CDPs for Automotive Explained: What is a Customer Data Platform?

October 31, 2023
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In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, managing customer data has become a crucial aspect of successful business operations, especially in industries with high customer interaction such as automotive dealerships. Enter the Customer Data Platform (CDP), an innovative tool that is transforming the way businesses handle and utilize customer data.


In the world of tech, the Customer Data Platform (CDP) may seem like a relatively new kid on the block, but its roots trace back to the early 2000s. The concept of CDP originated from the pressing need to reconcile fragmented customer data into a cohesive, unified view. David Raab, a marketing technology consultant and founder of the CDP Institute, is often credited with coining the term "Customer Data Platform" in 2013. However, it wasn't until 2016 that the CDP industry truly took off. The boom in big data, AI, and personalized marketing created a fertile ground for CDPs to flourish. Despite facing initial skepticism and confusion with existing data management systems like CRMs and DMPs, CDPs have carved out their niche. Today, they stand as robust solutions to the complex data needs of modern businesses, hailed for their ability to harness customer data into actionable insights. As we surf the wave of the data-driven era, the evolution of CDPs serves as a compelling testament to the tech world's relentless pursuit of innovation and the continuous striving to optimize customer experiences.

Understanding a Customer Data Platform (CDP)

At its core, a CDP is a type of packaged software designed to create a comprehensive, unified database of customer information that is accessible to other systems. By consolidating customer data from multiple sources into a single platform, a CDP provides a holistic view of each customer, painting a complete picture of their interactions and behavior.

Image to show Orbee's shopper profile
Image to show Orbee's shopper profile

The data managed by a CDP includes a wide array of customer touch points - online interactions, purchases, customer service inquiries, social media activity, and more. The data is continually updated in real time, ensuring that it accurately reflects each customer's latest interactions.

CDP vs. DMP: What’s the difference?

While there are indeed other systems such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems or DMPs (Data Management Platforms) that handle customer data, a CDP is unique in its capabilities. Unlike CRMs, which primarily handle structured data like contact information and sales records, a CDP can handle both structured and unstructured data, such as web browsing history or social media activity. This makes CDPs much more versatile and comprehensive in their data handling.


Compared to DMPs, which are designed for anonymous data and used mostly for targeted advertising, CDPs focus on known customers. They maintain data over the long term and use it to provide a single customer view that helps create personalized interactions across all touch points.

The evolution of Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) and Data Management Platforms (DMPs) has played a critical role in the field of data management. Initially, DMPs were designed to support marketers with digital advertising by leveraging anonymous web cookies and device IDs to create audience segments. However, with increasing privacy regulations and the decline of third-party cookies, DMPs faced limitations due to their focus on short-term, third-party data. This is why it is important to understand the expanded purpose of a tag manager that coordinates data collection and site personalization where the consumer is interacting with your brand.

In contrast, CDPs emerged to provide a comprehensive, persistent view of the customer. They unify a wide array of data, including first-party information from CRM systems, websites, apps, and offline channels, creating a long-term unified customer view. This integrated data is then used to enhance marketing campaigns, improve customer service, and support data-driven decisions. As businesses strive to forge deeper, personalized connections with their customers, the capability of CDPs to provide a holistic and sustainable customer view is proving invaluable, especially in the current landscape shaped by heightened privacy concerns.

Why should businesses, particularly automotive dealerships, care about CDPs?

The automotive industry has long been notorious for its proliferation of data silos, with customer information scattered across various systems and vendors. The inherent complexity of this sector, coupled with its extensive network of Dealership Management Systems (DMS), CRM platforms, service and parts systems, third-party lead providers, and digital marketing platforms, results in an immense pool of isolated data sets. This fragmentation not only impedes a unified view of the customer but also hampers the effectiveness of marketing strategies and customer service initiatives.

Image of dealership interaction

Moreover, every engagement point - whether it's sales, service, or digital interaction - is often managed by different vendors, each housing its own subset of customer data. For instance, a customer’s purchase history might reside in a DMS, while their website browsing behavior lives in a separate marketing platform. This fragmented landscape presents a significant challenge for dealerships seeking to consolidate and analyze their customer data. Such a scenario often leads to missed opportunities, as understanding the complete customer journey becomes an uphill battle. Hence, overcoming data silos and unifying disparate data sources have become critical priorities for forward-thinking dealerships.

The value of a CDP lies in its ability to:

1. Offer a Unified Customer View

CDPs consolidate data from various sources, providing a 360-degree view of each customer's interactions. This complete customer journey map enables a deeper understanding of customer behavior and needs.

2. Enhance Personalization

By harnessing the data unified in a CDP, businesses can deliver highly personalized marketing messages and customer experiences, leading to increased customer engagement and loyalty.

3. Enable Data-Driven Decision Making

Comprehensive customer data paves the way for data-driven decision making, improving marketing strategies, customer service, and operational efficiency.

4. Facilitate Compliance and Data Security

CDPs assist businesses in complying with data protection regulations and ensure data security.

In essence, a Customer Data Platform (CDP) can serve as the lynchpin of your customer data management, enabling your business to unlock valuable insights, personalize customer interactions, and ultimately, drive growth and profitability. As the business landscape becomes increasingly data-driven, understanding and effectively utilizing CDPs could well be the key to staying ahead of the curve.

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