CDP vs. CRM: What’s Right for Your B2C Business?

There are a million acronyms in Martech — with more popping up every day.

Many of these terms are confusing and some even overlap. But there are two that everyone keeps talking about: CDP and B2C CRM.

What are they exactly? The Customer Data Platform (CDP) and Business-to-Consumer Customer Relationship Management (B2C CRM) promise similar capabilities, but deliver very different functionality for marketers.

So what’s the difference between the two? When you pit CDP vs. CRM, which comes out on top? We’ll dig into the technical capabilities of each, the benefits and drawbacks, and offer a recommendation for marketers like you looking for the best platform for a growing B2C business looking to make the most of the customer journey.

What is a CDP?

A Customer Data Platform is defined as a marketer-managed system that unifies known customer data and is also accessible to other systems. A CDP is a database that can connect to your other marketing systems, including your ESP, ecommerce platform, and more, creating an accessible customer view.

Most CDPs are prebuilt systems that require some technical resources to set up and maintain, but not to the same level as a standard data warehouse. CDPs also create a single view of the customer by capturing data as the customer moves across channels and devices. In addition, the data in the CDP can not only go in, but also out — so other systems can use this customer database.

What is a B2C CRM?

A B2C CRM is defined as a single platform that brings customer data and campaign execution together, enabling marketers to better understand buyers and use data to directly power campaigns across channels. Much like a CDP, a B2C CRM unifies customer data in one location, creating a single customer view. But unlike a CDP, that data is directly linked to marketing execution.

How do the two stack up?

While a CDP and B2C CRM seem incredibly similar, in reality, the two perform very differently.

Depending on your business, one type of marketing technology may serve you better than the other. To help clear up some of the confusion, here are the main differences between a B2C CRM and CDP.

Open vs. Closed

CRMs are inherently open platforms. If you think of Salesforce, a traditional B2B CRM, anyone can build anything they want using Salesforce data — whether a customer or vendor. The Salesforce App Store is a great example of how open CRMs are in general. And this is true of B2C CRMs as well. You can connect to almost any data source, even offline and in-store data.

In contrast, most CDPs are generally closed systems. This makes the data less accessible, making it more difficult to connect to multiple APIs and keep the data relevant and up-to-date.

Built for Marketers vs. IT

B2C CRMs are built specifically with marketers in mind. There’s no need to even talk to IT at all — you can run your own reports, analyze top-performing campaigns, and feed customer data directly into your campaigns.

In comparison, CDPs are really built for the technology team, not the marketing team. IT controls the data flow and is the end user for the platform. This means the marketer is not able to directly analyze and segment customer data for marketing execution. Instead, IT handles reporting and analytics.

Consent vs. No Consent

B2C CRMs are not only GDPR compliant, but you can also build a preference center and allow your potential customers to completely customize how you communicate with them. As data privacy and consent become more important, this is a powerful aspect of B2C CRMs. A buyer unsubscribing from your email list is a huge indicator that they are at risk. That data can then drive your marketing by triggering a winback campaign, for example.

Unfortunately, CDPs have no concept of buyer consent when it comes to marketing communications. Because the CDP doesn’t manage marketing automation, the platform doesn’t include any of your customer preference data. This leaves marketers exposed when it comes to GDPR compliance, as well as missing out on predictive indicators around buyer consent.

No Need for IT vs. Requires Technical Knowledge

With a B2C CRM, customer data is completely in the hands of the marketer. There is no need to ask IT or a data expert to run a report and then wait for it to come back. You can build your own reports, optimize your campaigns, and then trigger specific lifecycle marketing campaigns based on real-time customer actions.

A CDP is primarily a tech-driven platform. For a larger organization, the IT department can completely customize and configure a CDP to perfectly meet the need of the business. However, it takes the data out of the hands of the marketer.

A Complete Customer View vs. Incomplete Data

A B2C CRM can unify data from a variety of sources, including your ecommerce platform, ESP, website, ad platforms, and more. You can integrate almost any type of data into a B2C CRM, giving you a complete view of your customer within a unique ID as they move across platforms and devices.

CDPs can pull in a variety of customer interactions and other behavioral data, but because it’s not directly connected to marketing automation, it’s often an incomplete picture. CDPs use the customer email as the identifier, missing out on anonymous browsing data and other information not connected to the customer email.

In Conclusion

CDPs are really a stepping stone on the path to a B2C CRM. While a CDP may solve your immediate data problem, it doesn’t help you as a marketer. If you’d prefer not to ask IT for help every time you need data on your customer, a CDP is not for you. With a B2C CRM, marketers are empowered to build data-driven campaigns, analyze and optimize them, and automate them to perfectly tailor the message to buyers.

Hopefully, this cleared up some of the confusion around B2C CRMs and CDPs and you now know exactly which is right for your business.

Learn more about the B2C CRM

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