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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

December 16, 2022

14 minutes

Activating data with Salesforce CDP.

Building personalized customer experiences takes time and effort. Over the years, the lofty goal of consolidating your customer data into a single, centralized platform has steadily increased. Today, more companies are trying to build a complete 360-degree view of their customer for marketing activation.

At Dreamforce 2022, Salesforce announced the company's latest product to try and tackle this challenge: Salesforce CDP. However, since then, the company has shared very little, and there's a lot of mystery shrouding how Salesforce CDP 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.

Salesforce CDP was formerly known as Customer 360 Audiences. Since the product launched, it’s’ been rebranded again to Customer Data Platform. The product is part of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud suite, and it's focused on unification and segmentation.

Although Salesforce CDP is a marketing automation platform, you can essentially break it into three categories, data integration, audience management, and data activation. The goal of Salesforce CDP is to help you power your customer 360 motion.

What is Salesforce Genie?

Before the launch of the Salesforce Genie, the Salesforce ecosystem could really only handle transactional historical data. Salesforce Genie is built on a data lake architecture, which means it's a hyper-scale real-time data platform.

Salesforce Genie is a data lake that underpins the entire Salesforce ecosystem. It's a fully managed data platform built on top of Amazon Web Services (AWS) products like EMR, S3, DynamoDB, etc.

Salesforce Genie architecture

Genie architecture

Salesforce Genie and Salesforce CDP are synonymous because neither can really exist without the other. Salesforce Genie is the underlying technology that powers Salesforce CDP, and Salesforce CDP is a managed Salesforce product that powers customer 360 and provides actionable insights.

How Does Salesforce CDP Work?

Salesforce CDP is a data integration, data consolidation, and audience management layer that falls underneath the Salesforce Marketing Cloud Umbrella. However, there are several core components and common features to Salesforce CDP.

Data Streams

Data streams are the pipelines that let you ingest data from various sources directly into Salesforce CDP. Salesforce offers several out-of-the-box integrations to several 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 set up a data stream by selecting any of these sources and choosing what objects you want to map to Salesforce CDP. These connections have a unique feature known as data bundles, which are pre-mapped data sources for the most common data objects. You can also select and map specific objects that define to avoid using this feature.

The advantage of the data bundle approach is that it allows you to get up and running much faster. The downside is that it's not configured to your specific use case. Salesforce CDP supports batch ingestion and real-time streaming. However, to make use of the real-time capabilities, you first need to be collecting events directly through the Salesforce platform.

In the data streams tab within Salesforce CDP, you can view your data streams and see the last 50 refresh operations and any errors that occur to help you troubleshoot potential problems. For the ingestion API and the mobile/website 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

Data Prep

Data streams ingest data as is, meaning fields and data types are imported without any transformation. Salesforce has a visual UI called Data Prep that lets you transform, filter, and join your data using workflows and various dependencies. Salesforce CDP can run these transformation jobs in real-time or via batches, and you can save transformation jobs as recipes and reuse them.

data prep in Salesforce CDP

Data prep and transformation

Data Modeling and Mapping

All data ingested by data streams are written to Genie as data lake objects (DLOs.) Before you can leverage any data from a marketing activation standpoint, you first have to map the objects from your data streams to a data model in Salesforce CDP.

You can only use mapped fields and objects with relationships for segmentation and activation. If you leverage existing data bundles, mappings and relationships are configured and deployed automatically, so you don't have to worry about anything other than running your data streams.

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 that you can leverage to map the objects from your sources to the appropriate data model in 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.

data mapping in Salesforce CDP

Data mapping

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.

Data Explorer

The data explorer gives you a dashboard view of selected data in your CDP environment so you can easily view and filter across data lake objects, data model objects, or calculated insights. The data explorer lets you validate and edit your data and formulas so you can make sure your data is segmented correctly and your data streams are functioning properly.

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 data sets together and stitch them into one cohesive customer identity. The identity resolution view gives you an immediate summary of all your source profiles, the individuals who matched across those sources, the total unified individuals, and your consolidation rate. This is done through a combination of match rules Salesforce CDP uses to match records (e.g., email, phone number, address, name, etc.)

Identity resolution Salesforce CDP

Identity resolution

You can use any other 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. You can choose exactly which attributes to display for your golden customer record.

Customer identifiers in Salesforce CDP

Customer identifiers

Salesforce CDP runs identity resolution jobs daily based on the map, match, and reconciliation rules you define to process source profiles and unify them. If no changes are detected, the ruleset job will be skipped.

Calculated Insights

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.


The segment builder lets you break down your data into specific segments so you can target and analyze particular cohorts of customers or users. Salesforce CDP lets you build segments on any distinct target entity or object you define (in most cases, this is a Unified Individual or Account.) You can 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.) and also include your existing calculated insights or even add related attributes for account/contact information, case data, marketing email data, etc.

Salesforce CDP segment builder

Segment builder

Once you publish a segment, Salesforce CDP automatically creates a data model object to store information about the members of that segment. In the segments tab with Salesforce CDP, you can see your different segments 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.

Segments in Salesforce CDP


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


Unified Profiles

Any user with data explorer permissions can also access the profile explorer. Within Salesforce CDP, a profile explorer displays a dashboard where you can see a complete view of your unified customer. This allows you to see behavioral and historical data in one location easily.

Salesforce CDP unified profile

Unified profile

You can search for specific contacts by name, email address, phone number, or individual ID. 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.

Activation Targets

Activation targets let you publish your segments to specific destinations. You can schedule your segments to publish every 12 or 24 hours and do manual and ad-hoc publishes if necessary.

Salesforce CDP automatically integrates with your other Salesforce organizations like Marketing Cloud so you can connect with your other marketing channels and use the journey builder to create customized experiences tailored to your customers' unique actions. The platform also integrates directly with many ad tech and martech platforms like Meta, Google, Liveramp, and cloud storage like AWS S3 and Google Cloud Storage. For more context and personalization, you can include additional fields before you ingest your segment data.

Salesforce CDP activation targets

Activation targets

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. Because of the Genie architecture underpinning Salesforce CDP, you can expose your data in Snowflake at the file level to share entities and objects directly with Snowflake and have them show up as virtual tables. Since the data sharing is bi-directional, these tables will link to your files in Genie.


If you want to analyze your data, Salesforce CDP connects natively to both Tableau and CRM Analytics (both of these products are separate from Salesforce CDP.) CRM Analytics is a version of Tableau tailored explicitly toward the Salesforce ecosystem. You can access your Salesforce CDP data to build datasets, lenses, dashboards, and apps for your various business teams. These contextual insights are powered by your Genie data lake objects, data model objects, or calculated insights objects.


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.

Salesforce CDP Use Cases

On top of establishing a single customer view for all of your different business teams, the primary use cases that Salesforce CDP addresses are specifically focused on Data Activation, whether that's automating the business process and workflows or building personalized customer experiences.

With Salesforce CDP, you can make your customer data available to any of your Salesforce organizations. This means your marketing, sales, and support teams can build personalized experiences based on real-time data from your customers, whether that's automating sales outreach to particular users based on their product usage data, pushing emails and SMS notifications to a specific cohort of users, or even prioritizing support tickets by your highest-value customers.

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 the cost is a huge factor.

Salesforce CDP doesn't integrate well with disparate data sources outside of the Salesforce ecosystem or destinations. If you want to ingest data from external sources into Salesforce CDP, you'll inevitably be forced to pay for Mulesoft. Destination targets are also extremely limited since Salesforce only integrates with native Salesforce products and ad platforms.

The audience insights that Salesforce CDP provides are handy, but in reality, most, if not all, of the data you need to build rich cohorts already exists in your data warehouse (and this includes your Salesforce data.) Your data warehouse is likely already your single source of truth, so you simply need a way to sync data from your warehouse to your frontline business tools (e.g., Salesforce, Hubspot, Braze, Iterable, Marketo, etc.), and this is precisely the problem Hightouch solves.

Hightouch is a Data Activation platform that runs directly on top of your data warehouse. Instead of storing your data, Hightouch uses Reverse ETL to query against your warehouse and sync that data to over 125 destinations. You can leverage all your existing data models in the warehouse and easily map your data to the appropriate fields in your end destination.

Hightouch architecture

How Hightouch works

There's even a visual audience builder for your non-technical users so your business teams can build custom audiences using the parameters your data team has set in place. You can run your syncs manually, or on a schedule you define.

Hightouch audience builder

Hightouch Audiences

The first integration with Hightouch is completely free, so sign up for a workspace today!

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