March 5, 2024

What is a Customer Data Platform and How Does it Work?

Reading time about 10 min

Do you need a way to piece together scattered customer data without having to rely on IT teams to constantly track it all down? A customer data platform (CDP) is exactly that — a single source of truth of all your customer data and a game-changing tool for elevating your brand experience. 

Read along for an in-depth look at what customer data platforms are, how they work, and real-world use cases. 

Customer data platform definition

A CDP is software that helps businesses centralize, organize, and analyze data, primarily zero and first-party data, about their customers. The data is then processed into unified customer profiles that can be used in other business systems and tools. The result is consistent data that is easily available to all teams.

Customer data platform visualization

Why do companies need a CDP? 

Customer data platforms come with a host of advantages, especially for customer facing teams and data management. 

Marketing teams benefit from processed collected data because it is accurate and offers more precise customer segments. This helps teams deliver highly personalized marketing campaigns and create a consistent customer experience across all channels. Since data is easily available, less tech-savvy teams don’t need help from IT and are autonomous.

With stricter laws around data privacy (such as the CCPA and GDPR), customer data platforms will be increasingly important for businesses to succeed. 

The customer data platform market is expected to grow at an average rate of 17.9% through 2030. Much of this growth is because businesses are looking for a tool that can gather first party data and help them understand more complex customer journeys.

Discover more: The Difference Between CRM & CDP

How do CDPs work? 

Customer data platforms are key for centralizing customer data from multiple sources and unifying it around a customer profile. 

Let’s go over all of the functions of a CDP.

1. CDPs centralize first-party data

A customer data platform gathers first-party data from various data sources connected to it. Connectors include databases, data warehouse, FTP, additional connectors (APIs or webhooks), and plugins. These connectors pull data from important touchpoints across the customer journey. 

Businesses can connect sources such as apps, website activity trackers, ecommerce stores, CRMs, and so on. 

Brevo: Customer data platform source and destination connectors

Data collection also includes transactional data like product purchases and behavioral data such as web page visits and spending patterns. Customer interactions at customer touchpoints are also opportunities for data collection. 

What’s more, a customer data platform can also ingest data from offline sources like spreadsheets, .CSV files, and in-store purchase records.

A note on data: First-party data is safer and more relevant to businesses than third-party data because companies know exactly where it comes from and how it’s collected. Third-party data, on the other hand, is exchanged between vendors, and it might not have been collected with consent. 

2. CDPs unify data

Data comes in from many sources, not all of which are obviously linked. Your team might get some customer data from email campaigns, sales and marketing automation workflows, or your ecommerce store. 

Connect your ecommerce website and email service provider (and other tools and data sources) to your CDP platform. From there, it consolidates data into unified customer profiles, each with a unique identifier.  Even if a customer uses different devices or phone numbers to interact with your brand, repeat profiles are merged into one master profile when a match is found. This process is called identity resolution.

If in your CRM you store customer profiles using email as an identifier but the support team stores them by phone number, you have two profiles for the same customer. CDPs deduplicate profiles, making them a powerful tool for your business. 

Unifying data into a single customer view results in accurate, high-quality data that helps teams perform better. Make more relevant marketing campaigns or provide more informed customer support, for example.

3. CDPs activate and sync data

Data activation is preparing data in a form that can be shared with other business tools, such as a CRM, emailing service, marketing platform, and so forth. 

To make data easily shareable, your CDP creates a score, or value, for different pieces of information stored in a profile. This score might be something like a customer’s average order value, or lifetime value (LTV). Whatever the field, the result is one consistent value that can be used by all of your other business tools

Once your customer values are scored, they are synced to your destination tools, like your CRM. 

Good to know: On Brevo’s CDP platform, no-code recipes easily transform data for consistency. It doesn’t matter if a customer is from CA, California, or even Cal — it’s all reformatted into “California”. 

4. CDPs analyze data

A CDP is more than just a customer database. It’s a single source of truth for understanding your customers. Teams use this data to derive valuable customer insights which help them make informed decisions. 

For example, you can easily pick up on shared customer characteristics, like common shopping patterns. This is key for helping marketing teams target lookalike audiences and identify customer segments that they can create personalized marketing campaigns for.

Many CDPs, such as the Brevo CDP, already have recipes for segmenting audiences into the most important categories like purchase frequency and average order value.

Data can also be sent to business intelligence (BI) and analytics tools to help you report on specific metrics, measure operational efficiency, and do further analysis.

Benefits of using a customer data platform

Eliminate data silos. A customer data platform brings all of your customer information together in a single source of truth. No more trying to patch together scattered data from various software and documents. 

Get higher-quality data. You decide what data you want to centralize. Your CDP platform makes sure each customer profile is unified and free from duplicate information. Data is also updated automatically between your CDP and connected input and output sources.

Create a consistent and personalized customer experience on all channels. Having customer data that is synced between all of your tools is key for creating a consistent omnichannel customer experience. Your messaging will be more relevant to your audience and sent at the right time, which will strengthen customer engagement.

Easy to use. CDPs easily integrate data sources and only need to be set up once. The Brevo CDP integrates seamlessly with the CRM, so your teams don’t need to rely on IT to get the data they need to succeed.

Protect customer privacy and data. A CDP helps your business with data governance (the correct handling of data). With all customer data in one place, managing privacy regulations and customer consent is simplified. 


There’s a lot of software out there that uses customer data. Let’s clear up the differences briefly. 


Data management platforms also gather customer information but use data to make targeted ads to attract new customers. As such, customer profiles are for unknown people, rather than a known customer database. 

The main source of input is typically third-party data but can also be other kinds of data. Data is also not stored indefinitely, which is a major drawback for companies looking to create long-term, established relationships. 


Customer relationship management platforms also create customer profiles. CRMs use data for customer-facing tasks, like creating email marketing campaigns and building deal pipelines

Pro tip: For the smoothest experience with data integration between a CRM and a CDP, use a customer data platform that has a native CRM, like Brevo. Contact attributes can be created in Brevo CDP and synced automatically to the customer’s profile in the CRM.

Customer data platform use cases

Have you ever received an email with a subject line like “That item you were eyeing is back in stock?” This is an example of how CDP software enables brands to run hyper-personalized marketing campaigns for their customers. 

What else can customer data platforms help your business achieve? 

Personalizing the customer experience

One of the most popular and powerful use cases for customer data platforms is personalization. Tailoring content to different audience’s preferences and behavior can boost marketing return on investment by 10-30%

When you know what products someone orders, their favorite order, how often they use coupons and so forth, you know exactly what kind of content to create for each individual customer. 

Is it a discount on their favorite sandwich? Or a coupon on an order just above their average order value?  

Unifying customer data into a single view

You have information about your customers shopping behaviors in Shopify (for example), and email engagement from your email marketing service provider. Unifying this information into a single customer view gives you a full understanding of the customer journey. 

  • Did a customer make an order in Shopify because of a coupon sent from an email campaign? 
  • Are you considering in-store and online purchases in a customer’s average order value?

Bringing all of your data points in together will start to reveal patterns in customer data. 

Acquiring new customers with segmentation

Not every contact in your CDP is a customer — they might be a prospect. A CDP helps find what audience segments they are part of so that you can nurture them down the sales funnel. The marketing messaging and timing will depend on these insights.

Analyzing data for customer insights

Once you have your data flowing between tools, you’ll be able to analyze customer behavior and business performance. 

For example, you might see if a new audience segment is earning repeat customers. 

How to choose a customer data platform

A CDP should help your business consolidate, analyze, and export data for customer-facing use cases. But, depending on what tools you already use or how complicated you want your data intelligence to be, it’s important to find a CDP for your specific needs. 

Talk with your team and agree on goals that your CDP helps you achieve. Campaign personalization? Better data governance? 

Once you have your main goal mapped out, start listing more technical questions about the platform itself. 

  1. How easy is it to use? Does this CPD provide onboarding assistance? 
  2. Is there a native customer relationship management (CRM) platform? Or do I need to connect a third-party tool? 
  3. Does this CDP have the right connectors for the tools that I’m using?
  4. How does this CDP do data unification? 

Then, book a demo with a sales rep to get these questions answered.

How to get started with a customer data platform

A demo is the best way to learn how a CDP can help your business. Learn how the Brevo CDP centralizes, prepares, and syncs customer data across your tech stack.

Ready to grow with Brevo?

Get the tools you need to reach your customers and grow your business.

Sign up free