How to Get the Most Out of Customer Data Platforms

CDPs can’t do it all - but with the right partner, they can do more.

Nearly half of all companies worldwide now have a customer data platform (CDP), according to the latest “State of Marketing” report from Salesforce. The CDP industry has seen year-over-year growth of 59 percent, with revenues expected to jump from an estimated $640 million in 2018 to $1 billion in 2019 – not bad for a not-so-clearly defined class of marketing technology that just hit marketers’ radars in 2016.

So what’s with all the CDP hype?

With corporate data breaches on the rise and regulatory acts like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Privacy Act coming into effect, marketers are now more focused on how they collect, protect and use first-party data. Realizing the shortcomings of existing martech solutions, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems and data management platforms (DMPs), marketers are looking for a way to unify their customer data and make it smarter, actionable and connected across all channels. At first glance, CDPs, which focus solely on known customer information, fit the bill.

Yet CDPs alone are not the answer. This is because CDPs must work with a third-party onboarder to activate customer data and scale customer engagement beyond owned channels and in paid media. Which is where a solution like Signal’s comes into play.

While Signal is often labeled a CDP, largely because it roots a brand’s customer data asset in first-party data, technically speaking, it’s not. Signal’s technology is a real-time onboarding, identity resolution and customer intelligence solution.


Here, let’s take a closer look at CDP technologies and Signal’s solution to uncover what sets them apart – and how bringing them together can create more powerful marketing.

CDPs: The Customer Journey Orchestrators

Broadly speaking, CDPs take in all of a brand’s first-party data from owned channels — such as email, brand apps and websites — to resolve customer identities via personally identifiable information (PII) and create customer profiles that can be used to orchestrate customer journeys within a brand’s internal systems. For example, a CDP can enable customized messaging, dynamic web and email content recommendations, or campaigns that trigger targeted ads across multiple channels, such as a push notification to a mobile app once someone opens an email.

While CDPs do an excellent job of personalizing brand experiences, they are unable to extend the same level of 1:1 engagement outside of a brand’s owned channels. In order for a CDP to activate customer data in paid channels, it must work with a data onboarding vendor. CDPs may onboard directly with a media partner like Facebook or Google, which provide massive scale but little to no user-level data and insights. Alternatively, CDPs may partner with a third-party data onboarding vendor, most of which take up to a week to upload and activate data — but that’s most, not all. This is where Signal comes in.

Signal: The Customer Data Connector

Signal’s solution is unique in that inherent to its platform is the only continuous and real-time data onboarding solution in the marketplace. While that sounds like a bunch of marketing mumbo jumbo, it’s simply true. Here, let’s break it down.

As the foundational first step to customer identity resolution, data onboarding is already built into Signal’s platform. Yet because resolving customer identity is our endgame, our onboarding process can’t afford to operate like that of traditional third-party data onboarders.

Typically, data onboarders process customer data in batch files, a five-to-seven-day process that involves uploading specific groups of data files, matching them against digital identities and pushing out customer profiles. Any data that is not matched to a customer during the initial batch upload disappears, and any customer activity that takes place afterward is not recorded. This prevents brands from optimizing messaging and targeting customers at critical moments before they convert elsewhere.

Signal, on the other hand, continuously onboards data as new information emerges, refreshing data sets as customers enter or leave the system. To put this in context: Signal’s data onboarding solution can onboard and activate one million customer profiles in one minute.

Yet continuous data onboarding is just one part of Signal’s solution. At the heart of our technology is the Customer Intelligence Platform. Like CDPs, Signal’s technology connects a brand’s offline and online identifiers to persistent customer profiles that are rooted in 100 percent deterministic data. Differently than CDPs, however, Signal does not work with PII; Signal resolves identities using hashed email addresses or anonymous login information that requires users to “authenticate” their identity. Together, Signal’s deterministically built persistent profiles and continuous onboarding capabilities enable brands to identify and address known individuals in real time at any touchpoint, regardless of whether a customer is logged in or not.

CDPs and Signal: A Dynamic Duo

Given the rapid adoption of CDPs, there’s a 50/50 chance your brand is already working with one. And if you’re working with third-party batch onboarder or onboarding directly with walled gardens, the odds are even greater that you’re not making the most of your CDP.

By adding continuous onboarding and identity resolution capabilities to your marketing stack, you can elevate the performance of your CDP and your marketing efforts. Here are four ways how.

1. Think outside of the inbox (or brand site or mobile app…).

A CDP’s ability to resolve identities works wonders for creating 1:1 brand engagements across a brand’s owned channels. By enhancing its capabilities with a native onboarder like Signal, a brand builds incremental scale by recognizing and addressing customers in paid channels and across multiple systems.

2. Power real-time customer engagements.

A CDP collects and stores loads of PII. With real-time data onboarding and identity resolution, brands can collect data on known customers outside of brand-owned properties and tie all of it back to individual profiles that can be immediately activated across any channel for in-the-moment relevancy and greater reach.

3. Deepen insights and analytics.

CDPs already manage and present audience data at a person-based level. Yet by continually onboarding customer data and resolving identities in real time, Signal helps brands build even richer, fresher and more accurate people-based insights to optimize campaigns and strategize more impactful marketing.

4. Ensure data governance.

A CDP stores one thing competitors can’t touch: first-party data. When working with third-party onboarders, however, many vendors modify a brand’s data for use within their solution, in turn enhancing their own data network. Signal’s onboarding solution ensures a closed environment throughout the entire onboarding process, so brands maintain sole ownership and control of their customer data.

With the seemingly endless cycle of customer data technologies flooding the marketplace, finding a means to store customer data isn’t a problem. Yet understanding how to use data technologies most effectively is.

When it comes to understanding the differences between CDPs and Signal, it’s not about which one works best. Rather, it’s how they work best together.