How is a Data Lake Different from a Customer Data Platform (CDP)?


In today’s AI driven world, enterprises are constantly seeking effective ways to monetize the vast amounts of customer data being generated.

Two commonly discussed solutions in this space are Data Lakes and Customer Data Platforms (CDPs). While both are designed to handle large volumes of data, they serve different purposes and offer distinct advantages.

Interestingly, these solutions are often complementary rather than competing, as they can be combined to create a powerful data driven organization.

In this blog post, we will explore the key differences between Data Lakes and CDPs, helping you understand when and how to best utilize each solution and how they can work together.

What is a Data Lake?

A Data Lake is a centralized repository (often on the cloud) that generally stores raw and unprocessed data from various sources. It serves as a scalable storage system that can accommodate structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data.

Data Lakes are typically built using technologies like Hadoop, Apache Spark, or cloud-based solutions such as Amazon S3 or Azure Data Lake Storage.

Hence, the primary goal of a Data Lake is to provide a cost-effective and flexible storage infrastructure where data can be ingested and stored without the need for predefined schemas or transformations.

Data lakes are then used for various purposes like feeding business intelligence dashboards, machine learning, and of course Customer Data Platform(s). Platforms such as Domo and Snowflake are also offering federated analytics implying that data does not need to leave the data lake avoiding duplication.

What is a Customer Data Platform (CDP)

Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) are designed specifically from a business perspective. Thus, we should first define the use cases for either AI or traditional business intelligence before we start aggregating and pulling in the required data.

Thus, a CDP acts as a customer-centric system that integrates data from various touchpoints such as CRM systems, marketing automation platforms, websites, mobile apps, and of course from the Data lake among other systems.

As a result, a CDP enables businesses to create a unified and comprehensive view of their customers, facilitating personalized marketing, segmentation, and customer journey analysis. Unlike Data Lakes, CDPs focus on organizing and activating customer data for marketing and customer experience purposes.

When Would We Use a Data Lake

Data Lakes are particularly useful for organizations that prioritize data exploration, analytics, and machine learning.

With a Data Lake, businesses can store vast amounts of raw data, including historical and real-time data, without having to specifically define how it will be used later. That leads to uncovering new ways to monetize the data over time.

This flexibility allows data scientists and analysts to perform complex analyses, explore and extract insights, and thus build predictive models. Data Lakes also facilitate data sharing and collaboration across different teams and departments within an organization.

When Would We Use Customer Data Platforms (CDPs)

As we discussed earlier, CDPs are created with a design thinking approach. We ask what problem we are trying to solve, define the data needs for the required AI models and dashboards, and only then ingest that data into the CDP.

Thus, CDPs are implemented with a tangible ROI in mind, and excel at enabling targeted strategies and enhancing customer experiences in specific ways. CDPs provide a unified view of each customer and are leveraged to personalize marketing campaigns, improve customer segmentation, and create more targeted messaging across various channels.

How to Choose Between a CDP and a Data Lake

While both solutions are complementary, the choice often comes down the purpose and business need at a specific moment in time. If the primary focus is on data exploration, machine learning, and collaborative data analysis, a Data Lake might be the ideal choice.

However, if you aim to enhance marketing efforts, deliver personalized experiences, and consolidate customer data, a CDP would be the more suitable solution.

In many cases, the combination of both a Data Lake and a CDP can create a powerful enterprise data management and analytics ecosystem. The Data Lake serves as the foundation, which is then integrated into the CDP to provide a comprehensive view of customers for marketing and customer experience purposes.


In conclusion, while Data Lakes and Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) serve different purposes, they are often seen as complementary solutions within an enterprise.

Data Lakes provide a scalable and flexible storage infrastructure for data exploration and analytics, while CDPs focus on organizing and activating customer data for marketing and customer experience enhancements.

By combining the strengths of both solutions, businesses can create a robust data management ecosystem that enables comprehensive data analysis and personalized customer engagement.

As technology evolves, Data Lakes are maturing and increasingly extending to provide CDP like functionalities. However, those capabilities are often limited at this time. Further, since an enterprise is constantly changing and evolving, it is difficult to achieve the utopia of a single Data Lake containing everything that is needed.

So, for now, Data Lake and a CDP together form a powerful synergy. Integrating the two allows businesses to create a flexible architecture, and unlock the full potential of their customer data, driving meaningful interactions, improving customer satisfaction, and achieving better business outcomes.

The post How is a Data Lake Different from a Customer Data Platform (CDP)? appeared first on Datafloq.

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