CDPs and Identity: The Great Unknown

06/7/18 Article by: Jonathan Mendez

In my last post on CDPs I wrote about how important identity is to the transformational power of CDPs (Customer Data Platforms). I also wrote about how many CDPs there are. But here’s what I didn’t mention.

I didn’t mention that how CDPs generate identity is the single biggest difference among CDPs. Sounds like an important topic to help better inform people about. Here we go.

If your company is a getting a CDP – and of course it should be – then everything in your business should be transforming so it revolves around the customer. This means getting identity right is the most important part of the CDP. In fact, it is foundational.

There are two types of identities. Known and unknown. Duh.

Who is on our properties? We know!

Relationship. Experience. Stores, phone, site, chat, all this first party data on customers and devices streaming in real-time that needs to get matched and merged before you can activate. There are also batch files coming in for merge like the Experian mail file with a new address based source.

The key competitive advantage here like with everything is speed. You want to be able to use all data to make real-time decisions. That is, you want to be artificially intelligent. This is how you get there but different vendors do match and merge different.

Who is on our properties? We don’t know!?

This is really where path-to-purchase meets the gravel road. Turn those anonymous visitors into known customers. This happens best anywhere when you greet them right. First impressions. Quick decisions. Impulse and convenience. There are many data dimensions you should capture and turn into first-touch/new-touch/next-touch strategy.

Anon data is imperative for brands to capture. Too many brands cede this collection (and ownership) to outside services like site analytics, their email triggering vendor, their retargeting and site optimization solutions. Only when this data is captured by brands can unique reactions and experiences be properly managed and optimized.

Data is Competition

CDPs are the technology of tomorrow. The reason is they let you compete on data. Data of course is only table stakes to compete at all in the future. So it’s a good time to start understanding how all these CDPs work and what really makes them different from one another.

Ask about identity. Ask what data is overlaid into the identity graph. Ask where this data is coming from. Ask about how both known and anonymous users are handled. Ask about data partners both that you may have (and often can save money replacing once you have a CDP) and data partners the vendors are using.

Yes there are 60 CDPs but not every CDP is right for every brand. I’m going to continue to help brands make sense of the market. I am learning too. But one thing is for certain. As you start asking questions about a CDP, questions about how their identity works is the best place to start.

CDPs and Identity: The Great Unknown

Jonathan Mendez


I helped pioneer testing, targeting & optimization for digital marketing. As Chief Strategy Officer of marketing technology Offermatica (now Adobe Target) and Founder of its services arm, I brought sixty brands, including six of the top eleven in the world, into digital targeting.


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