To CDP or not CDP, is that the question?

One of the more recent acronyms in the marketing and technology space has been CDP. Both sides of the hybrid-coin love a TLA or Three letter Acronym, and the term CDP has added another one.
7 minute read
By Bede Feltham

For as long as marketing has been a profession, alongside the more established disciplines of Finance, Sales and Operations, the goal and desire has always been to, ‘reach customers with the right message at the right time’. And for the pedants out there you can add, ‘and in the right channel’.

Reach customers with the right message at the right time and in the right channel

In this article we ask whether the buzz about CDPs or Customer Data Platforms, to give then their full name, whilst breaking out of our TLA vernacular, live up to the hype? And if those on the road to digital transformation can afford not to have a Customer Data Platform (CDP).


The role of the CDP

It’s unrealistic to expect to know everything about your customers from day one, plus people’s circumstances change over time, whether through a purchasing funnel or within customer life cycles. In reality, we actually capture a lot of relevant information as data is produced with every interaction. The majority of the time it’s the case that clients don’t have the foundations in place to interpret the data generated, or the way it is captured isn’t structured in a manner to do so.

360-degree view One of the core competencies of a CDP is to provide a 360-degree view of your customers and their interactions with you across all touch points. It is this unification of known (first party) and unknown data that sets the CDP apart from other platforms you make have like a Data Lake or CRM

Real-time The other core benefit of a CDP is to manage this in real-time. Only by connecting directly with in-house platforms or external platforms through open APIs and integrations can you ingest data in to the CDP. Your sales agent handling an in-bound customer call, knowing that the customer has been on your website in the last 30 minutes can be invaluable data and insight in helping to manage the interaction in an efficient manner.

Journey Orchestration The so what. What do we do next? The consolidation of all data in to a 360-degree customer view leads to the ability for real-time decisioning. What’s the Next Best Action (NBA) to take. Even the next best conversation. Real-time interaction management (RTIM) and the application of AI and machine learning (ML) can all contribute to the goal of ensuring you deliver the right message at the right time and in the right channel to your customer.

The Core Competencies of a CDP

The 9 core competencies of a CDP:

  1. Set up: Ability to set up the CDP, governance and configuration
  2. Privacy and consent: Ability to respect different laws across markets, plus aggregate Privacy and Consent for all markets
  3. Data unification: Ability to ingest data from other systems to create a 360-degree customer view
  4. Identity resolution: Ability to create a single and unified view of customers
  5. Audience orchestration: Ability to create segments and audiences and synchronise the delivery of these to any channel in real-time
  6. Event syndication: Ability to stream data to various analytics systems in real-time
  7. Machine Learning / AI: Ability to focus on the machine learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) capability of the CDP
  8. Reporting and monitoring: Ability to monitor the inflow and outflow of data, reporting variances or anomalies
  9. Support: Ability of the CDP vendor to provide first-line support, training, documentation, SLAs and escalation

Not all CDP vendors are equal

There are many CDP vendors out there and more emerging all the time.

Enterprise based versus solus player Dominated by the well-known marketing clouds such as Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce, who are very much making their entry into the CDP space and really trying to make their own cloud apps work better, targeting enterprise companies.

Infrastructure versus Application Then there are the pure play CDPs to consider, which tend to offer a centralised view of your data by putting themselves at the heart of the organisation, versus those that have evolved through a more application focus, maybe a specific functionality such as insights or loyalty.

The pivot players Then there are the pivot players who were born in the web but have seen their space come under threat from other platforms and offerings, They’re quite web centric, client-side dependent and non-API driven platform but might not provide the right CDP foundations for some businesses.

CDP landscape map

It’s not just about the technology

No one platform will be the answer to everything. It’s the People and not the Technology that will have the biggest impact on change!

People The individuals with their specific skills sets across a broad range of disciplines that will inform and support the CoE model.

Process The processes that the individuals need to design and put in place through the CoE to support the wider business.

Technology The technology platforms and capabilities that the processes and individuals will use, to ensure best practice and optimisation, to support the wider business.

x3 Ps

Realistic timescales

Let’s not run before we can walk. Whilst this may seem pretty simple and clichéd, the reality is that many organisations have the ambition to ‘fly’, but need to accept that they are still in a much early stage of adoption. As just discussed it’s the people and processes that are is important as the technology and these things time to culturally embed in to an organisation that has previously ‘done things in a certain way’ with legacy systems for some time!

Being honest with your self about where you are on that proverbial journey and putting in place the governance, KPIs and measurement frameworks to support people and process are fundamental to the success of your CDP implementation.


It should also be recognised by your senior leadership team and or stakeholder early on the process of implementing a CDP, that a return on your investment will not happen overnight but you will see a return, with some low hanging fruit along the way.

CDP timeline



Marketing and the technology that can transform it is moving at an ever increasing pace. Our ability to keep up with, adapt and survive, as brands, through this digital transformation is unprecedented. There are already a few notable winners with their Amazonification (if that’s a word!) and obsession with ‘the customer’. Many brands have already fallen by the way side, failing to adapt to this pandemic driven world.

Customer Data Platforms have a role to play for many brands looking to unify their customer data and create a real-time 360-degree view of their customers. Beyond the technology and the promise that this delivers, the real challenge is for organisations to re-structure and culturally shift their people and processes to this customer centric focus.

Only then will they truly be able to reach customers with the right message at the right time and in the right channel.

Bede Feltham
Digital Strategy Director, ekino London.
Data-driven, digital marketing professional who has passionately followed a hybrid career path, focusing on where technology and marketing meet.

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