10 - 01 - 2022

Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) have taken over the marketing landscape over the past decade. According to G2, there are over 180 versions of this technology to choose from. And in 2016, marketing services firm Raab Associates even founded the CDP Institute to help companies manage customer data.

At the same time, Journey Orchestration tools have emerged as complementary solutions to deliver improved, personalized customer experiences across touchpoints.

The question is: What are the differences between CDPs and Journey Orchestration tools? And which mix of tools and platforms are best suited to fuel your customer data strategy?

Let’s take a look.

Customer Data Platforms

What is a CDP?

According to the CDP Institute, a CDP is a “packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.

Now, what does that mean?

Put more simply, a CDP is a tool that marketers can use to track customer behavior across channels and get a bird’s-eye-view of each user’s experience. So data from websites, call centers, email, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, search, social, in-store engagements, and events can all be collected in one centralized platform.

Beyond just gathering this data, a CDP can also analyze it for notable trends, audience segments, and campaign insights. As Gartner reported in 2019, over half of managers in charge of data integration and management are using CDPs to streamline their processes.

What are the benefits of CDPs?

CDPs offer many benefits to marketers, such as:

  • Breaking down silos. With CDPs, teams and departments across an organization can access the same data sets — and integrate them with data from legacy systems — which they can then use to inform their campaigns and strategies.
  • Removing manual tasks. CDPs can help businesses save time and money by automating data collection and analysis for customers at scale.
  • Creating more relevant experiences. Marketers can use CDPs to understand how to reach customers with personalized messaging on their favorite channels, ultimately increasing conversions and revenue. According to The Relevancy Group, 62% of organizations use CDPs to enable individualized personalization.
  • Orchestrating Customer Data for marketing and business use cases. Advertisers can pull customer data to better understand what current and prospective customers want to see, and then use that data to launch more efficient retargeting and acquisition campaigns.
  • Enabling audiences and real-time customer events activation. Marketers can gain real-time insights into audience behaviors and preferences during live virtual or in-person events. With these insights, they can instantaneously pivot or optimize their strategies to increase engagement across platforms.

Journey Orchestration

What is Journey Orchestration?

Journey Orchestration tools similarly offer a comprehensive solution for delivering superior customer experiences in real time across channels. While CDPs gather data from different platforms, Journey Orchestration tools conduct deep journey analysis of that data and make real-time decisions about how to reach customers in the moment.

Journey Orchestration spans across multiple key stages, including:

  1. Real-time data collection from across channels, like websites, mobile apps, and call centers
  2. Transformation of data into the same easily readable language or format
  3. Audience association to qualify profiles for certain campaigns and targeting opportunities
  4. Actionable strategies to engage audiences in real time and create personalized messages


What are the benefits of Journey Orchestration?

More specifically, the biggest benefits of Journey Orchestration include:

  • Identifying customer intent. Journey Orchestration doesn’t just collect customer demographics and characteristics; it actually pinpoints their intent, helping marketers develop a clear view of each person’s values and needs.
  • Adapting to the customer’s experience. Journey Orchestration is a truly customer-centric solution, helping marketers reach the customer where they know they are instead of where they want them to be or assume they will be.
  • Increased satisfaction. With Journey Orchestration, departments across an organization can gain valuable insights for improving customer service, sales strategies, product usage and maturity, and customer lifetime value.

Which solution is best for your business?

The answer to this question will vary depending on each business’ goals, of course. Customer Strategy is also an ongoing, ever-evolving process. You may only need a CDP, you may need both a CDP and Journey Orchestration tool, or you may find different uses and needs for each over time.

If the focus is on the customer, for example, a CDP will likely be your starting point. If, on the other hand, the focus is on user journeys, the first step is a Journey Orchestration tool, especially if you need to map, visualize, and analyze those journeys.

That’s why, in pinpointing the best solutions for your customer strategy, it can help to ask these questions:

  • How can I best access and activate the large amount of data I already have?
  • Am I able to sync and leverage data in the moment for a comprehensive view of each customer over time?
  • Can I make decisions in real time to deliver the most value-driven, relevant experiences across channels?

Whichever mix of solutions you choose, make sure you have the tools to adapt to the evolving, ongoing customer experience — allowing your brand to build those meaningful audience relationships and meet people wherever are along their journey.