Customer Data Platforms: Separating Hype from Honesty

Customer Data Platforms: Separating Hype from Honesty

Chances are, if you’re a marketer, data scientist, or engineer in 2020 you’ve heard of Customer Data Platforms. You may even have a Google alert set for CDPs (many of us here at Blueshift do) and the sheer volume of content being produced in the vein of CDPs is overwhelming to say the least. On one hand, the seemingly overnight ascension of Customer Data Platforms might speak to just how valuable they are. It is incredibly important to have a singular source of truth to base all of your customer interactions upon. 

It’s also important to note how the rise of CDPs correlates with a Renaissance of 1st-party data (which in turn supports consumer data consent and privacy) and how that is shaping the future of marketing. But, “CDPs” aren’t immune to over hype — Frankenstein-esque solutions are popping up left and right claiming to be genuine CDPs, there are few resources for businesses looking to bring one into their stack, and CDPs aren’t necessarily the full solution to providing true 1:1 customer experiences. So, we’re here to help sift out hype from honesty — and help marketers determine if a Customer Data Platform is right for their business. 


Customer Data Platforms should be purpose-built to transform disparate data into unified, single customer profiles — so, there is some truth to this hype. But, it’s incorrect to assume it’s the only piece of the data organization puzzle, or that every business branding itself as a CDP truly is one.

Firstly, it’s important to note the two distinct categories that have grown from the broader category of CDPs: CDIs and the CDAP. CDIs, or Customer Data Infrastructures, are designed to unify customer data and send it along to all relevant platforms in your martech stack. CDIs essentially act as the manager and router of your data — making it viable for use. But, CDIs do live more on the technical side of business. They’re more of a tool that CTOs will gravitate towards. And, they don’t solve the issue of how raw data can be translated into easily accessible insights for marketers to leverage across marketing channels.

Then there is the Customer Data Activation Platform. The key difference between other CDPs or CDIs and this platform is its ability to activate data. Activation is the missing link between capturing raw customer data and using it fully to inform all of your marketing decisions. If data activation is something you’ve yet to hear about, learn more in our Data Activation Guide.


Marketing clouds have been quick to jump on the CDP bandwagon. While these announcements have been great press for an amazing piece of tech, it’s important to take them with a grain of salt. These newcomers are often born from hasty acquisitions or Frankensteining together pieces of tech to create a Customer Data Platform. It’s important to take a look under the hood, and consider the platform carefully before buying. The CDP Institute has outlined definite criteria that all CDPs must meet to be qualified as a “real CDP”.

At the very least, a CDP must meet 3 basic elements:

  • Firstly, it must be a pre-built, packaged piece of software. This means it will take some technical resources to implement and maintain, but it won’t require as much as something like a customer data warehouse project.
  • Secondly, the aim of a CDP must be to create a unified, constantly updated view of individual customers — which provides a real-time and historic view of customers for use across marketing operations.
  • Lastly, CDPs need to be “open” or accessable and connectable to other software systems. This includes piping data in and out.

It’s tough to say whether these new marketing cloud CDPs meet this requires, given that so many are still being fleshed out. To separate this hype from honest value it’s critical to ask the right questions and look in the right areas during demo and buying stages.