What is a customer data platform?

How do you get to know your customers?

If you’re like most marketers, you can rattle your head a dozen ways. Ads, click rates, blog comments and Facebook likes as well as industry research scratch the surface. What about sales pitches and touchpoints for customer success? How about their business size, billing cycle, or even their corporate holiday card?

To get a complete picture of your customer, you need to gain customer insights from every angle. The easiest and most complete way to do this is to use a Customer data platform.

What is a customer data platform?

According to the CDP Institute, a customer data platform is a software package that creates a permanent, uniform customer database that other systems can access.

This means:

  • A customer data platform has to be a single piece of software, not a combination of products.
  • A CDP must export a persistent, unified customer database, not a fragmented system.
  • A CDP must be accessible to other systems, not an independent export.

How is a CDP different from a CRM?

But wait, what about your CRM? CRMs or customer relationship management systems have become an integral part of sales operations. They offer valuable insights into your customers. In addition, they can be integrated into marketing, customer service, and finance programs. You can even use a unified CRM that combines many of these integrations into one central system.

This is how a customer data platform differs from a customer relationship management system.

CDPs are managed by marketers

This is different from a CRM that is managed by a Sales Operations Manager or a system administrator. A digital marketing manager or analyst can manage a customer data platform.

CDPs are not used to manage customers

A customer data platform is not used to send emails, phone calls, or market to customers. Instead, it analyzes things that have already happened.

CDPs go beyond CRM

A customer relationship management system is a great data resource. However, it is not the only data resource. A CPD can also augment CRM data with marketing, service and financial information.

Your customer has a story before and after becoming a data point. A customer data platform will help your digital marketing team tell this story without gaps.

What kind of data does a CDP collect?

The customer data platform should collect customer information at every point of contact in order to enable a 360-degree view. Here are some examples of the types of data a CDP might collect:

Web data

Tools like Google Analytics document the web behavior of your customers. A customer data platform can summarize clicked links, time on the page and bounce rate. The combination with other customer data can reveal significant trends in user behavior.

Customer IDs

Your CRM integration improves your customer information. With a robust CRM, you can use identifying information to segment customer profiles. Data such as names, birthdays and addresses create more comprehensive images of your customers.

Customer histories

Has your customer been here for six years or six months? Do you pay six digits or do you get a six-week free trial? This sales information, also in your CRM, profile customers based on their buying behavior.

Email or social media engagement

Who are the customers who like everything you post on Facebook but never upgrade? What about those who haven’t opened a marketing email in over a year? These digital marketing analytics are powerful when aggregated with your other customer metrics.

Customer service data

You can learn a lot about a customer by studying how they use your customer service. Combining data from live chats, phone calls, and emails shows customer behavior over time and the likelihood of churn.

Financial information

At the end of the day, you want to know which customers are buying for how much. A customer data platform shows the lifetime value and total investment in your customers, including acquisition.

Benefits of Using a Customer Data Platform

Marketing bridges the gap between your customer and your product. Marketers usually understand their product very well. Why shouldn’t you understand your customer on the same level?

The advantages of a customer data platform include:

Campaign optimization according to your customer profile

A customer data platform shows you which campaigns are popular with your customers. With this information, you can segment your marketing programs to meet customer needs.

Improve your sales cycle

With integrated marketing and sales data, a CDP can identify blockers in your funnel. With this information, you can move customers from marketing to sales smoothly.

Identification of customer correlations

Suppose you have a suspicion that organic customers are more likely to contact customer service. A CDP can say you are right – or wrong. You can use these correlations to find alignments in your marketing, sales, and support functions.

Reintegration of customer data into other software

Customer data platforms integrate both options. This allows your marketing and sales software to use CDP data to improve your day-to-day functions.

Drive revenue

Better customer understanding = better marketing = better sales.

Using a customer data platform to improve your marketing

How exactly does a better understanding of customers lead to better marketing? This is how a CDP can influence the success of your marketing campaigns.

CDP shows which channels are generating the most revenue

A CDP creates a direct line between your marketing channel and lifetime earnings. You can invest more in the channels that are high revenue drivers and retire those that don’t. This increases your marketing ROI and lowers your customer acquisition costs.

CDP helps improve your product marketing

Product marketing helps your customer to better understand your company and your product. A CDP uses your data to show customer touch points, pain points, and decision cycles. You can incorporate this information into segmented product marketing materials.

Create better segments with full visibility

We all know that digital marketing isn’t one size fits all – it’s meant to be humanized. Our campaigns and programs work best when we tailor them to our customers’ needs. With a customer data platform, you can create more specific customer segments. With fewer assumptions, these segments are more accurate, measurable and more effective.


A customer data platform is a great tool to better understand your target audience. The insight into the whole company can be transformative for marketing success. If you’re a marketer looking to understand your customer better, consider adding a CDP to your tech stack.

4 types of customer data to improve your marketing campaigns. Rob FitzGerald. ConnextDigital. 20th June 2019
8 advantages of a customer data platform (CDP). Jan Hendrik Fleury and Clemens Niekler. Crystalloids. October 7, 2019
Basics of the customer data platform. Customer Data Platform Institute. 2021