What Is A Customer Data Platform (CDP)?


Let’s start with the data.

Customers — even your future customers — provide their data throughout their interactions with your brand. Think about it: emails to get the latest newsletter or discount, page visits, shopping carts filled, shopping carts abandoned, service inquiries, and more. You are awash with customer data. The key is gaining access to all that data and stitching it together for a complete view of each customer.

A Customer Data Platform (CDP) is the ideal underlying technology for a marketer to manage and unify known customer data and make it accessible to other systems. Let’s make it even more simple: A CDP is a database that can connect to your other marketing systems, including your ESP, ecommerce platform, and more, creating an actionable customer view.

Most Customer Data Platforms are prebuilt systems that require 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.

CDP Makes Data Actionable

You have the data…now what?

Customer Data Platforms are a great storing facility for your customer data, but a CDP must also provide “user resolution” so you can actually do something with this data. Identity resolution is the ability to stitch together data to correctly identify your buyer across devices, browsers, and platforms.

Using user resolution, a CDP now provides marketers with the full story of each customer.  Now you can actually see each customer and perhaps how they start by browsing products on their mobile phone, click on a Facebook ad, make their purchase on a different browser on desktop, and then ask for customer support via web chat. Taking this stitched-together view of each customer allows the CDP to properly analyze for trends, behaviors, and even predictions.

CDP: Platform or Product?

Since it is called a “Customer Data Platform” one might believe this is a moot argument, yet it is one that continues. A CDP alone provides minimal value, but as an underlying platform technology, it is critical to better marketing, service, and merchandising. Often the debate turns into CDP versus CRM: which is best for my business? Innovative ecommerce brands are finding that a CRM that is powered by CDP technology is the most ideal solution. Why? 

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 stand-alone 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

Marketing CRMs are built specifically with, no surprise, 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, stand-alone 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

Marketing 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 even more important, this is a powerful aspect of 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, stand-alone 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.

Zaius Customer Data Platform Technology

The Zaius marketing CRM starts first with the customer. And the ability to know your customer always begins with CDP technology underlying our CRM that’s accessible to the marketer. Our proprietary technology allows you to easily collect and connect customer data from hundreds of sources to complete your view. This is the power of CDP technology, and Zaius then layers on an analytics and marketing automation layer for a fully functioning marketing CRM.

With Zaius, the marketer can view all customer data in a single location and analyze it historically. Once you identify a customer today, you have to be able to apply that identity to every action they’ve taken historically and unify it into a single source of truth. It’s incredibly powerful to understand how your buyers behave over time, see how their behaviors change and shift, and identify what marketing campaigns they respond to or don’t respond to. All of that data in aggregate will help you better know your customers so you can market to them more effectively.

CDP-Powered Marketing CRM

With CDP-powered CRM, you’re able to more deeply and accurately target your customers. By collecting highly accurate data on your customers, you can start to separate them into very specific segments, such as one-time, repeat, and loyal customers. Then, you can start to do some even more targeted marketing tactics, like customer lifecycle automation.

Using a CDP-powered CRM, you can market very differently to each customer based on exactly where they are in the customer lifecycle today. If you know a customer is new, or has made just one purchase, you will send them a very different message than a loyal customer of 5 years. Here you can see one way to segment buyers very specifically, getting deeper insights into what they care about and offer them more personalized marketing than ever before.

Even better, you can create dynamic customer segments, sending out specific, personalized messages to your buyers when they take action on your site today. If you know Buyer A just made their first purchase, you can automatically send out a welcome message offering them a coupon on their second purchase and showing off products in a similar line to the one they’ve already bought. Then, you can coordinate a Facebook and Google ad campaign with the same message, continuing to push for that all-important repeat purchase.

But again, customer lifecycle marketing always depends on the quality of the data behind it. If you have errors in your customer data, this type of specific lifecycle marketing can be risky. If you don’t know the data on your customers is accurate, marketing to a new buyer or a repeat customer could easily go awry. All of your marketing success relies on user resolution, which allows you to have a reliable database of information about your buyers.

Tea Forte Drives Business With CDP-Powered CRM

Tea Forte is a great example of a company successfully using CDP-powered CRM to drive marketing personalization and relevance. The high-end tea company centralized all of their customer data, including order data, website data, product data, and more to get visibility into their customer behavior across channels and devices. Then, by filtering customer data by behaviors, products, and purchases, they are able to better segment and target customers to boost the relevance of campaign messaging.

It’s rare to find a platform that allows you to take a customer-centric view rather than a campaign-centric one. With Zaius, we can understand the conversion and revenue impact of each touchpoint and put the customer, rather than the channel, first.

Jurgen Nebelung, VP of Ecommerce and Digital, Tea Forte

To drive repeat purchases, the team uses their accurate customer data to identify the most frequently purchased and repeat purchased items and leverages them in post-purchase campaigns. Running email campaigns and coordinated Facebook ads, Tea Forte’s team is able to nudge customers to purchase again and again.

If you can’t incrementally improve your marketing results through analysis, you’ll never be able to truly grow your ecommerce business. This is why the true understanding of your buyer is so important. And literally none of this is possible without a CDP-powered CRM. It seems dramatic to state this so forcefully, but it is true: your marketing success rests on how well you know your buyer.

But with the right data, you can know your buyer no matter where they interact with your business.

Further Resources

Now that you understand why CDP is a great underlying technology for marketers, here’s more information about how CDP can power your marketing campaigns and accelerate your business.

Why B2C Marketers Need to Own All Customer Data

If you don’t have a handle on your own customer data, it’s impossible to use it effectively. Learn how data can empower you to be more creative and effective as a marketer.

Use Product Detail Page Views to Fuel Your Email Strategy

By better understanding who your customers are and what pages they visit on your site, you can offer more personalized marketing campaigns than you ever imagined.

Measuring Ecommerce Ad Attribution for Maximum Impact

Because user resolution allows you to understand your buyers across channels, you can now accurately measure the impact of your paid ads. 

Want to Learn Even More?

Find out how the Zaius Marketing CRM enables you to achieve true user resolution for your brand.