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What is a Customer Data Platform? The Ultimate Guide to Automotive CDPs

  • July 18, 2022
21 min read
What is a Customer Data Platform? The Ultimate Guide to Automotive CDPs

Table of Contents

    Mollie Monett

    Mollie Monett

    Table of Contents

      Modern shoppers have high expectations when it comes to retail. They have come to expect excellent shopping experiences built on deep levels of personalization and targeting at every touchpoint on their customer journey. Whereas direct targeting used to be considered ‘creepy,’ it is now the new normal. Shoppers now expect that the products they research will quickly appear in ads in their social media feeds, and that abandoned shopping carts result in reminder emails filled with coupons and discounts hitting their inbox 15 minutes after closing out the browser window. 

      Companies that are successfully pulling off these deeply personalized shopping experiences are growing faster, winning more sales, and driving loyalty for their businesses by meeting shopper expectations with every interaction. Creating these shopping experiences and customer relationships takes more than leveraging a typical CRM and standard scheduled marketing campaigns – it takes the work of a Customer Data Platform (CDP).

      What is a Customer Data Platform?

      A Customer Data Platform, or CDP, is a state of the art software that works to unify customer data from multiple first and third-party sources in order to provide a singular, comprehensive view of each customer and their interactions with a particular business or product. 

      CDPs Explained: Understanding What a Customer Data Platform Does

      Like most businesses, your dealership is likely looking to get a better understanding of your customers and their interest in the specific vehicles and services you offer so you can make better marketing, inventory, and pricing decisions. The best way to do this is with the help of an automotive-centric Customer Data Platform. 

      Automotive CDPs work to bring all of your data into one place, integrating your CRM, DMS, inventory, website analytics, previous ad data and more. CDPs then clean, sort and maintain your data in order to create singular comprehensive 360° profiles of your dealership shoppers and customers. This process makes your data accessible and, more importantly, usable.

      Once your dealership eliminates your data silos and integrates it into a CDP, you can begin to leverage the tools offered by the CDP to segment your data, gaining deep insight into customer behavior, understanding shopper interest and engagement with specific inventory, and building hyper-specific audiences for your marketing campaigns

      Take this, for example: By leveraging the data filters in your CDP, your dealership’s marketing team can easily and quickly identify all shoppers who have shown interest in a particular make and model over the last month and target those shoppers with a special offer on that vehicle in order to increase engagement and create new opportunities to make a sale. As an added bonus, you can then use this specific list to build look-a-like audiences within your advertising platforms to reach new potential customers with similar demographics, needs, and interests to expand your reach and bring in new business. 

      Customer Data Platforms offer dealers a seamless entry into the world of possibilities that exists with clean, unified, actionable data. Leveraging customer data to create exceptional customer experiences – whether at the dealership itself, on the dealership website, or through personalized, exact marketing campaigns, ensures you can increase customer satisfaction and build customer loyalty that drives long-term repeat business. 

      CDP vs CRM: What’s the Difference?

      A CDP does not replace your dealership’s CRM. In fact, your dealership business will most certainly need both a CRM and a CDP in order to function properly. 

      Let’s take a look at the difference between them:

      Your CRM performs a critical function at your dealership. Customer relationship management software holds a record of all the new and old leads at your dealership; it’s where your sales team works to engage hot leads, and it serves as an activity log for your BDC and sales teams so they remember to reach out to leads at the right time. 

      Over time, however, your dealership CRM gets loaded with junk – duplicate leads and cold leads that go unnoticed and unattended. This is where the CDP comes in– the Customer Data Platform takes duplicate leads and consolidates and cleans them so that there is a singular, clear picture of every opportunity in the CRM. The CDP will also make sure that the same person isn’t being engaged in multiple different ways because their records are not consolidated. The CDP will also set your dealership up for marketing success as the data is stored in an actionable way, allowing it to be leveraged for smart, automated marketing campaigns, whereas CRM data is not structured for this type of engagement. 

      How CDPs are Improving the Automotive Industry

      There is no question that customer-centricity is the driving force for business success in the modern world of retail. CDPs have proven to be a transformative tool for car dealers, reshaping the way automotive retailers engage with customers and enabling them to create exceptional customer experiences at every stage of the sales funnel. 

      The impact of CDPs has already created waves in the automotive industry as dealers look to the technology to help them create stronger, more resilient business. CDPs provide dealers with opportunity – opportunity to make data-driven business decisions based on performance and make the changes needed to optimize operations and customer engagement. By analyzing customer data, trends, and historical patterns, dealerships can quickly and easily identify areas for improvement, seize growth opportunities, and make strategic choices that drive business success.

      The Role of CDPs in Car Dealerships 

      CDPs are an essential tool for dealerships looking to stay ahead of the competition. CDPs enable dealers to deliver personalized, relevant experiences that build customer loyalty and drive growth by providing:

      1. Deep customer insights – by unifying, sorting and filtering your data, CDPs can provide you with actionable insights about the preferences and needs of your customers so you can tailor your marketing and sales strategies to better meet customer expectations.
      2. Enhanced personalization capabilities – CDPs allows you to leverage customer insights to execute highly personalized targeted marketing campaigns based on customer preferences to create long lasting, valuable relationships.
      3. Seamless omni-channel marketing – CDPs create a singular, unified view of customers across marketing channels including email, social media, websites, and more allowing you to provide a consistent and engaging customer experience at every touchpoint.
      4. Data-backed decision making – using the insights and analytics provided by the CDP can help you make more informed, effective decisions for your dealership – from inventory to bring on to the lot to your marketing efforts – by identifying trends in customer behavior and evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.
      5. Data management and hygiene – a CDP is designed to aggregate and clean your data in one singular platform so you can leverage the data for other purposes. 

      With a Customer Data Platform in place, your dealership can make the changes necessary to meet and exceed the expectations of modern shoppers, win more sales, and grow more resilient, lasting business.

      What kinds of customer data do CDPs work with?

      The role of a Customer Data Platform is to unify the existing data sources at a specific business into a singular platform so it can be leveraged to further business goals. Automotive centric CDPs are specifically designed for dealerships to unify the dealer-specific data sources in play at your dealership. An automotive CDP integrates:

      • Website data
      • Advertising data 
      • CRM 
      • DMS
      • Analytics (Google Analytics, Looker, Oracle, etc.)
      • Inventory and more!

      Unifying these data sources and creating a clean data set provides your dealership with a single source of truth that can then be used to build shopper profiles and offer data insights to help you optimize your operations. 

      Some CDPs offer integration opportunities for additional data sources provided by other automotive vendors – this is something to take into consideration when examining the data sources already in place at your dealership ahead of selecting the right CDP vendor for you. 

      Why CDPs Are the Key to Understanding Your Customers:

      When you invest in a customer platform that consolidates all of the customer data, your business will finally be able to create a full, clear picture of every shopper journey at your dealership. 

      Take this scenario as an example: A shopper that is actively looking for their next vehicle interacts with a specific VDP page on your website. Later that week, the shopper opens an email from your dealership on a specific incentive that relates to that vehicle. Later that day they click on an ad relating to an entirely different vehicle at your dealership. 

      All of the actions taken by the shopper are fed back into the CDP which ensures your sales team will know every step the shopper took along their journey when following up. This data-driven approach arms your sales staff with the information they need in order to approach the shopper with relevant information that relates to their interest and needs, encouraging the shopper to come into the store and ensuring they make a purchase from you over your competitor.

      Benefits of Implementing a CDP at Your Dealership:

      Implementing a Customer Data Platform (CDP) at your dealership can offer several major benefits that can help you get a leg up on your competition by:

      • Eliminating Data Silos – CDPs unify your siloed first-party data sources to create a clear picture of the goings on at your dealership and to establish a single source of truth for all metrics and insights.
      • Compiling 360° Shopper Views – Trace every customer touch point with your dealership using a CDP – from their first ad or website click, to a vehicle purchase, to their next service appointment, by bringing together your website, CRM and advertising data.
      • Providing Personalized Customer Experiences – CDPs work to create 360° shopper profiles that you can leverage to personalize your approach at every touchpoint on the customer journey based on the shopper’s needs and interests.
      • Optimizing Your Marketing Efforts – CDPs works to clean and normalize your data using identity resolution technology to eliminate duplicate leads and create unified shopper profiles so you can stop marketing to the same lead twice.
      • Optimizing Your Inventory Management Strategy – Use your CDP’s highly specific lists to gain deep insight into your inventory with powerful filtering capabilities.
      • Improving Your Customer Experience – Create extended customer journeys and capture more of their lifetime value (LTV) by leveraging your data to gain deep insight into your operations and improve the customer experience at your dealership.
      • Ensuring Compliance with Data Privacy Regulations – Your dealership is required to be fully compliant with the FTC safeguard rules. CDPs work with top level encryption technology to ensure your data is safe.

      A CDP can transform the way your dealership interacts with your shoppers and customers resulting in more effective marketing, improved customer satisfaction, and increased competitiveness in the high-paced, ever evolving automotive market.

      Core Components of an Automotive CDP

      When researching various CDP providers, you may notice that many of them offer similar services on varying levels. It is important to understand each feature offered and to learn more about the exact capabilities that are included in order to understand whether or not the platform will meet your needs. 

      There are several core components a Customer Data Platform must have in order to be considered a true automotive CDP: 

      1. Data Integrations:

        Your CDP should be capable of integrating with various dealership specific data sources. A good CPD integrates dealership data from various sources, including your CRM, DMS, inventory, websites, social media, advertising data, and more in order to aggregate customer data and create a comprehensive view of your customers and their interactions with your dealership.

        Keep in mind that your CDP shouldn’t hinder your progress, it should lean into it. Strong CDPs offer partnership integrations through open APIs that give you flexibility in ‘swapping’ out data sources, allowing your dealership to stay flexible and scalable. This way, if your dealership decides to try a new DMS or CRM, your CDP can easily adapt.
      2. 360° Shopper Profiles:

        Stitching together fragmented customer data to create a cohesive and accurate customer profile from various data channels is a critical and core functionality of a CDP. 

        When done correctly, 360° shopper profiles should allow you to track every customer engagement with your dealership in one orderly, consolidated profile. This includes any website visits, ad engagements, email engagements, dealership visits or phone calls, upcoming and past service appointments and more so you can fully understand their shopper journey and what action should come next.
      3. Data Insights and Analytics:

        Your CDP should offer analytical tools for studying customer behavior, trends, and patterns, including predictive analytics to forecast future customer actions.

        This feature is critical. By seamlessly integrating these insights into your operations, you can make smarter, more educated inventory decisions and carefully construct your marketing strategy to meet expected customer behavior.
      4. Real-Time Data Processing:

        In a world where things can change in an instant, it is critical that your CDP has the capability to handle and process real-time data, making changes to every shopper profile as it happens. This is one of the major benefits that come with working with powerful technology – humans are not capable of manually syncing and processing incoming data from multiple sources in real time. With a CDP in place, you can ensure your dealership is always accessing and acting upon the most up-to-date, accurate customer information.
      5. Identity Resolution:

        When you combine data from multiple sources, you will most certainly end up with multiple profiles that belong to the same person based on the different behaviors and interactions your dealership had with them cross-channel. One of the most critical jobs of a CDP is to identify and resolve customer identities across a variety of platforms and unify them into one comprehensive profile.

        Identity resolution is not a feature to sleep on – it is incremental in ensuring your dealership is working with accurate, up-to-date information that allows you to properly engage each customer based on their preferences and needs. As an added bonus, identity resolution technology can help you reduce marketing waste by ensuring you are not marketing to the same person twice. 
      1. Audience Segmentation:
        One of the most valuable features built into your dealership CDP is the ability for you to build hyper-targeted lists or audiences based on specific demographic or shopper criteria pulled from your aggregated data. This feature allows you to create a whole new level of personalization that speaks directly to your shoppers’ needs, ensuring your provide value at every touchpoint.

        Leveraging your CDP, you can segment audiences based on specific criteria including behavioral data, purchase history, engagement levels, vehicle of interest, ads clicked, emails opened, equity status, financing data and more. You can then use this fine-grained segmentation to build and execute highly personalized, targeted, and efficient marketing campaigns, increasing the likelihood of engagement. 
      1. Data Privacy and Governance:

        If your dealership offers financing or leasing options, then you are considered a financial institution according to the FCC and are required to comply with their data privacy mandates. Poor data governance increases your susceptibility to leaks and lawsuits, something investing in a strong CDP can help you avoid.

        Your CDP should have robust data management and governance features to ensure that your customer data is accurate, up-to-date, and secure. A strong CDP will have the ability to react to changes in real time in order to properly manage data privacy and compliance. For example, if a customer or a lead decides they want their information deleted or changed, your CDP needs to be able to quickly comply.
      2. Personalization Capabilities:

        Personalization is a key component of success when it comes to the modern retail world as it can help increase retention by creating excellent one-to-one experiences for your customers. CDPs contribute by creating 360 shopper profiles so you can use insights pulled from your aggregated data to create personalized, targeted experiences.

        Strong CDPs will offer advanced personalization capabilities that will enable the CDP to send real-time updates to your advertising channels with any changes that occur on the shopper level. For example, if a shopper visits a specific VDP on your website, the CDP can then update your marketing channels so the shopper receives related ads and emails. 

      Choosing the Right CDP for Your Automotive Dealership

      If you’re a progressive car dealer dealing with disconnected data, you know firsthand the challenges that come with trying to effectively manage and leverage customer data. A customer data platform (CDP) can help you overcome these challenges and drive better results for your business.

      When considering a CDP, be sure to evaluate key features such as partner integration, data action, data management, personalization, and integration with marketing and sales tools. You should also consider cost and pricing options, the implementation and onboarding process, and customer support and service.Understanding the capabilities and functionalities offered by various CDP vendors and how they can meet your needs will help ensure you choose the right software for your dealership. 

      Challenges of Implementing a CDP in a Car Dealership

      Implementing a Customer Data Platform at your dealership does come with certain challenges but it does not have to be overwhelmingly difficult. There are several common challenges dealerships face when initially implementing a CDP: 

      1. Data Integration Complexities: Integrating data from the different sources in play at your dealership can be complex and can take time. This can be mitigated by performing proper research into your vendor. Make sure that their platform is compatible with your existing data providers.
      2. Employee Training and Adoption: New technology can be scary or overwhelming for your team. Resistance to change or a lack of understanding about the benefits of the platform can hinder adoption and the realization of its full potential. It is important to offer training opportunities for your team and to remain patient as they learn how to use this new technology. Some vendors will offer added support during the initial onboarding to help your team acclimate.
      3. Customization Challenges: Every dealership has its unique processes and ways of doing things. Configuring the CDP to align with the specific needs of a dealership may require customization, which can be challenging and may extend the implementation timeline. Your vendor should be able to predict how long the implementation process will take so you can prepare accordingly. 

      Setting up a CDP takes work as you need to gather and integrate multiple data sources and change the work culture at your dealership to integrate this new software – but – with the right CDP provider and the right customer support, the set up process should be relatively seamless and painless. 

      Up & Running: Tech Support During CDP Implementation 

      When researching CDPs for your dealership, take the setup process into consideration. Without the proper set up and training, you may miss out on critical features included in the CDP that can help elevate your dealership.

      Here are 5 questions to ask when selecting a CDP provider for your dealership:

      1. What support is offered by the company during the CDP setup process?
      2. What resources and training materials are provided by the company so my team can get the most out of the CDP?  
      3. How long does the CDP setup process take and what steps are included? 
      4. Is there a support team that I can speak to during the setup process?
      5. Is there continued support from the company after the initial CDP setup is complete? 

      The answers to these questions should be able to help you determine whether or not the provider you are considering is the right match for your dealership.

      At Your Service: Customer Support

      If your dealership has experienced poor customer service from vendors in the past, you understand the importance of finding a partner that values and prioritizes your needs. 

      Excellent customer support and service is key in ensuring that your dealership will get the most value out of your chosen CDP. Be sure to investigate the support options offered by your chosen CDP provider, their availability for you as a customer, and how they communicate and respond to incoming inquiries (email, phone, live chat support, etc.). 

      You may also want to read through customer reviews and speak to others in the industry to get their thoughts on their CDP provider. Sometimes the best information can come from those who have previous, real-world experience with the company and can provide insights based on that experience.

      The Price is Right: CDP Cost & Pricing Considerations

      Investing in a CDP is a long-term commitment that can create significant savings for your dealership over time. It is important to carefully review the costs and pricing options to make an informed decision that aligns with your budget and your business goals. Here are a few key points to consider

      • One-Time Costs v. Subscription Fees:
        Some CDPs may offer one-time licensing fees, while others offer subscription-based pricing. Consider which option aligns best with your dealership’s needs and budget. It is important to note that subscription models typically grant you access to new features as they are released, meaning your software gets better over time.
      • Customization & Implementation Costs:
        Some CDPs offer customization and implementation packages to help you get up and running more quickly and effectively. These packages may come with additional costs so be sure to factor them into your budget.
      • Maintenance & Support Costs:
        Be sure to consider and calculate the ongoing costs of maintaining and supporting your CDP. Look for a software provider that offers flexible, all-inclusive support options.

      Make sure you are fully aware of the costs and payment schedule you are signing up for as well as the timeline of your contract. This will ensure that you select a CDP that fits into your tech needs as well as your budgetary needs. 

      Automotive CDPs + AI – The Ultimate Tool to Empower Dealerships

      By combining the capabilities of CDPs and AI, automotive dealerships can unlock the full potential of their customer data in a user-friendly and accessible way. This synergy enables dealerships to make data-driven decisions, create personalized experiences, and stay competitive in an increasingly dynamic market.

      Combining your CDP with AI enables you to: 

      1. Leverage Real-Time Customer Insights: AI-driven analytics working in tandem with CDPs helps deliver instantaneous, real-time insights into customer behavior and preferences to your marketing mechanisms. This ensures your marketing is always equipped with the most up-to-date information for timely decision-making.
      2. Create Seamless Customer Journeys Cross-Platform: With the combined power of AI and a CDP, you can create seamless customer journeys both online and in your dealership showroom that drive customer loyalty. When combined with the analytical capabilities of AI, your data can be culled into informative insights about your customer’s preferences and needs allowing you to take an informed next step.
      3. Automate Your Marketing Campaigns: AI takes the work out of personalized marketing by automating the creation and optimization of ad and email campaigns using real-time insights from the CDP. This means that your campaigns are not only targeted, but they are also dynamically adjusted in real time based on ongoing customer interactions, ensuring your marketing dollars are being spent effectively.
      4. Improve Your Inventory Management: AI analyzes real-time customer preferences pulled from your CDP to help you optimize inventory management. The AI can provide recommendations for specific vehicles or parts that are aligned with individual customer preferences and needs, increasing the likelihood of successful sales.

      The powerful combination of a CDP and AI can help put your dealership in a position to not only succeed, but dominate your competition by providing unmatched customer experiences. By dynamically adjusting to every customer’s unique journey, you ensure every shopper receives value at every touchpoint, ensuring your dealership gains a competitive edge and is well positioned to win more sales and create customers for life.

      About Fullpath’s Customer Data Platform (CDP) for Automotive:

      Fullpath takes the typical Customer Data Platform (CDP) to the next level by adding the “Experience” factor, layering AI-powered marketing technology on top of your dealership’s unified data layer. 

      Fullpath’s Customer Data and Experience Platform (CDXP) integrates seamlessly with a wide range of existing dealership systems and tools so you can easily and seamlessly orchestrate exceptional customer experiences through hyper-personalized marketing campaigns designed to drive leads, increase revenues and build loyalty for your dealership.
      Don’t let disconnected data hold you back. Reach out to us at to learn more about how our CDXP can support your dealership.

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      • Automotive
      • CDXP

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