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CDP 101: A Closer Look at a Martech Newcomer


We live in the age of Big Data. Yet, in this screen-filled, digital-obsessed world, having a plethora of data isn’t enough. It’s how that data is analyzed and used that truly matters. Given this wave of information, many brands are quickly jumping at the opportunity to customize their digital experiences. To better understand what personalization can do for your brand, it’s important to first identify what kind of customer data you should be paying attention to. Where are your users? What are they interested in? What are their site behaviors? And the mother of these questions: What goals am I trying to reach through personalization?

Recently, a fairly new martech acronym has been introduced to help answer these questions: CDP (Customer Data Platform)—not to be confused with DMP (Data Management Platform).

Let’s take a closer look at how CDPs differ in the martech space and what makes this data management type appealing for marketers.

What are CDPs?

A relative newcomer to the martech space, CDPs are a form of 1:1 marketing that use first-party data to personalize experiences based on real consumer identities—meaning that existing users are the target. These platforms shift the proverbial steering wheel from the hands of IT staff (as with CRMs) to marketers’ —which is largely their appeal. As the governor of their own data, marketers are able to integrate CDPs with their other platforms, including DMPs and CRMs, in order to amplify their marketing, advertising and sales.

What do CDPs do with the data?

CDPs collect information across all stages of a known customer’s journey—from the initial Google search, to signing up for the newsletter—and use that data to form segmented groups based on their interests, behaviors and demographics. The personal identifiable information (PII) gathered by CDPs offer marketers a single view of their customers. From there, the content is tailored across both earned and owned platforms to meet the needs and interests of each individual within a designated segment.

Who should use them?

B2C brands should primarily consider a CDP, as their features naturally lend themselves to personalizing content for users whose activity indicated interest in other products or services based (i.e., welcome back, John!).

More recently, conversation has surfaced around the benefits of using a CDP in tandem with a DMP, as each has a natural complement to how the other channel uses customer data. Where a CDP helps nurture existing customers, DMPs can expand that audience, allowing marketers focus on both breadth than depth, combining to create more refined look-alike models by linking first and third party data. While this might seem like the personalization jackpot, there are a couple of hesitations (and big ones) to consider:

  • Unless you have a limitless budget, the cost of using both is likely enough to halt you in your tracks.
  • Additionally, this kind of high-level personalization puts brands at risk for being perceived as just plain creepy.
  • The newness of CDPs leaves much up to speculation, as the question remains as to how much personalization is too much, probing the question: Is there something to be said for wasted efforts?

With personalization, each brand should think through all options for customer data management, thoroughly considering which approach is best for their business and goals. In combining two or more platforms, a new level of understanding for customers and clients may be in sight—but marketers needn’t neglect to recognize the risk of over-personalization. As the media landscape continues to shift and more martech and adtech platforms emerge, we’re excited to be helping brands explore and evaluate the right mediums.