As you may have noticed, the “customer data platform category has taken off in the last year or two. Some perceive it as the silver bullet marketers need to finally bring all of their disparate and messy customer data together in one place. Once you dig in, though, you can see that the category is still evolving, and the problems it addresses are hardly uniform.

Many vendors are identifying themselves as CDPs if they provide any services pertaining to customer data, which has left marketers confused about what a CDP really is and what it should do for them. Does a CDP simply act as a central repository to store data from different sources? Does it stitch data sources together? Does it offer analytics or leverage predictive intelligence? Does it collect any data natively? Does it act on the data or simply inform other systems of action?

The truth is that a CDP can do any of these things, because we’re still in the early stages of the category, and the market still needs to determine what it needs and expects from CDP solutions.

How to Avoid Disappointment with Your CDP

So how do you navigate all of this uncertainty? My advice is to avoid jumping on the bandwagon and buying a CDP just to check the box for the latest cool martech tool. With so much buzz around CDPs, it can be tempting to do so. But checking the box will only lead you to the “Trough of Disillusionment.” In other words, you don’t want to blindly invest in something, because you’ll only be disappointed when it doesn’t live up to the hype you bought into.

Ask yourself what that means to you. Think about questions like:

  • What key sources of customer data do I have available across the company?

  • What technology do I have that stores customer data already? Are any of them already integrated and providing valuable insights? If not, how are my current solutions lacking?

  • Am I looking to understand all of my customers at the aggregate level, the segment level, or the individual level?

Once you can answer these questions, you’ll be able to better evaluate CDP vendors based on your requirements. This will help cut down on the confusion, as each defines “CDP” in different ways. Even if you can’t be clear about what the technology actually is, you need to be clear about what your needs are.