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What is Salesforce CDP?

Learn what Salesforce CDP is, how it works, and the key features within the platform.

Luke Kline.

Luke Kline

May 1, 2023

11 minutes

Activating data with Salesforce CDP.

Building personalized customer experiences takes time and effort. Over the years, the lofty goal of consolidating all of your customer data into a single, centralized platform has steadily increased. Many companies are evaluating Salesforce CDP to tackle this challenge, but there is a shroud of mystery surrounding the product, and little is known about how it actually works.

This article will provide a detailed overview of Salesforce CDP and give you a complete understanding of how the platform works.

What is Salesforce CDP?

Salesforce CDP enables you to collect and consolidate your customer data across your different Salesforce Organizations like sales, service, commerce, marketing, etc., and other external data sources into a single unified customer profile so that you can build audience cohorts for marketing activation.

The product is part of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) suite and is focused on unification and segmentation. Under the hood, the platform is powered by Salesforce Genie, which is a data lake that underpins the entire Salesforce ecosystem. Genie is a fully managed data platform built on top of AWS products like EMR, S3, DynamoDB, etc.

Salesforce Genie architecture

Genie architecture

How Does Salesforce CDP Work?

Although Salesforce CDP is a marketing automation platform, you can break the product into three categories:

  • Data Integration: automated data collection, ingestion, and transformation
  • Audience Management: streamlined audience building, identity resolution, and cohort analysis
  • Data Activation: pre-built integrations to send data to other applications and marketing channels

The goal of Salesforce CDP is to help you power your Customer 360 motion so you can build personalized experiences for your customers and turn insights into action.

Consolidates Data into a Single View

When it comes to data collection, Salesforce CDP has a feature called data streams. These pipelines let you automatically ingest data from various sources directly into the platform. Within the data streams tab, you can set up connections for various sources including:

  • Marketing Cloud
  • Salesforce CRM
  • Commerce Cloud
  • Mobile App
  • Website
  • Ingestion API
  • Interaction Studio
  • Mulesoft
  • Cloud Storage (AWS S3, Google Cloud Storage)

creating a new data stream in Salesforce CDP

Creating a data stream

You can view your data streams to easily see the last 50 refresh operations and any errors that occur to help you troubleshoot potential problems. For web and mobile connectors, user-level data is processed every 15 minutes, and engagement data is processed every two minutes, so it's not exactly real-time. For all other native connectors, you can set your refresh schedule to daily or hourly.

data stream status view in Salesforce CDP

Data stream status view

Provides Visual Transformation and Modeling

Because data streams ingest your data “as is” without any transformation, Salesforce offers a visual UI that lets you transform, filter, and join your data using workflows and various dependencies. These workflows allow you to run transformation jobs in real time or via batches. You can also save transformations as recipes for future use.

data prep in Salesforce CDP

Data prep and transformation

All ingested data is automatically written to Genie as data lake objects (DLOs), and before you can actually use your data, your first have to map the objects from your data streams to a data model in Salesforce CDP.

The Complete Guide to the Composable CDP

Read our whitepaper to learn about what a Composable CDP is, its benefits, and how to get started with your own.

Salesforce offers over 50 existing data models you can use to map your data. These data models are part of Salesforce's standard customer 360 data model to help reduce the complexities of integrating data across your cloud applications. If your use cases are more complex, you can build your own custom objects or add additional fields to the existing data models provided by Salesforce.

Once you've ingested your data into Salesforce CDP, the platform has a visual interface where you can map the objects from your sources to the appropriate data model in Salesforce CDP. The mapping works left to right with data source objects (DSOs) on the left and data model objects (DMOs) on the right.

Before performing any data mapping in Salesforce, you need to select a primary key to map on. All objects within Salesforce CDP need to map back to an individual. Otherwise, the unification between your profiles will be inaccurate. To solve this problem, Salesforce CDP has a built-in customer graph you can use to ensure all of your data models follow this structure.

Automates Identity Resolution

One of the significant advantages of Salesforce CDP is that that platform automatically provides built-in identity resolution to help you unify your various datasets together and stitch them into one cohesive customer identity. The identity resolution view gives you an immediate summary of all your source profiles. This is done through a combination of match rules Salesforce CDP uses to link records using data points like email, phone number, address, name, etc.

Identity resolution Salesforce CDP

Identity resolution

You can use any customer identifier within your Salesforce ecosystem (e.g., Service Cloud ID, Marketing Cloud Subscriber Key, Web Cookie, etc.) Reconciliation rules are in place to help you standardize customer data that varies across your data sources (e.g., choosing the most frequent first name or email) to unify your profiles.

Customer identifiers in Salesforce CDP

Customer identifiers

Calculates Multi-Dimensional Metrics

Calculated insights is a feature that helps you create calculated multidimensional metrics based on data from existing fields to better understand customer behavior and trends. With calculated insights, you can calculate the average purchase amount for a given customer or even the total number of products a customer has purchased in a given time frame. Depending on your needs, these metrics can include anything from engagement scores, churn rate, LTV, ARR, purchase frequency, etc.

Calculated insights in Salesforce CDP

Calculated insights

You can create a calculated field to show the average purchase amount for a given customer over even to calculate the total number of products a customer has purchased in a given time period. These metrics can include anything from engagement scores, churn rate, LTV, ARR, purchase frequency, etc.

While calculated insights mainly look at historical transaction data, Salesforce CDP also has another feature called streaming insights to make calculations on real-time data and perform operations on data contained within temporal windows.

Salesforce CDP offers two options for expressing insights. There's a SQL interface for technical users and a visual insight builder for non-technical users. You can also build insights from installed salesforce packages in CDP.

The Genie architecture enables you to validate insight results immediately instead of waiting hours for them to execute. However, you can only submit three executions per day, per calculated insight, with a maximum of 20 executions per day. You can build segments on any entities that exist in your data model and publish them manually or on a schedule.

Builds and Analyzes Audiences

Within Salesforce CDP, you have access to a segment builder that lets you break down your data into specific segments so you can target and analyze particular cohorts of customers or users. You can create segments on any distinct target entity or object you define (in most cases, this is a Unified Individual or Account.)

Salesforce CDP segment builder

Segment builder

It’s very easy to select the attributes you want to include in your key audiences (e.g., first name, last name, gender, interest, loyalty status, last login date, etc.) You can also include existing calculated insights or add related attributes for account/contact information, case data, marketing email data, etc.

Segments in Salesforce CDP


Once you publish a segment, Salesforce CDP automatically creates a data model object to store information about the members of that segment. Within the segments tab in Salesforce CDP, you can see your different audience cohorts and other important details like the total population and the publish status. It’s easy to make edits, and there’s a recount feature that allows you to test and see the current population count of your segments.

Salesforce CDP also has a chatter feature that lets you tag and collaborate with team members directly in the platform so you can notify your various business users and teams once a segment is ready for activation.

Salesforce CDP Chatter feature


Creates Unified Customer Profiles

Within Salesforce CDP, there’s a profile explorer and dashboard that provides a unified view of your customer. This allows you to see behavioral and historical data in one location easily. You can search for specific contacts by name, email address, phone number, or individual ID.

Salesforce CDP unified profile

Unified profile

Using the Salesforce Lightning App Builder, you can also add and remove custom components to build and save a customized view that best suits your needs to showcase unique profile insights, engagements, and related accounts. Any user with data explorer permissions can access the profile explorer.

Sends Data to Downstream Destinations

Salesforce CDP offers a number of out-of-the-box connectors so you can easily send your audience segments to specific destinations, Salesforce organizations, or even external Adtech and Martech platforms like Meta, Google, or Liveramp to power your marketing use cases.

Salesforce CDP activation targets

Activation targets

These activation targets allow you to publish your audience segments to specific destinations. There's also a data-sharing option that enables you to integrate directly with Snowflake (e.g., your data warehouse) or AWS Glue to share data bi-directionally.


Pricing for Salesforce CDP is relatively straightforward. There are three plans: Corporate, Enterprise, and Enterprise Plus.

Salesforce CDP pricing options


  • Corporate starts at $12,500 per month
  • Enterprise start at $50,000 per month
  • Enterprise Plus starts at $65,000

Pricing is based on four key factors: Unified Profiles, Super Messages, Segment Publish, and Engage Events.

  • Unified Profiles: profiles unified via identity resolution
  • Super Messages: any personalized message you push to a customer (e.g., SMS, email, push notification, etc.)
  • Segment Publish: the total number of segments you can publish to an activation target
  • Engage Events: records and fields you store from data streams

There are a ton of add-ons you can add to your Salesforce CDP contract, and most of these are charged on a per-user basis, which means you will quickly increase your costs if you're not careful.

Use Cases

Salesforce CDP consolidates all of your customer data across all of your sources into a single coherent customer profile so that all of your business teams can have access to the same customer data and work towards the same outcomes. Here are a few examples of what this might look like for your business teams:

  • Sales: Enriching your sales org with relevant product usage data so your sales reps can see which users and accounts are most active.
  • Support: Building a data model to predict which customers are at risk of churning so your support team can proactively take action.
  • Marketing: Identifying which customers abandoned their shopping cart so your marketing team can follow up with a win-back email encouraging them to finalize their order
  • Product: Sending customer attributes to your production database so you can personalize your in-app or on-site experiences and A/B test different messaging variations.

With Salesforce CDP, you can make your customer data available to any of your Salesforce organizations, so your business teams can take action in the native tools they use every day.

Pros and Cons of Salesforce CDP

Salesforce CDP has many key features, but the platform is locked into the Salesforce ecosystem. It doesn't have much value unless you're actively using every product that Salesforce offers, which means that cost is a huge factor.

Salesforce CDP doesn’t provide many native integrations for data sources or destinations outside of the Salesforce ecosystem. If you have complex use cases outside of the Salesforce ecosystem, you’ll inevitably be forced to pay for Mulesoft.

Additionally, Salesforce CDP forces you to pay to store data you already house in your data warehouse. The platform also comes with a long and drawn-out implementation time, and that’s not even accounting for the onboarding/training time it takes to train users.

Final Thoughts

The bundled nature of traditional CDP offerings creates many challenges for organizations. To combat this, many companies are now turning to a Composable CDP to activate the rich customer data already sitting in their data warehouse so they can maximize their existing data investments.

If you want to learn more about how you can implement a Composable CDP, you can create a Hightouch workspace today or schedule a demo.

# The Complete Guide to the Composable CDP

Read our whitepaper to learn:

  • What a Composable CDP is, and how it's different than a traditional CDP
  • The benefits of a Composable CDP
  • Composable CDP use cases
  • How to get started with a Composable CDP

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  • What is Data Activation?.

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