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The Difference Between a CDP and an ESP

December 6, 2017

and how they work together to power your marketing program


Data is the foundation to a strong marketing program. Personalization, predictive modeling, dynamic content- all these keywords that we continue to hear are gathered around the same concept; using data to drive your decisions. While ESP’s are evolving and can handle more marketing automation than they have in the past, there is one critical piece they cannot do. ESP’s cannot give you a single view of your customer. To achieve this, you must have a central location where all data sources feed into. This is known as Customer Data Platform (CDP).

Solving A Crucial Marketing Challenge

With different data sources existing for every company, a critical marketing challenge that teams face, is how to integrate these sources into a central solution. This allows them to see the full picture of who their customer is. From transactional data, to loyalty data, to paper forms, your data lives in a variety of places and combining that into a central location, without drowning your team, seems like a daunting task.

That is where the need for CDP comes into play. A Customer Data Platform is taking this challenge head on, and works to integrate all data sources into a centralized location, allowing for analysis of your customer and enables you to build highly targeted marketing campaigns across all channels. Whether you are using these segmented lists for a direct mail campaign, email campaign, or aligning your social campaigns with these segments, it is important that all communication is driven from the same central location. Allowing for the “hub” of your marketing efforts to always be your CDP.

“A Customer Data Platform (CDP) is an integrated customer database managed by marketers that unifies a company’s customer data from marketing, sales and service channels to enable customer modeling and drive customer experience.” ​-Gartner Inc.

How a CDP and ESP Work Together, Not Against Each Other

It is often a misconception that an ESP does the same thing as a CDP. While they are sure to have similar capabilities, a CDP actually works to compliment what you are doing within your ESP. The goal of a CDP is to gather all data sources, not just e-commerce, and use that for marketing efforts. This would enable you to create segments such as, loyalty members who have purchased in the last 6 months. Perhaps you’d want to segment anyone that received your holiday catalog mailing and went on to purchase within one month. You create these types of segments within the platform, and then push them to your different marketing channels, including your ESP. This allows for your email marketing to be highly targeted and personal.

Your ESP or Marketing Automation tool is not designed to handle the amount of data that goes into a CDP, nor should it. The CDP should be the core component that speaks to your other tools, driving all marketing efforts through channels not limited to your ESP. It can also drive social networks, your direct mail house, and others. Using your CDP to drive your marketing decisions will allow you to be flexible to the channel that performs the best for each segment, making your marketing truly omni-channel.

The Key Differences Between a CDP and ESP

  1. Data Integration: as mentioned, a CDP’s main purpose it to combine data from all different sources into one central location. This includes e-commerce, POS, Loyalty, Direct Mail, and more.
  2. Customer Insights and Analysis: Your CDP is able to provide valuable insight into your customer base to show you key marketing metrics. For example, Customer Lifetime Value, RFM Score, AOV, Days Lapsed, and more.
  3. Segmentation and Execution: Through your CDP, you can create segments that combine different sources of data to create lists. These lists can be based on purchasing behavior, web behavior, and more. From there, easily send those lists to all marketing channels including email, social, direct mail and more.  
  4. Revenue Attribution: A key component to having all of your data together is that it enables you to see revenue attribution across all channels. This includes offline and online sources, direct mail revenue, and more.

Give Your Marketing the Tools for Success

Data is the most important marketing tool in your marketing wheelhouse. To truly gain value from it, it needs to be centrally located, combined, and analyzed. This will give you a true look at who your customers are. Marketing processes are ever changing, becoming more efficient, and better targeted. Make sure you have the tools needed to keep up!

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