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Unfamiliar with CDPs? Learn everything you need to know about customer data platforms with this ultimate guide.

What is a Customer Data Platform? 

A Customer Data Platform (or CDP) is a software that collects, organizes, and unifies customer data and eliminates silos through an open architecture and API to drive more intelligent omnichannel engagement. With a CDP, your marketing efforts are enabled by truly unified customer profiles that provide actionable insights about each individual customer.  

Customer data platforms can help organizations better understand their customer base. They take data from first-, second-, and third-party sources and develop individualized customer profiles that enable businesses to solidify customer journeys to personalize experiences, satisfy customers, and optimize revenue.

What is Customer Data? 

Customer data is any information your shoppers provide when interacting with your business. This can include personal data [PII and Non-PII], descriptive data, behavioral data, and attitudinal data which can be derived via your website, mobile app, social profiles, marketing campaigns, content downloads, questionnaires, and other online or offline mediums. 

Customer data allows companies to gain valuable insights into the mind of the customer that can be leveraged to help personalize marketing content. 

Below we breakdown the four specific types of data that CDPs collect and configure. 

1. Personal Data

Under GDPR, personal data is defined as any information that relates to an identified or identifiable natural person. Personal data can be broken into two sub-categories: personally identifiable information (PII) and non-personally identifiable information (Non-PII). 

Personally identifiable information includes identifying data that can be used to trace an individual’s identity and discern one person from another, such as: 

  • Full Name: first and last name
  • Demographic: age, gender, race and ethnicity
  • Location: physical address, city, state/province, country and zip code
  • Contact information: phone number and email address
  • Social information: social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
  • Professional information: job title and company
  • Account information: login details,user IDs and account numbers
  • Date of birth: month/day/year
  • Government IDs: driver’s license number, social security number, passport number
  • Payment details: credit/debit card information

Non-personally identifiable information includes any information that is anonymous and cannot be used to trace the identity of an individual customer. This includes the following (on a state by state basis): 

  • Device IDs
  • Cookies
  • IP addresses

2. Descriptive Data

Descriptive data is an extension of identity data that varies based on company type. This type of information is more-so “lifestyle” data that includes details like: 

  • Job history: job industry, previous employers, income, professional level
  • Lifestyle history: residence details, vehicle information
  • Household information: marital status, number of individuals within the household, number of children
  • Activity information: hobbies, magazine subscriptions, memberships

3. Behavioral Data

Behavioral data (or engagement/quantitative data) details how your customers interact and engage with your brand. Website behavior, social interactions, and customer service histories are all aspects that can inform this type of customer data. Engagement data can also include: 

  • Web interactions: website visits, transaction information, abandoned cart rate, traffic sources, on-site user journeys
  • Mobile app interactions: session length, push notification statistics
  • Social media engagement: likes, impressions, shares, replies, video views
  • Email engagement: open rate, CTR, bounce rate, forwards, responses
  • Paid advertising engagement: CPC, CTR, impressions, conversions
  • Customer service interactions: complaint/query details, number of tickets, feedback entries

4. Attitudinal Data

Attitudinal data (also known as qualitative data) helps organizations uncover patterns that reveal the feelings, emotions, and personality of your customers. This type of data is largely subjective, so it should be combined with quantitative data to derive concrete findings. Attitudinal data can be retrieved via surveys, interviews, feedback, etc. and includes information like: 

  • Motivations: purchase intent, customer challenges, purchase criteria
  • Opinions: customer satisfaction, product desirability, product rating
  • Attitudes: preferences such as favorite color, fabric, level of quality

With such a wide variety of data to collect and organize, it is important to select a CDP that is right for your business and your industry. 

Marketing Technology Related to (but not) a CDP

Customer data management (CDM) is the way brands collect, track, store, and leverage information about their customers. Obtaining and managing proper customer data is imperative to CDM and is enabled by a number of marketing technologies, including the ones listed below. Though it may be true that a customer data platform is similar to a customer relationship management (CRM) platform or a data management platform (DMP), there are some specific distinctions that must be called out in order to fully understand this solution. Below we explain the differences between a CDP, CRM, and DMP. 


CDPs and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms both collect customer data. CRMs help organizations manage relationships and interactions with current and potential customers. Via manual entry, they collect customer and prospect information – such as name, email, and title – and store interactions within the platform to help sales teams track leads and customer touchpoints. However, CRMs do not have the automation power that CDPs do: CDPs autonomously collect data from online and offline channels and develop unified customer profiles from this data. Some more differences between CDPs and CRMs include: 

  • Anonymous visitors: CDPs collect and record non-PII (or anonymous visitor data). CRMs only report on the PII of known or prospective customers. 
  • Customer behavior: CDPs gather and analyze information around customer behavior and customer journeys. CRMs typically analyze information related to the sales pipeline and forecasting. 
  • Types of data: CDPs are able to track both online and offline customer data. CRMs are unable to gather offline data unless this data is manually entered. 
  • Data entry: CDPs have a low potential for data replication or data loss because they are built to handle a large amount of data. CRMs collect manually-entered data that can be mislabeled, duplicated, or lost if the individual making data entries is not careful. 


Both customer data platforms and data management platforms (DMPs) collect and organize data from a variety of data sources for purposes of targeted advertising and personalization. While CDPs work with both PII and non-PII, DMPs almost exclusively leverage non-PII. The key differences between a CDP and a DMP are as follows: 

  • Data collection: CDPs mainly collect first-party data direct from the source, though they do also collect second- and third-party data. DMPs gather mostly third-party data through data providers and third-party sources. 
  • Personalized data: CDPs mainly collect personally identifiable information like names, email addresses, and more. DMPs collect anonymous information like cookies and IP addresses. 
  • Data retention: CDPs store data for a long period of time with a goal of building in-depth historical customer profiles from which data insights can be derived. DMPs retain data for short periods of time to be leveraged for targeted ads and building lookalike audiences. 

Key Functions and Business Benefits of a Customer Data Platform

Emarsys’ Customer Engagement Data Platform (CEDP) is the top customer data platform for marketing, designed to enable marketers with rich customer insights to transform the customer experience. The CEDP drives more intelligent omnichannel engagement than any other platform, improving customer relationships and marketing success. The following are just a few benefits of having a CEDP that’s specifically tailored for marketers: 

Eliminate Silos

Data silos are portions of data that are available to only one area of the company but are isolated from the rest of the business. Silos can develop as a result of rapid scaling or technology inefficiencies. They fragment the omnichannel approach and make 1:1 personalization difficult to achieve. 

With the Emarsys CEDP, silos are eliminated and organizations are able to store product, customer, interaction and custom data in one single place. This allows for enhanced customer-centricity and personalization, in addition to key metrics and analytics that are important for business and campaign success. 

Unify Customer Data

Emarsys’ CEDP unifies omnichannel marketing efforts by collecting, organizing, and supplying consolidated, accurate data. With a customer data platform, businesses can synchronize data from first-, second-, and third-party sourced to create a single, unified customer view. 

Create Actionable Customer Profiles

By leveraging unified data, Emarsys’ CEDP is able to develop customer profiles that help organizations make better business decisions about their customers using data-driven indicators. Automation campaigns create these customer profiles and lifecycle segments to deliver omnichannel personalization and help increase customer loyalty. This way, businesses can market accurately and effectively to their individual audience members. 

Increase Customer Engagement for E-Commerce Growth

Historical and behavior data can refine your data driven-approach and be used to target precise customer segments. This way, you can create customer experiences that reflect their individual interaction with your brand. Targeting customers with relevant campaigns increases customer engagement across touchpoints, resulting in ecommerce growth and new revenue opportunities. 

Leveraging Customer Data with Emarsys

Emarsys’ CEDP is the leading customer data platform that is exclusively built for marketers by marketers. The CEDP is designed to empower marketers to leverage all available data and insights to enhance every customer touchpoint possible. Emarsys’ CEDP helps deliver predictable, profitable outcomes to businesses of all sizes.

Through an open architecture and API, our CEDP eliminates silos to achieve customer-centricity, creates actionable unified customers profiles to enable 1:1 personalization, leverages AI predictions and lifecycle scoring to accelerate business outcomes, and enables e-commerce growth with certified integrations.

With Emarsys’ CEDP, businesses are empowered to drive more intelligent omnichannel engagement, delight customers, and harness the power of their data. 

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