Customer data platforms (CDPs) are having a moment. It has been reported that CDP providers will generate $6 billion globally by 2027, rising from $1.7 billion in 2022. That’s a growth of 250% projected due to the rapid adoption of CDPs.
It’s no surprise – CDPs are key to unifying customer data from multiple sources in a single platform to centralize access to data and get a single view of your customer in an event-based world. If you haven’t already, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon.
This blog will discuss what a CDP is, how it differs from a CRM, the use cases of a CDP, a step-by-step guide for choosing the right CDP for your business, and the 10 CPDs to get acquainted with.
Phew, that’s a lot to cover. Let’s get stuck in.
What is a CDP?
Starting at the beginning: What is a customer data platform?
CDP is defined by the CDP Institute as “packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.”
According to the CDP Institute, in order to be deemed a CDP, the minimum requirements of functionality are the ability to:
gather customer data from source systems;
link data to customer identities; and
store results in a database available to external systems.
Defining key terms (according to the CDP Institute)
Packaged software: Usually bought and controlled by business users (often in marketing), which makes it easier to deploy and change, compared to a software that is built and owned by the vendor or hired agency.
Persistent, unified customer database: The CDP creates a comprehensive, single view of the customer. With customer data like personal identifiers and behaviors, marketers can send targeted marketing messages and track individual-level marketing results.
Accessible to other systems: Data stored in the CDP can be used by other systems for analysis to manage customer interactions.
4 types of CDPs
The CDP Institute categorizes CDPs based on functionality. The four categories are: Data CDPs, Analytics CDPs, Campaign CDPs, and Delivery CDPs. Let’s take a closer look.
Data CDPs employ specialized technologies for data management and access. These systems can extract audience segments and send them to external systems.
Analytics CDPs provide analytical applications as well as data assembly. They include customer segmentation, and some use machine learning, predictive modeling, journey mapping, and revenue attribution.
Campaign CDPs offer analytics, data assembly, and can specify different treatments for different customers within an audience segment, across channels. Treatment examples include real-time interactions, personalized messaging, content recommendations, and outbound marketing campaigns.
Delivery CDPs provide customer treatments, data assembly and analytics, as well as message delivery through email, mobile apps, ads, CRM, website, etc.
How does a CDP differ from a CRM?
Before we go further, let’s have a quick look at how the CDP differs from a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
At a basic level, the CDP and CRM are similar: they both collect customer data. But that’s about where the similarities end.
The biggest differentiator is that the CRM is build around an object-oriented data model, whereas the CDP is build around an activity-based data model.
In an object-based model (i.e. CRM), data and relationships are contained in a single structure that represents real-world entity, resulting in different teams (sales, marketing, customer support) looking at different objects that relate to their role. For instance, a marketing team may be looking at primary leads, while sales look at qualified leads or opportunities. This makes it impossible for a company to offer the kind of high-quality support and personalization that customers expect today.
An activity-based data model like a CDP, on the other hand, offers what a CRM can’t: data collection, storage, and organization to provide a single view of the customer journey. Using a CDP, departments are integrated rather than siloed, and teams can deliver 1:1 personalized experiences by predicting and responding to customers’ actions minute-by-minute.
A CDP offers an additional layer to a CRM to give marketers, product teams, customer support, leadership, and finance a “backend” to view their customer data and gain deeper understanding of their end-to-end journeys. It can store, clean and update records in real-time to enable omnichannel marketing.
CDP use cases
To get you better acquainted with what a CDP can do, below are five CDP use cases.
1. Collect and unify your customer data
A powerful CDP is able to hold all of your customers’ data from a variety of different sources: e.g. online, offline/brick-and-mortar, standardized integrations, custom databases, and backend of ecommerce solutions.
Data stored in one place provides a single customer view, meaning teams can easily identify actions, patterns, and trends to predict future customer behavior and make better business decisions.
2. Create more powerful audience segments
With a CDP, you can segment your audience using any combination of demographic, firmographic, behavioral, event-based, and transactional data.
Transactional: Purchasing history, products purchases, preferred method of payment.
With information around customer data types, you can create personalized, relevant campaigns for segmented audiences. Doing so will increase the likelihood that customers will convert. For example, if a customer adandoned their cart, you’d be able to re-engage them through personalized messaging, and guide them through the sales tunnel.
3. Deliver seamless customer experiences
A CDP enables you to create seamless customer experiences for every channel or device through which your audience chooses to interact. This is thanks to all the data collected through your sources.
Let’s say a potential customer is browsing your homewares ecommerce website, and they have clicked on a few items in the glassware category. To increase the chance they’ll convert the next time they visit your website, you can set your homepage to focus on glassware rather than a generic assortment of homewares.
Or, let's say a customer has looked at your social media scheduling tool several times when visiting your website. Next time they land on your homepage, you can serve them a pop-up about a webinar related to social media in web3.
Let's say they register to attend, but don't show up on the day. You can route them into a pre-built journey that allows them to watch the recording of the webinar, and gives them a unique code that gives them 50% off their first 3 months. You can then report on the performance of that campaign, and continuously tweak it based on those results.
4. Enhance ad performance
Customers interact with a brand many times, through multiple touchpoints, and a CDP offers a single view of this behavior, in real-time.
With this rich audience data, you can easily create targeted advertising and personalized content. Using an omnichannel marketing approach, media channels like Facebook and Instagram can then execute specific campaigns based on your target audience’s most recent behaviors.
5. Identify and replicate your best customers
With all customer data stored in one place, you will be able to identity your best customers and replicate them. By creating specific campaigns that target your ideal customer, you can expand your reach.
For example, you may look at customers who have high engagement with your brand, and turn them into brand advocates by incentivizing them to leave positive reviews on third-party pages and spread the word about your business on social media.
You could then identify a high-engagement customer as a best customer, and subsequently create specific campaigns that target lookalike audiences.
Known for: Unifying customer data to create remarkable connections in an all-in-one growth engine.
Ortto combines the CDP, customer journey, and customer journey analytics into one platform, allowing businesses to build their growth engine in one unified platform.
Ortto CEO, Mike Sharkey wanted to make a product that was self-serve and easy-to-use so that marketers could better understand their customers. “We [wanted to] make [Ortto] affordable and build a CDP that gave [marketers] a view of the customer in an event-based word and right across the journey by connecting data sources,” says Sharkey. “[This allows] them to have customer journey analytics in one place and report from across the customer journey, so they truly understood the relationship.”
Ortto is revolutionizing how businesses like Bitly, LiveChat, Frame.io, Stake and more grow and scale.
Known for: Empowering ecommerce brands to deliver personalized customer journeys.
Bloomreach offers a suite of products that together drive personalization and growth. These products are Discover, Content, and Engagement, which includes the CDP and marketing automation solutions. Bloomreach serves hundreds of global commerce brands including Bosch and Puma.
Known for: Enabling enterprise marketers to provide individualized, cross-channel experiences.
Insider platform facilitates marketers to connect customer data across systems and channels (e.g. website, mobile app, email, SMS, messaging apps, ads, etc.), forecast customer behavior through AI-enabled technology, and provide individualized customer experiences. Insider’s clientele includes giant global retailers like IKEA, Adidas and Estée Lauder.
Known for: Offering comprehensive customer tracking.
Segment’s CDP enables businesses to collect, unify, and route their customer into any system that provides them with a better understanding of their customers. With this information, business can create seamless, compelling customer experiences in real-time. Companies that use Segment include FOX, Levi’s and Instacart.
Known for: Facilitating personalized marketing experiences across owned channels.
Klaviyo is a growth marketing platform that promises to create seamless, high-value customer relationships. Marketers can use Klaviyo to curate personalized customer experiences across channels like SMS, email, web, and in-app notifications. Klaviyo is used by D2C brands like ColourPop and Huckberry.
Known for: Driving customer engagement through omnichannel strategies.
Emarsys is a SAP company that aligns business’ desired outcomes with omnichannel customer engagement strategies to accelerate time-to-value and deliver one-to-one customer experiences to produce measurable results.
Known for: Optimizing customer engagement across the entire customer lifecycle.
Totango is a Customer Success software suitable for businesses of all sizes. Its platform provides businesses with real-time access to customer health so that they can forecast risk and opportunities and engage proactively with their customers. With Totango, businesses can drive product adoption, onboarding, renewal, revenue growth, and advocacy.
Known for: Delivering relevant, connected experiences across every customer interaction.
Blueshift’s SmartHub CDP enables brands to seamlessly deliver one-to-one experiences in real-time across the omnichannel journey. With Blueshift, businesses can easily unify customer data from any source, and then inform and activate that data.
Optimove offers CRM marketing to help businesses scale retention and growth. Its platform offers AI-enabled customer personalization across any channel. Brands that use Optimove include Papa John’s, Staples, and Dollar Shave Club.
Treasure Data CDP powers enterprise businesses to connect and unify teams and systems into one customer data platform. The CDP delivers ultimate customer-centricity by driving engagement, value and privacy protection.
How to choose the best CDP for your business
As you’ve seen, there are many CDPs out there with competitive product offerings. This means landing on the best-fit CDP for your business can be tricky. To simplify the process, ensure you’re doing your due diligence, considering use-cases and identifying key requirements.
Below are five steps you should take to find the best CDP for your business.
Step 1: Align key stakeholders
The first step is to involve relevant internal stakeholders in the decision-making process. The stakeholders that should have input include those who manage/work with data from different departments (sales, marketing, customer support, etc.).
Educate stakeholders on why you’re exploring CDPs, what you hope to achieve, and which platforms you’re investigating. Be sure to ask for their feedback and advice.
Step 2: Determine your use cases
When deciding on a CDP for your business, be sure to determine the reasons why you’re looking to use one. Do you want to enhance your ad performance? Is your priority delivering seamless customer experiences, or increasing customer value?
Or, are you looking for a CDP that is powered by AI to enable you to better predict audience behavior and set your business up for the future? Ortto AI keeps learning as your business grows and more data comes in, allowing you to continually generate insights and uncover trends and patterns in audience behavior.
We believe the future of data is building isolated neural nets for AI. If you get data right, and structured correctly, there’s lots of practical AI you can use for targeting and who to talk to. We can structure their data for the future world where things will be largely driven by AI.
Mike Sharkey, CEO at Ortto
Step 3: Determine the resources/tools needed
Once you have identified the CDP use cases, you can assess which CDP will allow you to integrate the tech stack you are already using. Examples include:
Using a CDP like Ortto makes it easy to connect all your data sources. Our no-code integrations are growing constantly, and our custom API and Webhook allows you to integrate any platform you use. See below.
Step 4: Determine non-negotiables
Shopping around for a CDP can be overwhelming. To make the process easier, identify key requirements; your non-negotiable features.
Some common examples of important requirements are:
Offers a full view of the customer journey
Easily integrates with tools and allows for custom APIs and integrations
Has powerful segmentation tools, enabling custom audience segmentation and targeting through omnichannel marketing
Offers support documentation and a customer success team to ensure return on investment
Impressive analytics functionalities including dashboards and reports
Easy to use and time-saving
Credible data security certification
Compliant with GDPR and CCPA
Proven results with similar companies (e.g. size, industry) and positive reviews on third-party review websites like G2
Flexible and affordable plans
Ortto ticks all of the boxes above, and offers a range of plans including a free trial so you can experience our CDP for yourself.
Step 5: Compare vendors
By now, you should have a pretty good idea of the CDP you’re looking for. It’s time to compare and contrast vendors.
Consider the list above of 10 well-known CDPs, each with its own strengths and offerings. Do your due diligence, watch demos or participate in webinars, make use of free trials to play around in the platform, and be sure to weigh up feature inclusions when comparing price.
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The CDP is proving to be a critical tool for business growth because of its ability to connect sales, marketing, and customer support departments and optimize operations to achieve desired business outcomes.