can help you segment your audiences down to more personalized sizes.


Usability- you are going to have to maintain this beast

Marketing teams can take advantage of features designed for use by marketing departments and other internal groups without relying on IT or data science resources. (Though some functions still require additional input from this specialized personnel.)


Marketer-designed systems are still evolving as designers trained in user experience (UX) in new software versions. Since customer data platforms are newer technologies, make sure your team can use the system, especially these features:

  • Administering and maintaining user roles and security

  • Trigger and process the GDPR requests that come through

  • Analyze customer segments.

  • Create and update existing customer segments



A CDP can help you automate the process of collecting and analyzing your customers’ data. The CDP will also give you insights into your customers, what they want, and how to best market them. So if running an online store is one of your goals for this year, it might be time to check out some customer data platforms capabilities that could take your marketing strategy from research to purchase through repurchase.