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Thinking CDP? Keep these things in mind

30-second summary:

  • Customer Data Platforms are one of the hottest martech solutions of 2020
  • The number of CDP vendors is large and growing larger with every industry report
  • It can be hard to distinguish CDPs based on features alone, since many look very similar on paper
  • There are several other ways of looking at a CDP beyond just tech specs that can help your decision making
  • Consider things like ROI, ease of use, user satisfaction, and product innovation
  • User reviews can be a source of truth when searching for a vendor

The marketing technology (martech) space is crowded, and it just keeps growing. Chiefmartec puts the number of vendors at somewhere above 7,400. That’s a lot of different vendors. But it seems like a significant portion of them want to be known as a Customer Data Platform (CDP).

That’s no surprise. CDPs are possibly the hottest martech software of 2020, and all the hype is driving vendors to either claim they’re a CDP or acquire a CDP to meet demand. The takeaway? If you want a CDP, you’ve got some work ahead of you when trying to pick the right one.

What to consider when considering a CDP?

Let’s assume you have already decided that a CDP is right for you (need more info? Check out this CDP guide). You’re then faced with an overwhelming amount of vendors. So how do you start building a shortlist?

The most important step is to make sure your chosen vendors can meet your needs. You can usually discover this through a demo, or by looking through a vendor’s documentation. Most companies are more than happy to tell you about their capabilities, so this is actually one of the easier parts.

The harder part comes next. It’s likely that multiple vendors will be able, at least in theory, to meet your technical needs. So now you need to decide based on other factors. How do you make that decision?

You need to consider other parts of the CDP experience, parts that might be a little harder to uncover. Let’s look at a few possibilities.

Potential ROI

There are lots of reasons for wanting a CDP: creating better customer experiences, developing holistic understandings of your customers, omnichannel marketing… but let’s be honest.

You expect some return on what’s probably a big investment. Be sure the CDP you’re evaluating can demonstrate the ROI it’s delivered for their customers. Look for case studies, ask for references, and make sure that they can prove an ROI you’d be happy with.

Ease of use

CDPs are often marketed as platforms intended for use by marketers. And that’s great! But sometimes they can be really complicated pieces of software.

To function properly, they need to be able to ingest lots of data from lots of different sources, which is no small task. That can lead to complicated interfaces and long onboarding times. 

Unfortunately it can be hard to judge a platform’s ease of use without actually using the platform. Some vendors give video demos of their platform on their website (see Exponea’s demo as an example). This can give you some idea of what it’s like to work with the platform.

Another way to get a sense for a platform’s usability is to think of a use case you want to achieve with a chosen CDP. Then, set up a demo with your selected vendor. Ask them to walk you through the use case from start to finish.

Most CDPs also have extensive public documentation. Exploring this before you sign the contract can give you some idea of the product interface. It can also show you how easy (or difficult) it is to work with the product documentation.

Product innovation

Vendor’s offerings today might look somewhat similar. But will they be able to evolve and grow with changing market demands? A CDP is a commitment, so you want to choose a vendor that will grow with your business.

There are a few ways you can gauge how innovative a vendor is. See if they offer a public roadmap. If they do, look at what they have planned. Is it interesting for your business? Does it align with your goals for the next year? 

See if you can find a product history. Innovative companies were usually innovative in the past as well. You can also check the backgrounds of the company leadership team. This will often show you where a company’s priorities are.

User satisfaction

This might be one of the most important metrics. If people hate to use the tool, you’ll struggle with adoption. And low adoption leads to poor results and a waste of money.

On the other hand, if you’ve got a tool that people love to use, they’ll look for new ways to use it, increasing your ROI.

Fortunately, people are usually happy to give their opinions on products. You can always ask vendors for references, although they’ll only connect you with happy customers.

You could also try asking about vendors you’re considering in Slack groups dedicated to your industry or profession. You’re much more likely to get candid reviews there.

Another option is public review sites, like They’re careful to only accept reviews from actual users, and they can give you a good picture of how users from companies similar to yours like using a particular platform.

G2 also lets you compare different vendors against each other, so you can see a platform’s strengths and weaknesses at a glance. This can help inform your discussions with vendors.

According to G2, Exponea, Openprise, and Hull are currently the top three CDPs.

Look beyond the demo

These tips aren’t exhaustive, but they are a good start. The main takeaway is this: CDPs might look similar on paper, and even in their demo. To make an informed decision, consider all factors that go into setting up, maintaining, and making the most of a CDP.

Jordan Torpy is a Technical Content Specialist at Exponea. He works closely with the content team and product experts at Exponea to create material that brings value to readers. With a background in teaching, training, and marketing, Jordan uses case studies, presentations, newsletters and more to illustrate what’s possible in the martech world today.

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