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Types of Customer Data Platforms (CDPs)

Customer data platforms (CDPs) provide companies with the intelligence needed to deliver customer-centric campaigns at scale, but real success relies on leveraging the right capabilities for use cases that drive business impact. Put simply, it’s all about finding the best CDP for the job – and understanding the different types of customer data platforms available is a crucial part of the process.

> What is a CDP?


Categorizing Customer Data Platform Software

From evaluating the limitations of your current MarTech stack to exploring customer data platform companies, selecting the best customer data platform software for your requirements is a multi-step process. You’ll also need to distinguish between the types of customer data platforms available – not just from a vendor perspective, but with an understanding of your capability and integration needs at the core.


Types of CDP: Capabilities

CDP InstituteAccording to the Customer Data Platform Institute (CDPI), which takes a largely capability-centric approach, there are four types of customer data platforms. These are defined as: 

Types of CDP - CDP Institute

Data CDP

Data CDPs aggregate customer data sets into unified profiles. These can be shared with external execution channels, including email delivery platforms and content management systems (CMS).

Analytics CDP

Analytics CDPs apply an additional layer of intelligence to the data aggregation process, including AI-led audience discovery and predictive analytics for journey mapping.

Campaign CDP

Campaign CDPs combine data aggregation and intelligence with cross-channel orchestration capabilities for hyper-segmented audiences.

Delivery CDP

Delivery CDPs typically begin as execution channels (such as email platforms) which are enhanced with data aggregation, analytics, and orchestration functionalities over time.

Our advanced CDP, the Intelligent Engagement Platform, is classified as a campaign CDP. With omnichannel orchestration, it uses intuitive decision-making to guide execution channels at all stages of a campaign.

> A CDP For All Stages of Customer Data Maturity


Forrester Logo

Forrester also separates CDPs into four segments based on their capabilities. In Now Tech: Customer Data Platforms, Q1 2022, Forrester defines these as:

Types of CDP - Forrester

Data Management CDP

Data Management CDPs build data-rich customer profiles with advanced unification capabilities. These customer profiles can be shared with internal and external delivery channels in real time.

Orchestration CDP

Orchestration CDPs allow marketers to deliver personalized messages to hyper-targeted audience segments, whether through execution channels or web-based interactions.

Automation CDP

Automation CDPs support the creation and delivery of marketing campaigns. With in-built decision-making and orchestration, they can automate customer interactions in real time.

Measurement CDP

Measurement CDPs guide marketing campaigns with intelligent customer insights. Combining scoring and analytics, these platforms offer an in-depth view of your customers.


Types of CDP: Integration

In its Market Guide for Customer Data Platforms 2022, Gartner also categorizes CDPs into four types based on their implementation and integration abilities. These are:

Types of CDP - Gartner

Marketing Cloud CDP

Marketing Cloud CDPs are both cloud-based and typically aligned to a vendor’s existing product line. They encourage marketers to integrate data sources with additional applications from the vendor, including orchestration tools and execution channels.

CDP Engines and Toolkits

CDP Engines and Toolkits often combine existing customer data platform software with custom-built solutions. They typically require developers to take a hands-on approach towards building and introducing new applications. 

Marketing Data-integration CDP

Marketing Data-integration CDPs allow a granular approach to data aggregation and control with a simple, user-friendly interface. They don’t have analytical intelligence or decision-making capabilities.  

CDP Smart Hub

CDP Smart Hubs offer advanced data processing, decision-making, and orchestration capabilities from one centralized platform. They enable marketers to deliver personalized communications and respond to trigger-based events in real time.

Gartner also categorizes customer data platform companies into four Magic Quadrant classifications: Challengers, Leaders, Niche Players, and Visionaries.

Currently, there’s no Gartner CDP Magic Quadrant for customer data platform software. However, we’ve created a list of key capabilities to look out for when selecting a comprehensive platform for your commercial needs – from scalable infrastructure to cross-channel analytics.

> Key CDP capabilities


Like Gartner, Real Story Group segments the CDP market by vendor. It groups CDPs into three categories:

Types of CDP - Real Story Group

MarTech Suite-Dependent CDP

MarTech Suite-Dependent CDPs work most efficiently within a suite of applications from the same vendor, from data-processing platforms to execution channels.

Processing-Oriented Independent CDP

CDPs from Processing-Oriented Independents are strongest in data aggregation, analytics, audience segmentation, and customer profiling.

Engagement-Oriented Independent CDP

CDPs from Engagement-Oriented Independents inform and orchestrate the delivery of customer engagements, both personalized and trigger-based.


Types of Customer Data Platforms: An Objective Perspective

From gaining to retaining customers, different customer data platform types can provide a crucial element for every stage of your marketing campaign. The key is to differentiate CDPs from an objective-specific perspective, and to integrate the software with the necessary functionalities for your use case roadmap as it develops.

> CDP industry solutions


Determine the next best experience for every customer at every stage with a CDP that brings real-time interaction management (RTIM) and smart analytics to key marketing tools.

CDP for Customer Experience

Convert audiences into loyal and engaged customers with a CDP that complements marketing automation tools with cross-channel analytics and orchestration capabilities.

CDP for Onboarding

Ensure a seamless onboarding process for customers with an intelligent CDP that offers built-in journey mapping and automation functionalities.

CDP for Customer Service

Deliver exceptional customer service through truly relevant and informed omnichannel conversations with a CDP that offers holistic, 360-degree profiling.


CDP Types for Company Use Cases

Customer data platforms can largely be separated into those with and without orchestration capabilities and intelligent analytics. The software you choose will depend on your company’s use case requirements.

For context, let’s consider two common business challenges:

  • Creating a golden record
    Customer data platform software is built to collect, aggregate, and unify disparate data sets into a single view of each customer to enable more personalized engagements.However, CDPs with in-built analytics, such as our Intelligent Engagement Platform, take it more than one step further. By combining fragmented data sets from all available sources and ‘filling the gaps’ with contextual insights, our Intelligent Engagement Platform creates a truly holistic view of the people who count, with predictive analytics allowing marketers to anticipate and meet customers’ needs at every step.
    > CDP use cases


  • Proactive Customer Retention
    Customer data platforms can detect customers with a propensity to churn and equip companies with the insights needed to retain (and regain) their interest.
    However, by using a CDP with orchestration capabilities, organizations can increase their customer retention rates more intuitively. For instance, customer data platform types with this level of intelligence can reactively and proactively incentivize customers to continue their purchasing journey through cross- and upselling opportunities. They can also deliver rewards for key milestones in real time, such as following an insurance policy renewal.
    > Proactive customer retention use case


View the overview in the Types of CDP Infographic

Types of CDP Infographic