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Data Deluge: How Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) Help Businesses Navigate New Waters

Dots are meant to be connected — when they are, they tell a story. Separately, they’re just siloed parts of something bigger. 

In business, connecting dots — and in this case, data — is critical. It’s especially important when the number of ‘dots’ is exploding daily —  in 2025, the world is expected to produce 463 exabytes of data per day. And even more so when connecting those dots enables a company to paint a complete picture of every customer. A picture that can be used to deliver each customer a personalized digital experience. 

In today’s macroeconomic environment, with businesses facing talent crunches, supply chain woes, and inflation, delivering exceptional customer experiences across all channels and touchpoints is more important than ever. And a company’s ability to deliver those exceptional experiences is ultimately dependent on the quality and relevance of the data a company has. 

That’s where customer data platforms (CDPs) come in. They are designed to manage all of a company’s data, turning those individual dots into a recognizable and detailed portrait of each and every customer. 

In this Q&A, Salesforce’s head of CDP, Rahul Auradkar, shares his insights into the external factors that make this such a key moment for CDPs, as well as the opportunities they offer by connecting dots that, until now, were unconnectable. 

Q: Why are CDPs so relevant right now?

First, the pandemic accelerated the ongoing global digital transformation. Businesses saw an explosion of digital data, and customers’ expectations evolved in parallel. A Salesforce study found 72% of marketers say meeting customer expectations is more difficult than a year ago. To earn and sustain customer loyalty, brands need to create exceptional, personalized experiences. 

Further, the recent economic downturn has shifted prioritization. Business leaders are looking to spend more strategically, and focus on productivity. In that context, it is critical to realize the total value of a company’s data and its customer base. 

In addition, with privacy regulations increasing around the globe, third-party cookies are going away, so first-party and zero-party data becomes absolutely crucial. Companies need to do an exceptional job of collating and unifying ​zero-party data (which customers proactively share) and ​first-party transactional data so they can measure up to those new expectations of personalized experiences.

We’ve all heard about cookie deprecation. CDP positions us well to be able to be proactive and have an answer for the cookieless future, leveraging solid first-party data in our system.

Erin Pryor, Chief Marketing Officer, First Horizon Bank

Q: What are the challenges that come with more data being available?

The biggest challenge isn’t that companies don’t have enough data. It’s that the data isn’t forming a picture that companies can learn from or do something with. 

Customer data is often fragmented and lives within different departments, systems, and formats. The data is often refreshed and updated at different times. Historically, as companies have grown, they’ve set up various tech stacks that splintered the customer record. Unifying and integrating that data has been difficult, expensive, and requires innovation — something that just wasn’t a priority.

We think customers operating in this model with siloed and generalized data will really lose the competitive edge. Multiple studies show that businesses that have a complete view of their customers through the entire lifecycle generate faster revenue growth. Customer loyalty is up for grabs, and businesses that continue to operate in the old model, with a siloed understanding of their customer, will lose their competitive edge.

Eighty-eight percent of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services — the highest it’s ever been.

Salesforce Connected Customer Report 2022 

CDP comes up in almost every conversation with our customers, and it’s emerging as one of the biggest growth areas for enterprise technology. The global CDP market size is expected to reach $20.5 billion by 2027. Incidentally, our CDP is the fastest-growing product we’ve ever built.

Creating a single 360-degree, unified view of the customer across all their digital channels and all their interactions has proven to be extremely difficult for businesses. There is so much data, and it’s fragmented across so many silos. 

The opportunity stemming from that challenge cannot be addressed with current approaches. Those approaches — home-grown CDPs and niche offerings — have underwhelmed, because they are limited. 

CDPs offer a unified profile of each customer, a single source of truth housing all customer data — profile information, details of past transactions, and any digital interactions. A single place that dynamically connects all customer data from existing systems and customer interactions, and then augments that — or enhances or enriches that — with additional data that goes with it. 

It’s only when that data is unified into a single profile that companies have any hope of using the latest tech across AI and automation to both deliver those real-time, personalized experiences and drive efficiencies in their business.

Q: Can you give me an example of what a holistic view of the customer can do for a company?

Using a unified profile, companies can deliver personalized engagement across all channels and touchpoints. The more holistic a view you have, the bigger the opportunity you have to create exceptional personalized experiences, which will drive loyalty and generate faster revenue growth.

As an example, in marketing automation, businesses can target their customers in a hyper-personalized manner, leading to dramatic improvements in click-through and conversion rates for campaigns. In some instances, we are seeing 3-5x improvement in click-through and conversion rates with customers using our CDP.

As another example, with a unified profile tied together by data, a customer service agent gets on the phone with an unhappy customer and can immediately see past purchases, recent service interactions, and whether the customer is a member of a rewards/loyalty program. Then, they can use that information to turn a potentially negative interaction into a loyal, lifelong customer.

Q: What makes you excited about the future?

The full power of the CDP is realized when all first-party and related customer data, batch or streaming, gets connected to engage and transact — with AI and machine learning embedded in it — and it’s constantly updated and iterated. The unified customer profile that stems from this will be central to everything that we do.

It’s not just Salesforce that is innovating either. Our extensive partner ecosystem plays an important role in this process, developing apps and solutions that extend and complement Salesforce CDP. These apps and solutions help customers leverage the platform’s power to solve critical customer business challenges and create amazing customer experiences.

When you’re partnered with Salesforce, they have an army of people that are looking out for every single aspect of this and bringing that to bear for their customers. And for me, especially being the Chief Marketing Officer of a 30-person marketing team, not a 500 person marketing team, that is such an incredibly valuable resource — access to all the intellectual capital that exists at Salesforce.

Jill Thomas, CMO of PGA TOUR Superstore

To learn more about how CDP helps businesses connect dots, check out this blog post.

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