Blog - Series The Steps to CDP Success

CDP Implementation: A Look Under the Hood

Check out our step-by-step guide to kicking your CDP into gear.

The most meaningful customer experiences are data-driven, and customer data platforms (CDPs) are the best way to make them happen. CDPs help organizations work smarter while giving customers experiences tailored to their unique needs. 

Selecting and implementing a CDP isn't a whimsical journey; it's a digital transformation. To take advantage of everything a CDP has to offer, businesses need to consider more than what a CDP can do. They also need to take a look at their people and processes, because even the best data won’t create value if you don’t know how to work with it.

Let's look at the phases of CDP implementation to learn how a CDP can transform your approach to customer data.

CDP Implementation Pre-Work

You've probably guessed that a CDP implementation isn't something that happens overnight. We can dream, right? It'll take a little legwork, but the end result is well worth the effort. So, let's get prepped. 

CDP implementation isn't only about your product; it's also about the end user. In fact, you could even argue that the end user is the priority. After all, what good is a product without people to use it?

You need to be familiar with everything between the product and end user, which is why the initial steps to CDP implementation involve the discovery phase. Here, you'll lay crucial groundwork for planning that'll help speed the process along.

For this phase to succeed, you need to:

  • Prepare your data. Know what you're going to collect and how you're going to export and format it.
  • Identify key implementation stakeholders.
  • Set clear goals. What do you expect from a CDP? This is often a crawl, walk, run approach. Establish simple goals at the beginning and scale them up over time.

CDP Implementation Stages

The CDP implementation process has three stages: strategy, implementation, and enablement. 

We'll look at each stage more closely in a minute, but it's good to remember that — try as we might — it's impossible to standardize CDP implementation universally. That's the beauty of organizations, users, and products. Infinite variability and uniqueness. What we can do is provide the architecture to make implementation smoother across the board. Let's dig in.


Nothing starts without a well-developed plan, and every data-transformation project begins with a data strategy. Your implementation team needs to figure out what data it has, what data is needed, what will be done with it, and which technologies are needed to execute the team's vision. In essence, the better you know your data, the shorter the strategy phase. Time depends on several factors:

  • Organizational maturity
  • Data strategy
  • How well you know your data
  • Use case complexity
  • Data quality
  • Data model
  • Resource availability
  • Cross-departmental and global collaboration

At the end of the day, the driving force behind your strategy has to be the business reason behind why you chose a CDP. 


This is the stage when you let the CDP do its thing. You’ve spent the strategy stage gathering and organizing customer data and setting goals. Now it’s time to map the data to the appropriate places to better understand how you’ll use it. 

An important part of data implementation is identity resolution (IR). When you’ve got customer data streaming from multiple channels, it can be difficult to sift through it all — unless you have a CDP. 

Imagine records like this: 

Harry Potter


H. Potter

[      ]

4 Privet Drive

[      ]

[      ]

[      ]

Little Whinging, Surrey

[email protected]

[      ]

[      ]

Are these the same person? Of course they are, but more basic systems might mix the data up and create three separate Harrys. A CDP will use its IR powers to deduplicate and consolidate an example like this into a more accurate record, one we call a single customer profile. This is a simple example, but the resolved record would complete Mr. Potter’s profile like this: 

Harry Potter

4 Privet Drive

Little Whinging, Surrey

[email protected]

Of course, this process will need to be repeated over time as you gain more records, but it’s massively helpful right out of the gate because it determines exactly who your customers are. You can use cleaner data to execute better personalized campaigns, which leads us to the final stage — actually doing it. 


Time to set sail. All the preparations have been made, your data mise en place looks great, and you’re ready for action. You’ll do a lot during this stage, but it’s important to give yourself manageable goals. 

What happens in this phase includes:

  • Provision production environment
  • Load all data from all sources
  • Add and train users
  • Build segments, reports, and campaigns
  • Complete integrations

Everyone wants to see real world value as soon as possible. After all, the point of implementing a CDP is to understand customer patterns and to make your products more attractive to audiences, which takes time.

Start small, aim for quick wins, and scale up over time. Don’t be afraid of things not working! Experiment, iterate, try new things, and use the data organization of a CDP to inform everything you do. Over time, you’ll discover patterns you hadn't noticed before.

What's Next?

CDP implementation isn’t for the faint of heart, but now you know what you’re getting yourself into. Just remember that investing in organizing and using customer data to build better experiences will lead to happier customers, which shakes out better for your business. Now that’s a competitive advantage.

For more on CDP implementation from start to finish, check out our free e-book Customer Data Platform (CDP) Implementation Guide: The Fast Track to Measurable Marketing Impact

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