What’s in a Name? How to Find the Right Customer Data Platform for Your Business

What's in a name?

As the need for Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) in the marketing and digital gains more attention, there’s an increasing number of CDP vendors and platforms coming onto the market making claims about the ability of their offerings. Many of these vendors are familiar names that are often associated with other parts of the MarTech landscape and have been around well before the CDP concept itself. With such a wide range of vendors available every possible use case and niche appears to be targeted with both specific and general purpose CDPs, making the task of selecting the right CDP for you, harder than you might expect.

So where do you start?
With so many platforms all calling themselves the same thing how do you determine the right one for your needs? The best way to start is by trying to classify the wide range of available CDPs into a few broad categories and then associate those to a set of use cases that they are best suited to deliver. This will enable you to cut out large swathes of the market and reduce the number of platforms to a comparatively narrow set. This narrow set can then be evaluated against your specific functional requirements to find the right one for you.

What follows is one way to categorise and characteristic the wide range of CDPs on the market.



  • Highly optimised to a particular environment
  • Support bespoke and unique applications very well
  • Requires development effort to modify, extend or manage
  • Available only on company hardware, which may make it hard and costly to scale.
  • Slow to get new integrations and features when compared to off the shelf platforms
  • Poorly documented and relies on the knowledge of a few individuals to maintain it

Uses Cases:

  • High numbers of bespoke or custom applications and/or data sources that need to be integrated
  • Ready access to developers able to support to the platform




  • Started out as an integration, analytics or tagging platform that has been relabeled as a CDP with minor changes to the platform’s capabilities itself
  • Well supported and understood platforms due to the fact that they have usually been deployed and been in active use for years
  • Have a wide range of capabilities that are not required by a CDP, which can make it hard to deploy and manage
  • Conflicting demands on the vendor to continue supporting their customers that are using the platform for its original purpose and those using it as a CDP. Usually results in compromises that satisfy neither party
  • Usually results in umet requirements. If the platform is a re-purposed tagging platform then integration capabilities may be poor. If the platform is a re-purposed integration platform then data management capabilities may be poor.

Uses Cases:

  • Already a user of the platform for its original purpose
  • Have experience using the platform for its original purpose
  • You have a requirement for the platform’s original purpose as well as a separate one for a CDP
  • The CDP specific requirements are less important than the more general ones. For example integration is more important than creating a single customer view.


Self Serve


  • Usually a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering
  • Good integration capabilities for the most common data sources and applications
  • Easy to setup and use, usually through a browser based interface
  • Hard or impossible to customise for bespoke data sources or applications
  • Data sovereignty, jurisdiction and/or ownership may be unclear
  • Can be costly to use at scale as they are usually charged by the amount of data stored in them

Uses Cases:

  • All the required data sources and applications required to be supported are all standard with limited customisation
  • Data sovereignty is not a large issue, i.e. non-regulated industries
  • The amount of data required to be stored is not growing rapidly over time or where cost is not an issue




  • Flexible deployment options. Can usually be installed in a customer’s own IT environment to guarantee data sovereignty
  • Highly configurable and customisable
  • Support for any data source and application
  • Highly scale-able if installed in Infrastructure as a Service/Cloud environments
  • Complex to setup due to deployment flexibility
  • Usually limited self service options due to the complexity of the platforms
  • Can be licensed a range of different ways

Uses Cases:

  • Mix of bespoke and custom or proprietary data sources and applications
  • Data sovereignty is an issue, i.e. regulated industries
  • Large amounts and types of data are required to be stored or stored for a long period of time


If you can categorise the various CDPs you come across in your search into these categories and you know which category your use cases fall into then it should make it much easier to find the best CDP for you.  Be very careful of making your functional requirements, e.g. Real Time Data Access, the primary driver of your CDP selection.  Generally you’ll be able to find a platform that will meet your function requirements within the category of CDP that suits you, but if you end up selecting a CDP in an unsuitable category for you just because it meets narrow functional requirements you are highly unlikely to have a successful CDP deployment.

  • But you can generally summarise the category table as:
  • If you are operating in an unregulated industry and the data sources and applications you use are common and un-customised then a Self Service CDP is probably a good choice for you.  But be wary of the CDPs from the large Marketing Cloud vendors as they may have limited integration with applications that aren’t their own as they are generally optimised to drive their own set of applications.
  • If you are operating in a regulated industry such as health or financial services then you can only realistically look at Proprietary or Enterprise CDPs.
  • If you have an environment that has a lot of highly customised or proprietary data feeds or applications then you are best with a Proprietary or Enterprise CDP.
  • If you have basic CDP requirements and you already use or are familiar with a platform that has been recategorised as a CDP then a Repurposed CDP may be your best choice.  Just be aware though of trading off too much CDP functionality for platform familiarity.

The n3 Hub CDP is an Enterprise CDP with a wide range of deployment options, which makes it ideal for complex and/or regulated use cases.  Its licensing model is not based on the amount of data stored within it in customer hosted scenarios, which means that it is ideally suited to environments with massive amounts of data. n3 Hub also provides a range of deployment and management services to ensure that the deployment and use of its Enterprise CDP is as smooth as possible.