The better you understand your customers, the better you can optimize and focus your marketing and products. This is where a customer data platform (CDP platform) can help. A CDP platform automates the process of aggregating and analyzing historical and real-time customer data from the widest variety of sources. Then it transforms that data into accurate and actionable business insights.
By bringing together historical and real-time data analytics, CDP platforms empower what Gartner calls “an enterprise nervous system that provides connected, contextual, continuous intelligence across multiple locations.” This allows you to provide a more personalized customer experience, clarifies branding—and ultimately, skyrockets the success of marketing and sales campaigns.
The challenge lies in selecting the best CDP platform for your needs. In this guide, we help you understand what to look for in a CDP platform. Then we review our favorite CDPs for 2023 and beyond—including Segment, Bloomreach Engagement, Blueshift, and more.
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Table of Contents
- Understanding Customer Data Platforms: An Overview
- 3 Best CDP Platforms for 2023 and Beyond
- Integrate.io Makes CDP Implementations Easy
Understanding Customer Data Platforms: An Overview
Businesses use CDP platforms to understand their customer data, develop clear and accurate customer profiles, and deliver better, more individually-tailored customer experiences. To achieve this goal, your customer data platform should be able to organize, aggregate, and analyze data from the following sources:
- Social media
- Cloud-based marketing tools
- Ecommerce platforms
- SaaS applications
- Web apps
- Mobile apps
- Digital marketing campaigns
- Email platforms
- Other business systems
Data from these sources will include:
- User Feedback
- Customer service and sales team data
- Purchase habits
- Online browsing and shopping behavior
- Brick-and-mortar store shopping behavior
- Geographical locations
- Reactions to previous marketing campaigns
- Other information depending on the business need
After analyzing this information, your CDP platform should be able to create crystal-clear customer profiles that empower better branding, marketing, and product/services development.
What Types of CDP Platforms Are Available?
There are several different types of platforms that fall under the CDP category. To ensure that you choose the right type of CDP platform, it’s important to define each type:
- Smart Hub CDP: Smart Hub CDPs focus solely on providing CDP services, offering the widest range of capabilities from a unified interface. These capabilities may include personalization features and marketing orchestration tools. An example of a Smart Hub CDP is Blueshift (see a review of this platform below).
- Marketing Cloud Provider CDP: Marketing Cloud Providers like Oracle and Microsoft have begun to offer CDP tools that seamlessly integrate with their platforms. In some cases, CDP tools could already be included in a Marketing Cloud Provider service that your firm subscribes to—or you could access CDP services with an affordable upgrade. An example of a Marketing Cloud Provider CDP is Bloomreach.
- Marketing Data Integration CDP: Marketing Data Integration CDPs empower marketing teams to integrate diverse data while adhering to data governance standards. By offering a wide range of data connectors and integrations, these tools are valuable for bringing in the widest range of data sources. An example of a Marketing Data Integration CDPs is Segment.
5 CDP Features You Want and Need
When shopping for the best CDP platforms for 2022 and beyond, consider choosing platforms with the following capabilities:
Real-time data analytics: The latest CDP platforms should be able to update their data, customer profiles, and metrics every few seconds based on real-time information. With real-time data analytics, firms can personalize customer experiences with greater agility and responsiveness.
Advanced analytics and AI-powered analysis: Marketing firms and marketing departments have access to more data than they can effectively use. The latest CDP platforms are equipped with advanced data analytics features—including AI-powered analysis technology—which helps them create actionable metrics and display them with easy-to-understand and shareable visuals and dashboards.
Use of behavioral data: CDP platforms should be able to pull customer behavior data from multiple sources—such as mobile apps, SaaS apps, social media, and e-commerce platforms—and incorporate this data into customer profiles.
Integrates with other tools: The CDP platform should be able to integrate with marketing tools and apps that your firm is already using.
Compliant with data security rules and standards: CDP platforms should adhere to all applicable rules, laws, and standards for data compliance that apply to your region, industry, and internal organization—especially GDPR and CCPA rules.
3 Best Customer Data Platforms for 2022 and Beyond
Of the many Customer Data Platforms available, we have selected three powerful CDP platforms to review below. We have also included a brief list of high-powered CDPs—in case you want to examine more options.
Segment is a CDP platform from Twilio that allows you to gather and send customer data to multiple destinations. It includes the following features:
- Journeys: Tools for designing omnichannel engagement keep customers interested at every stage of the customer journey.
- Functions: Features for customizing data pipelines allow businesses to maintain safety while breaking data silos and pulling the right data from all sources.
- Warehouses: Data warehousing tools empower businesses to load and transform customer data.
Segment users can develop multichannel marketing communications targeted to customer profiles that reflect real-time data. Segment also combines with Twilio Engage—a growth automation tool for personalized marketing—in order to pair Segment with a wide range of scalable communications APIs, making them available in a single platform.
Segment offers an API that makes it possible to collect, standardize, and aggregate customer data in a single database. This allows customer-facing teams to gain quick access to a single, clear view of the customer journey without painstaking integrations.
Ultimately, Segment is a powerful tool for deep insights into the way customers are interacting on different channels—offering better context to customer-facing teams.
Advantages of Segment CDP are:
- Easy to integrate with popular CRMs
- Real-time tracking and real-time data integration capability
- Customizable dashboards
- Easy standardizing of data with a shared data dictionary
Disadvantages of Segment CDP are:
- Some users complain about a difficult onboarding process.
- There is a burden on IT teams to insert code snippets for the best results
The following Segment user reviews offer deeper insight into the platform:
“Segment connects sources of data (analytics, engagement events, record collections for reporting, etc) with the places that data is used for reporting and further engagement (everything from Slack to Mixpanel to BI tools). We benefit from Segment because our operations and executive team can easily see the results of product and sales efforts due to reporting made possible by Segment.” –Jordan H., CTO
“We now have a single source for all events coming through from our website. We have managed to shift our team's mentality from "everything is in Google Tag Manager" to understanding that Segment is the single source of truth for all events. With Segment, adding new destinations is easier than before, especially with the easy-to-use debugger.” –Ian J., Senior Front End Engineer
2. Bloomreach Engagement
Bloomreach is a cloud platform for developing and managing marketing and commerce experiences. According to Gartner, “Commerce experiences represent the programmed interactions between a marketer and the customer, beginning with awareness and continuing through purchase and postpurchase feedback. A commerce experience adaptively frames the buying journey, highlighted by layers of social interaction.”
Bloomreach recently acquired Exponea and integrated Exponea’s Customer Data Platform features into its offering to create a Bloomreach CDP component (called “Bloomreach Engagement”). Bloomreach Engagement offers the following features:
- Data tracking: Online and offline data tracking allows businesses to aggregate all data into analytics tools.
- Unified view of data: A single, unified view of customer data makes understanding and exploring data easier.
- Advanced analytics: Deep customer data analytics with machine learning features and predictive recommendations offer accurate, AI-fueled intelligence.
Bloomreach Engagement helps firms break through data silos, unify their customer data, and develop comprehensive customer profiles. This allows the creation of highly personalized, real-time multichannel campaigns.
The platform also includes drag-and-drop tools, so marketing teams have the control to develop omnichannel customer journeys. Marketing team members trained on the platform can include real-time triggers, conditions, customer segments, and new channels in their journeys. They can also automate end-to-end omnichannel journeys.
Finally, Bloomreach Engagement offers high-speed analytics via extensive data manipulation capabilities. These features empower users to create actionable reports with deep insights that update in real-time.
Advantages of Bloomreach Engagement are:
- Multichannel campaign execution
- Use of real-time customer behavior for the personalization of products
- Once trained, non-tech users can develop and automate sophisticated omnichannel customer journeys
Disadvantages of Bloomreach Engagement are:
- Some users complain of a steep learning curve
- Web layers are complex
- Does not include any automatic dashboards for managing surveys
The following Bloomreach Engagement user reviews offer deeper insight into the platform:
“Bloomreach, previously Exponea, is a very useful tool to manage most of your customer data into a single platform. Most CDPs offer only the unification of the data and you have to invest in many different technologies to efficiently use your first-party data. When in Exponea, the activation of that data is very useful. There were some bumps on the road, as there would be with any vendor, but the Exponea support team is very responsive and knowledgeable. My main little downside is that Exponea is mainly focused on eCommerce and lacks a few features that could add value to publishers … I love the fact that you can easily unify, analyse, segment, and activate data within the same session. It is so easy to use and straightforward…” –Audience Growth Manager Specializing in Data and Analytics
“I like working in the Exponea environment. Exponea shows a lot of flexibility when building various campaign scenarios, while it is still easy to use. Navigation is straightforward. The learning curve is pretty steep. You can build very sophisticated personalized marketing campaigns with this tool. The growing list of integrations with other marketing platforms is quite sufficient for us. The consulting team has provided us with many useful insights and detailed advice. We are currently implementing a recommendation module where they are helping us set up different machine learning models and explaining various features and their impact. The support team is quick to respond and resolve any problems I encountered so far.” –CRM Manager in Digital Marketing
Blueshift is a Smart Hub CDP that helps firms deliver real-time experiences at every stage of an omnichannel customer journey. The platform also includes a large selection of data integrations through its AppHub feature.
Some of the most popular elements of Blueshift include:
- Real-time analytics: Blueshift helps businesses unite historical and streamed data for continuous intelligence.
- Audience segmentation and predictive segmentation: Audience segmentation features that divide customers into categories based on a wide range of chosen demographics. These features include “predictive segmentation,” which provides a score that indicates the likelihood that different customers will engage, purchase, or churn. These scores update in real-time following each customer action.
- 1-to-1 personalization and predictive affinities: Personalization of experiences beyond segmented audiences allows businesses to tailor experiences to each individual user. Blueshift also includes “predictive affinities,” which allows businesses to deliver the best content for engagement based on customer actions throughout a customer journey.
- Advanced analytics: Blueshift analyzes data to provide deep predictive forecasting, analysis, and marketing intelligence.
The Blueshift Smarthub CDP helps businesses overcome data silos, aggregate and analyze cross-organizational data, and develop an adaptable profile for every customer. Blueshift includes AI features for scaling, timing, and automating marketing activities—in a way that delivers tailored messages and recommendations to customers at the right moments.
Finally, Blueshift serves as a multichannel hub that allows you to connect with customers across all channels—whether it's via email, mobile app, SMS, social media, or another kind of communication.
Advantages of Blueshift are:
- Blueshift includes powerful tools for building, deploying, managing, optimizing, measuring, and automating omnichannel campaigns.
- Blueshift customer profiles incorporate complete historical and real-time customer behaviors.
Disadvantages of Blueshift are:
- Some users complain that Blueshift comes with a stiff learning curve and documentation is unclear.
- Some users say that Blueshift reporting features are limited.
The following Blueshift user reviews offer deeper insight into the platform:
“Blueshift provides a wide range of tools that allow any user to make their campaign or initiative work. I feel like I am constantly learning and finding new tools that I can utilize to my advantage. From building email campaigns to gaining insights into what works best for the end-user, you have a lot of creative freedom to make an effective campaign … The hardest part of Blueshift would be the learning curve. In the beginning, it can be challenging to understand what all the functions are and how they can each support your goals. It will take some repetition to nail down your skills and become a fluent user.” –Megan P., Engagement Specialist
“They are a one-stop solution for all our communication needs! It's a nice and simple pipeline but still very flexible. Everything comes through as an event, set all the custom properties you could need, and send the message as whatever you like. Then the statistical data is all there, ready for marketing to use. As a backend dev, there is a considerable part of the workload off my shoulders.” –Nate C., .Net Software Engineer
4. Additional CDP Platforms to Consider
You may need to consider more than three CDP Platforms before finding the right one for your needs. In this case, here are some additional CDP platforms offering cutting-edge technology in the space:
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Insights
This CDP platform from Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers both audience insights and engagement insights. Audience insights help you connect and understand transactional, behavioral, and observational data. Engagement insights help you analyze customer behaviors across different channels.
The Lytics CDP platform is an affordable solution that helps marketers create personalized digital experiences. Lytics is known for its ability to help marketers target individual users inside a segment. Some businesses with large data segments may find that the platform is too slow for their needs.
The Insider CDP platform offers marketers the chance to connect data from different channels. It also features an “AI Intent Engine” that forecasts future customer actions. The platform includes powerful features for creating unique customer experiences for individual users.
The Listrak CDP platform is known for its automation capabilities, flexibility to apply to many different use cases, and visualization features. Listrak also boasts powerful AI recommendations and predictive analytics. Like many other CDP platforms, Listrak has a steep learning curve, so users could need training before being able to take full advantage of this platform’s features.
As a part of SAP offerings, the SAP Customer Data Platform is a relatively new addition to the SAP lineup. This platform offers (1) powerful tools for connecting data from various sources, (2) strategic and intelligent data governance, (3) the ability to manage large data volumes, and (4) the personalization of campaigns based on customer data. SAP also includes features for real-time insights.
The Oracle Unity CDP platform comes from a powerful brand in the data management space. This Oracle product is known for its ability to bring together and understand both traditional marketing and advertising information related to customers from online, offline, and third-party sources. Oracle Unity is particularly good at targeting individual customers with tailored marketing campaigns across the different channels, devices, networks, and domains that customers use. The platform also includes powerful privacy and identity controls.
Integrate.io Makes CDP Implementations Easy
Once you have selected the best CDP solution for your needs, the next challenge is to implement the platform quickly and affordably. For that, you’ll need a powerful and easy-to-use data integration solution like Integrate.io. Integrate.io features a wide range of pre-built connectors for pulling data from virtually any source and loading it into your CDP solution.
With its point-and-click interface, Integrate.io is so easy to use that it empowers virtually anyone—regardless of technical skill level—to rapidly build sophisticated data pipelines that automate the process of (1) extracting data from diverse information systems; (2) transforming data for compliance and readability purposes; and (3) effortlessly loading the data into your CDP platform. Best of all, every Integrate.io account comes with unlimited access to a dedicated data integration specialist who will help you create any kind of data integration workflow you need.
Here’s how one user describes Integrate.io:
“Allows us to move data with ease and support has been awesome! The interface is simple to use and has been easy to figure out the different features. Any time you get stuck you can just open the chat window and ask to support a question which has been a great help. We were looking for an online ETL and reverse ETL tool and this has worked exactly as planned … It allows us to connect to our different data stores and combine and manipulate the data so we can gain useful insights around the information and remove all the excel work people were doing.” –Craig P., VP Business Operations
With Integrate.io, your team will speed through the CDP implementation process, reduce IT department data integration coding burdens, adhere to applicable compliance rules, and save enormous amounts of time and money in the process.
Want to see how easy it is to create sophisticated data transformation pipelines with Integrate.io? Contact our team and schedule a free demo of the platform now!