The term Customer Data Platform (CDP) was first used in 2010, typically used to describe a database that collected all customer data and events in a single place. Eventually the power of these databases led them to become marketing technology platforms in their own right, with other vendors such as tag management and web analytics providers pivoting their software to function similar to a CDP (source: CDP Industry Update: CDP institute). These platforms started gaining traction and by 2016 the CDP industry was formed and has seen massive growth since. The CDP market was valued at around $2.4 billion in 2020 and is forecasted to grow to $10.3 billion by 2025 – a compound annual growth rate of 34% (source: CDP Market Report, MarketsandMarkets).

Why the massive growth of Customer Data Platforms?

Well, as buyer behaviours continue to evolve, their expectations have changed too. Buyers are now expecting a seamless experience like those they experience as a consumer from CX leaders such as Amazon and Netflix, and marketers are constantly trying to keep up with increasing customer expectations which were already on the rise pre-pandemic. Businesses have had to quickly adapt, and in fairness have done a pretty good job, with “2 years’ worth of digital transformation happening in 2 months” according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

But as marketing departments adapt, they’ve often found their marketing technology infrastructure is incapable of delivering these seamless experiences buyers are expecting. Whilst many organisations have a Marketing Automation platform and CRM system at their disposal, there are limitations to the level of sophisticated segmentation, personalisation, and customer journeys achievable from just those systems alone. And whilst it is possible to integrate and ingest customer data from wider technologies, that isn’t the core use case and therefore organisations try to bend their Marketing Automation and CRM system out of shape to achieve it.

This is why Customer Data Platforms have seen the rise in recent months and future predicted growth too – they enable marketers with the right technology to build the level of segmentation, hyper-personalisation and single view of the customer that delivers exceptional customer journeys.

What makes a Customer Data Platform, a Customer Data Platform?

As mentioned previously, the industry has been formed by a mix of out-and-out CDP technologies and by software vendors that weren’t necessarily CDPs, but through the addition of bolt-on features now claim and position themselves to be one.

An out-and-out Customer Data Platform designed to deliver exceptional experiences must be able to ingest, unify, and activate customer data.

If it can only ingest and unify – it’s likely a data warehouse or a data lake that captures customer data from wider marketing and sales technologies but is unable to ‘activate’ that customer data for outbound communications, making it useful for reporting across complex data infrastructures but not much else.

An example of a platform that can Unify and Activate customer data would be a Marketing Automation platform as it can segment data and trigger outbound marketing communications. However, whilst there is an element of ‘Ingest’ with a Marketing Automation platform through API integrations, combining customer data from wider datasets is not its primary feature. Some organisations can provide a great customer experience using Marketing Automation and an integrated CRM alone – but a lot of organisations will need to look beyond these two platforms to build exceptional experiences in a martech environment that can Ingest, Unify and Activate customer data.  

Due to the fragmented nature of the Customer Data Platform market, there will be vendor acquisitions to expand their technology capability to be able ingest, unify and activate as there are currently many vendors positioning themselves as a CDP when in reality, they don’t have these 3 key principles at their heart. There are platforms that can do that – Adobe Experience Platform, Salesforce CDP, Segment and Tealium to name a few.

What makes a customer data platform, a customer data platform

What do we mean by these 3 key principles of Ingest, Unify and Activate?


A common challenge for marketers today is they do not have access to real-time customer data and are unable to connect physical and digital touchpoints together throughout the customer lifecycle.

A Customer Data Platform can ‘ingest’ customer data from a whole host of different sources within your marketing, sales and service environment. Whether that be from customer touchpoints and activity data in Marketing Automation, and Sales and opportunity data within CRM, through to fulfilment data within an ERP and beyond.

Typical sources of data ingested by a CDP:

  • Personal & demographic (CRM)
  • In-person, physical engagement (POS devices, Beacons)
  • Marketing engagement (Marketing Automation Platform)
  • Transaction & fulfilment (CRM, ERP)
  • Devices & apps


A common challenge for marketing leaders is not having a single view of the customer, and being unable to do effective segmentation and personalisation.

Once customer data has been ‘ingested’, CDPs are designed to take this data in different formats - connecting the right person or account across the platforms the data originated to build that single view, and to make it actionable for segmentation. These data points can be interrogated to build a comprehensive view of customers by their specific behaviours throughout the entire customer lifecycle from the data points collated within other technologies during the ‘ingest’ phase.


To not only create engaging campaigns, but to build hyper-personalised customer journeys that send the right message, to the right person, at the right time, marketers need to be able to ‘activate’ the previously ingested and unified customer data. 

A CDP pushes customer data to the relevant technology platform that then engages and communicates directly with the customer – whether that be a Marketing Automation platform, an SMS sending provider or a digital advertising platform etc.

Remember, if you’re currently evaluating a Customer Data Platform, make sure that it can always Ingest, Unify and Activate your customer data. Click here to find out more how CDP's fit into your Martech Spine.

Want to find out how Clevertouch can help you implement and optimise your CDP to ingest, unify and activate your customer data? get in touch today.