Customer data

Why every CMO needs a CDP

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    Katrina Wong
  • Jun 10, 2021

CMOs have growing customer data responsibilities, but at the same time hit their traditional marketing objectives. Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) help them pull this off.

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COVID-19 has seen customers in all sectors flock to online channels, accelerating digital transformation roadmaps by up to a decade.

This migration saw an exponential growth of customer data. As an example, by the end of 2020, Segment was processing over 1 trillion API calls a month for its 20,000 customers.

2020 saw another interesting development: CMOs, not CIOs, were tasked with finding new ways to store, organize, and get insights from all this customer data for the entire organization.

This put CMOs in a quandary: how can I handle these growing customer data responsibilities and hit my traditional marketing objectives?

To pull off this seemingly impossible assignment, CMOs increasingly looked to Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) for assistance. Many marketers have them at the top of their shopping lists, with 56 percent of marketing leaders expecting CDPs to deliver an ROI of 5-10x.


The expected ROI of a CDP, as reported by CMOs. Source: The 2030 Today Report, by Segment

So what’s driving this sudden interest in CDPs, and why is every CMO looking to adopt one?

CDPs fulfill the promise of personalization

CMOs have struggled for years to make personalized marketing work and see ROI from it. So much so that last year, Gartner predicted that 80 percent of them would abandon their efforts by 2025. 

But CDPs have evolved quickly and finally make personalization possible by generating customer profiles that sync in real-time with all customer engagement channels.

As Sara Spivey, CMO at Braze, said:

“Today, there's no shortage of tools to collect and organize customer data. What's lacking is the ability to translate mountains of data into actionable insights. Brands need to be able to listen, understand, and act in order to unlock the true value of data and serve customers relevant and memorable experiences.”

By synthesizing data from all channels, a CDP provides real-time insights that let CMOs tailor the content and timing of each customer interaction. Once customers have agreed to your privacy policy and you’ve standardized data collection at your organization, a CDP gathers the information you need for personalization, so you can:

  • Know who your users are
  • What they’re doing on your website
  • Where on your site their actions take place

Your CDP can stitch this data together in one profile for each customer and keep it updated in real-time. This synchronization enables all teams and tools to use this data and unlocks true personalization that wasn’t possible before.

Let’s look at a real example. 

Domino's customer interactions span dozens of digital touchpoints. But their teams struggled to collaborate because of data silos, and the marketing team couldn't personalize campaigns based on consumer behavior. This situation led to low return on ad spend (ROAS) due to poorly targeted messaging.

By partnering with Segment, Domino's simplified its data collection process across all digital properties with a single API. This change enabled them to break down silos with a data pipeline for all customer touchpoints. Using this setup, Domino’s identified eight cohorts of customers and created personalized customer journeys for each, improving the effectiveness of their Facebook and Google ad campaigns dramatically.

CDPs provide a single source of truth for all teams

In the not too distant past, a CMO's focus was primarily on brand, customer, or strategic marketing.

But marketing is becoming one of the most technology-dependent functions in business, with CMOs spending more on tech than Chief Information Officers (CIOs). This change means marketing leaders, not CIOs, are increasingly responsible for a company's tech stack and the flow of customer data between their tools. If sales or product teams run into dirty data, the CMO is on the hook. 

A CDP solves this by creating single, unified customer profiles for the entire organization based on standardized data gathering.

A CDP captures data about people's actions when they use your products or services. Whether a customer deals with sales, support, or the product team, and regardless of touchpoint, channel, or platform, a CDP can attribute every interaction and store it in a unified profile.

All departments can access these customer profiles with their tools of choice, establishing a single source of truth for the entire organization. This centralization allows teams to tie back any data point to a unique user and tailor the customer experience accordingly.

“A customer data platform gives us the best shot we’ve ever had at obtaining a single view of each and every customer.”Aaron Carter, Staples Canada

Take Staples Canada Staples used Segment to put up-to-date customer profiles at the heart of their business by using Segment Personas. They saw valuable data within days from starting their CDP implementation. They also reduced their cloud computing costs to almost zero because Segment now handles most of those tasks.


Staples Canada marketing stack, with Segment’s CDP at the center

CDPs optimize marketing channel performance

With 59 percent of CMOs reporting budget cuts in 2020, they're facing increased pressure to justify their marketing investments and need to focus on efficiency. CDPs help squeeze extra value out of existing channels and make it easier to generate ROI from new ones.

With a CDP, CMOs gain a complete view of their marketing channels, as they can:

  • Get performance benchmarks for each channel.
  • Compare channels side by side—for example, Facebook versus Google or email versus SMS—and double down on the most effective ones.
  • Drive revenue by finding and focusing on high-profit customers who are most likely to spend.
  • Identify customers who are about to churn by finding common elements in the journey of lost customers.

CMOs can quickly spot opportunities and issues through such real-time insights and act on them right away. Marketing teams can also try out new channels and tools without requiring support from engineers, which makes finding new sources of ROI faster and cheaper than without a CDP.


Companies with a CDP more often measure the entire customer journey and distinguish their most profitable customers than companies without a CDP.

Choose a CDP or lose the data-driven marketing game

A recent report we published with analysts at Aberdeen shows companies with a CDP are outperforming those without one in annual revenue growth, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and other KPIs. 

With CMOs increasingly on the hook for the data that other teams use and their own marketing results, a CDP is a must-have for any marketing leader who wants to meet all these expectations.

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Katrina Wong

Katrina Wong is the VP of Product Marketing & Demand Gen at Twilio Segment. For the past 15+ years, Katrina has held leadership roles at Hired, Zuora, Salesforce, and SAP, helping several companies scale from pre to post IPO.