AWS for Industries

5 Steps to Successful CDP Adoption for Advertisers and Marketers

Customer data platforms (CDPs) have become a widely adopted tool by marketers. And it’s no surprise, with its promise of unified customer data in an accessible and regularly updated solution, it meets many of today’s marketing and advertising needs including improving the customer experience by powering personalization at scale. The CDP feeds data from various sources into the data lake, then the insights that are gained by analysts are fed back into the CDP. From there, the insights go into downstream systems such as marketing automation, CRM, and the contact center.

By fully understanding use cases, a brand can change the way it thinks and move toward a record-level process to ideate outcomes. Effective organizational transformation makes marketing efforts more seamless and allows the CDP to be utilized more efficiently.

However, many organizations are not fully utilizing its capabilities or do not quite understand its entire value, assuming that these game-changing capabilities are accessible right out of the box. In this blog, we’ll discuss the common pitfalls to avoid, and the organizational transformation required to fully harness the platform and gain faster ROI.

1. Successful CDP adoption requires organizational transformation

While CDPs drive tons of value when done right, implementation is never as simple as flipping a switch. When working to get the platform operational, it’s critical to develop and prioritize your use cases, but transforming your organization’s structure to support CDPs is just as important.

If an organization decides to solely focus on use cases and technical implementation details without shifting how the organizational structure operates to support the CDP, the results would be sub optimal. Start by creating a center of excellence with all proposed use cases laid out across the customer journey. A steering committee should be built, comprised of the right leaders with the skills necessary to help drive goals.

Implementing new technology can serve as an opportunity to rework an organization and add efficiencies. We’ve seen businesses succeed when the organizational culture is agile and adaptive, and the teams are focused on speed to value. Take this chance to address cloud transformation as well. Move your data into a more flexible and easily scalable infrastructure if data is currently in an on-premises environment. More on that later.

2. Define your use cases before selecting a vendor

When reviewing RFP responses from vendors, make sure to fully understand the capabilities being offered and ensure that your current infrastructure can handle it. CDPs can address many common capabilities around identity resolution, audience management, and activation. The next layer down is critical to get right. Ask your organization, “What experiences are we trying to execute tomorrow that cannot be done with your technology and data today?”.

Purchase decisions can be made by IT. However, for the highest adoption rate, the tool should be owned and used by the marketing team which usually has very different goals and use cases. Funding and decision making should be a joint decision so chosen use cases are feasible for both IT’s technical capabilities and marketing’s needs. Plan ahead and assess the landscape within your company to avoid bottlenecks in implementation. Start by activating on small incremental wins to train your team on how the tool works.

It is also important to understand the gaps in your future state use cases and the data and technologies that, though they’re not in your stack today, are critical to actualize the experience. Let’s say that you want a user to move through journey stages based on customer behaviors. You already have a decisioning engine that identifies those behaviors and propels the user. What you don’t have is the offline data, such as previous purchase history or sales contact information. This would suggest that your CDP needs to be strong in data unification to feed your existing decisioning engine.

3. A CDP is one part of the C360 puzzle

A common misunderstanding is that a CDP is not a database or a CRM solution that can track individual customers’ actions. In actuality, a CDP is a collection of capabilities that is part of the solution to powering a connected customer profile view. We call this customer 360, where a data lake, identity capability, and CDP work in harmony to update and action customer profiles in real time. The power of a CDP is more quick action, marketing in the moment as opposed to a huge data engineering effort.

AWS CDP Architecture NEW

The components to power customer 360

When this C360 paradigm is achieved, the CDP can engage with your other systems within the tech stack. It acts as the orchestrator of data across various channels in an organization to ensure that everyone can access the data needed in real time. For example, a B2B organization could access person-level insights from a CRM while also seeing more holistic account-level insights pulled together by the CDP. These technologies must work in harmony for the CDP to pull data from multiple channels.

4. Don’t purchase before understanding the value

Often, organizations make the CDP purchase without building a clear strategy or having a full understanding of how the technology can solve their challenges. In this case, expected results likely won’t be achieved. The brand may miss out on the other values and benefits of the technology that they weren’t aware of.

By initiating external expertise before making the purchase decision, organizations can gain a full-picture understanding of capabilities and be alerted to areas that can maximize investment value. While its critical to get started by gaining quick, small wins in the platform, KPIs and measurement must be defined to justify the large purchase and understand how to ramp up fast to power more complex, and dollar-driving, use cases. AWS has a saying; If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist. Measuring against selected use cases is also more likely to increase the probability that stakeholders will support efforts around the CDP and possibly even increase investments into these efforts.

5. Avoid fragmented data entry prior to implementation

Prior to implementing the CDP, the brand should unite as many batch data sources as possible to defragment to smooth out the stand up process. Take a large multi-brand retailer for example. This brand would find it useful to aggregate transactional data across all brands into a single repository. This way the CDP’s value add can take the combined transactional data and enhance it with streaming digital experience data, letting marketers react to customers in near real time.


In this blog post, we discussed five common pitfalls to avoid when  designing and powering a future state customer data platform architecture. A cloud-based data lake such as Data Lake on AWS should go hand-in-hand with a CDP. When data is hosted within a data lake, organizations can break through silos and work with the same data to form centralized insights.

Want to learn more? Check out how M&T Bank was able to successfully build the new customer experience tech stack, utilizing a CDP with a cloud-based data lake to power personalization at scale. Watch on demand:

Watch on demand below:

Webinar with M&T Bank On-demand

Webinar with M&T Bank On-demand

Eric Beard

Eric Beard

Eric is the Global Technical Lead for Digital Customer Experience partners at Amazon Web Services in Seattle, Washington. His technology career spans two decades, preceded by service in the United States Marine Corps as a Russian interpreter and arms control inspector. Eric is passionate about technology, but also loves to unplug and spend a few weeks every year backpacking in the wilderness.

Carly French

Carly French

Carly French supports Merkle’s marketing technology consulting strategy practice, focusing on marketing technology solution strategy and technology enablement. Carly has 6+ years of experience across technical marketing operations and integrations, performance marketing strategy, data management, and digital marketing. Carly has developed marketing technology roadmaps, authored technology RFPs, and provided platform comparisons across multiple Fortune 500 organizations. Recently, Carly has been focused on the Customer Data Platform (CDP) industry, supporting clients through strategic planning, use case and requirement development, and CDP selection.

James Meyers

James Meyers

James is the Head of Martech Strategy at ActionIQ, joining from a leading research firm where he wrote magic quadrants and advised organizations on customer data platforms (CDPs). James has unique expertise in data management solutions, having engineered and operationalized a homemade CDP at Lowe’s Home Improvement in addition to implementing an MDM solution there as well.