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PHOTO: Amy Lister

The stakes are high when choosing a customer data platform (CDP) vendor. Making the right choice for your company can help generate higher revenue through a better understanding of your customers and the ability to deliver targeted, personalized appeals and tailored, brand-building experiences. It can also boost the ROI of your other martech investments by creating more integrations where it matters (with one common view of the customer).

But making the wrong choice could lead to a host of undesirable results, including unplanned development time to make up for product shortfalls, the inability to support the highest priority use cases, and lack of access to the details your team needs. That’s why it pays to ask the right questions long before you make your final decision or even draw up your shortlist.

Remember, you’re choosing the profile, targeting, segmentation and activation technology that could serve as the “team captain” for all of your other martech. Your CDP will help you call the plays based on a detailed understanding of every one of your customers, even if you have millions of them. There’s a reason why Gartner recently declared 2019 the “Year of the Customer Experience” — and a well-chosen CDP is a critical part of your ability to deliver that experience.

So before you join the 78% of marketers that Forbes says either have or are developing a CDP, ask the following questions:

1. Can the CDP ingest data from a variety of sources? Does it have ready-built connectors for common martech tools (for data input and activation)?

One of the most important aspects of a CDP is the ability to ingest all of the customer data your company has, whether it’s in an ERP system, a point of sales system, in web logs or app data, in data lakes or data warehouses, or housed in SaaS tools such as a CRM, marketing automation, loyalty or customer support system.

It’s important the CDP can connect with most systems via pre-built connectors (to save time), but that it also has the flexibility to create custom connections. A good CDP should be able to access hard-to-reach data. Getting all of your data in one place allows you to perform identity resolution, helping you reduce duplicate profiles and get a holistic, 360-degree view of each customer.

Related Article: What Can You Do With a Customer Data Platform?

2. Does the CDP allow marketers to easily access and act on customer data without IT help?

Your IT team has a lot on their plate. Instead of waiting for them to give you access to the data you need, a good CDP should help you own and master all customer data without constant requests for IT resources.

Your CDP should be marketer friendly. In other words, the marketing team should easily be able to handle day-to-day segmentation, targeting and campaign management. Look for dashboards with easy-to-understand graphics and built-in functions that answer the questions you regularly ask. Make sure your CDP allows you to easily activate your data across your key channels, such as web, mobile, advertising and marketing automation.

3. Does the CDP allow you to access the raw data?

Remember, average and aggregate stats only tell you 10% of the story. To uncover key moments in your customer journeys, you need access to raw, unfiltered data. A CDP must support raw data access through a GUI, API or SQL. And you should be able to do ad hoc queries without hassles, add data and fields to your data, and incur no extra charges related to data warehouse redesign or accessing your own data.

Related Article: Clearing Up CDP Misconceptions

4. What is on the vendor’s CDP product roadmap? Do they value and solicit customer input on new features and capabilities?

A CDP is a competitive, high-tech innovation, so of course, you only want to partner with a CDP vendor that aggressively incorporates new developments in AI, machine learning, and emerging technology. In particular, ask to see the roadmap for including IoT and sensor data. Companies like Kirin and Parco are already experimenting with weather data (Wouldn’t a beer be great on a hot day like this?) and location information (Stop by for an additional discount at the store you’re about to pass!). Make sure your vendor is committed to incorporating new technologies as they arise, so you don’t get stuck with outdated or orphaned technology.

5. Is your CDP secure?

Data security is no longer simply an IT problem. With introduction of global and domestic legislation such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), marketers face increased scrutiny regarding how data is handled. Ultimately, any failure of your partners can become a failure of yours, and that includes your CDP partner. Do they have security features or guides to help you comply with security and privacy laws and directives such as the CCPA and GDPR? If not, that’s probably disqualifying in today’s privacy- and security-oriented regulatory climate.

Related Article: Is That New CDP Truly a Customer Data Platform?

Ask Questions Now to Avoid Regrets Later

Asking these questions can help you avoid costly missteps and select the CDP that’s best for your business. But make no mistake, a CDP is the answer for organizations that need to break down data silos and use all of their data to support all of their operations, especially marketing and sales. Empowering your operational systems with access to real-time customer data and profiles can lead to better ROI on all your tech investments and breakthrough customer experiences that create enthusiastic fans of your brand.