Case study: making the financial case for introducing a Customer Data Platform (CDP)

This case study is important for people in marketing, finance and IT who are considering investing in a CDP because it: 

  • shares the financial results, in an anonymised form, of two recent business casing exercises for companies with significant levels of marketing spend. 
  • explains the business areas where the benefits of introducing a CDP were most evident.

 First, what is a CDP?

According to the Customer Data Platform Institute it is ‘packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems’. This definition has three critical elements:

packaged software”

the CDP is a prebuilt system that is configured to meet the needs of each client.  Some technical resources will be required to set up and maintain the CDP, but it does not require the level of technical skill of a typical data warehouse project.  This reduces the time, cost, and risk and gives business users more control over the system, even though they may still need some technical assistance.

creates a persistent, unified customer database”

the CDP creates a comprehensive view of each customer by capturing data from multiple systems, linking information related to the same customer, and storing the information to track behaviour over time. The CDP contains personal identifiers used to target marketing messages and track individual-level marketing results.

accessible to other systems”

data stored in the CDP can be used by other systems for analysis and to manage customer interactions.

 How were the business cases developed?

Both of the companies maintained detailed reports of the costs and results from all of their current direct communications activities. These formed the basis from which many of the benefits from introducing a CDP could be estimated.
In each case workshops were held to examine where a CDP could add value, and lists of benefit streams were developed. In addition, areas where time savings would result from automation were identified.
Managers were then asked to estimate the anticipated level of improvement they would expect when a CDP was introduced, in percentage terms, and a very conservative view taken of the expected uplifts. There remained a lengthy list of largely unquantifiable benefits such as improved customer experience or improved business continuity when staff left.

 What were the results of the business casing exercises?

The following table shows in indexed and % fashion the end results. The calculations were all done on per annum basis as the cost of the CDP was to be charged in that way.


Client A

Client B

Current net contribution from DM activities (index)



Uplift in net contribution from introducing a CDP



Cost of the CDP as a % of net contribution



ROI from the CDP



The current net contribution was the calculation of the value obtained from marketing communications after deducting their costs. The ROI was calculated as the ratio of the uplift in net contribution over the cost of the CDP.
In both cases it made much more sense to invest in introducing the CDP than in increasing the current level of marketing communications spend.

 So where did the benefits come from?

We divided these into improvements to marketing operations, and to planning activities:


Area impacted

UniFida impact


Direct mail and email campaigns

Integration of outbound communications across all channels, particularly email and mail

Welcome packs and welcome emails based on initial purchase and known pre-existing customer characteristics such as browsing history

Early inclusion of new customers in campaigns

Next best action taking account of purchase propensities, browser interests and email opens

Managing customer contact density based on individual customer propensity to purchase

Where a company owns several brands, the CDP opens up cross-sales opportunities


Web, email and catalogue personalisation

Personalisation incorporating underlying customer characteristics such as customer value, customer attrition risk, and customer sale responsiveness in combination with recent on-line activity

Catalogues can be personalised by product preferences

Maintaining history of personalised offers on the customer record


Implementation of data science

Engineered data derived from data science algorithms like segmentations or propensity scores used in all areas of customer selections and analysis

All engineered data fields updated every time new customer data arrives



Customer search, and automated fulfilment of SARs and the right to be forgotten

Maintenance of preference records


Name and address cleansing

Automated access to external suppliers either at point of data entry or exit


Overall marketing planning

Personalised dashboards for all users who can build or select their own charts using both on-line and off-line data

Real time user structured reports on sales and campaign responses leading to swift changes in campaign planning

Longer term reports on customer value and retention

Democratising of decision making from shared customer knowledge

Customer data visualisation in Tableau including geographical representation


Speed to implement step changes

Acceleration of project delivery with marketeers in control of their data and their technology


Recruitment budget allocation

Ongoing reports of customer LTV by recruitment channel (historic or predicted)

Enabling selection of channels and media based on customer longer term value delivered


Business continuity

The logic behind campaign selections and reports as well as results history kept secure

Ease of reuse for future campaign activity by all staff members


Time savings from accelerated operational activities

Ease of making campaign selections and developing reports

Simplicity of organising customer data outputs

Reduction in the workload for IT


Our conclusions

A decision to invest in a CDP will usually involve looking carefully at the many aspects of the business that are going to be impacted by it. It is only by assembling these multiple benefit streams that a full business case can be built. However, certainly based on these results, the case for making the investment can be extremely strong.