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SAP CDP & Emarsys: A Comparison

This blog was written by the following three authors:


SAP CDP and Emarsys: A Comparison

Think of the brand you made your last purchase from: do you remember how many channels you interacted with? According to Forrester, that's an average of 11 channels, which is a lot and a huge challenge for businesses! That's because they need to bring the pieces of the puzzle from each channel together in a big picture to understand the customer as a whole. Only then they are able to achieve consistent, targeted, and unquestionably compliant communications across all these channels, because that's what today's consumers —  probably like you —  expect!
The Customer Data Platform (CDP) together with SAP Emarsys Customer Engagement (Emarsys) help companies do just that easily and efficiently. In this blog post, we will present and explain the specifics of the individual solutions and their interactions.


“You get me!”: Customers appreciate it when they are addressed personally

SAP is massively expanding its capabilities in Customer Data Management (CDM) and Customer Experience (CX). Important milestones on this journey were the acquisition of "Gigya," the market leader for Customer Identity and Access Management solutions (CIAM), as well as the development of the Customer Data Platform (CDP) and the acquisition of the award-winning marketing solution "Emarsys." With this constellation of three solutions, SAP offers a CX architecture that ranges from customer identification and consent management to the creation of a comprehensive central customer data profile and targeted customer care via marketing, service, support and sales. This SAP CX solution:

  • is a one-stop solution from one vendor. From registration and consent management to company-wide consolidation of customer data and strategic customer contacting for marketing purposes, SAP delivers the right integrated modules;

  • is open in the sense of interchangeability of modules: if a company has another CIAM system already in use, this can cooperate with SAP CDP and Emarsys in the same way as the interchangeability of the CDP or the marketing system with regard to other solutions available on the market. The company is not trapped by the solution technology of a vendor that can integrate its own products perfectly but integrates systems from other software vendors only with high implementation efforts;

  • is a holistic CX architecture whose focus is on all data silos in a heterogeneous enterprise infrastructure, regardless of software vendor and technology.

However, this sometimes raises the question of where and to what degree these solutions complement or overlap each other. This blog post would like to address the question of how SAP positions the two solutions, SAP CDP and Emarsys, how these products differ from each other and how they complement each other.


CDP as a Foundation: Customer Data and Customer Activities

A company that wants to consolidate its customer data, harmonize it, and put it into a form that is to be processed by "channels" in a purpose-bound and GDPR-compliant manner needs a central customer data repository. Here, all data silos are connected that provide customer data (ERP, commerce platforms, POS systems, etc.) on the one hand, and, on the other hand, services that benefit from this data in terms of an unparalleled customer experience (such as marketing systems, service and support, sales support, ticket systems, etc.). The CDP aggregates customer data and customer activities from a wide variety of source systems, harmonizes this data, prepares it in the form of segments and audiences, and delivers customer profiles, audiences, and customer journeys to target systems that rely on this data.



The point is: from a company's point of view, a customer journey is a holistic task that not only concerns marketing aspects, but also addresses customers on all aspects of customer interaction. This means that a service and support employee who speaks with a customer must be able to reliably access the same customer data as a sales employee or a marketer. He or she needs to know which products the customer has bought, and which ones have caused a problem, just like the marketer, even though the tasks of the two are completely different. CDP ensures that both receive only the customer data necessary for their tasks, and that this data is used for the intended purpose, taking into consideration data protection aspects and data economy.

Accordingly, the core tasks of CDP are:

  • Connection of source systems on which customer data exists, is processed, or generated. A company that interacts with customers has a wealth of such systems: CRM, ERP, ticketing or marketing systems, web stores, point-of-sale systems, chatbots, mobile apps and more. All these systems are either touchpoints with which the customer interacts or business applications through which the company maps business processes with its customers

  • Merging of customer profiles belonging to a single person ("Joe User" from the Marketing system is the same "John F. User" from the Commerce system through which orders are recorded and processed)

  • Harmonizing the diversity of customer data in terms of attributes and their interpretation (e.g. "phone" from the website registration is the same as "telephone" from the support ticketing system.), standardization of customer information (date format, phone number format)

  • Management of the purpose of customer data (i.e. registration of transactional customer data for order processing vs. collection of marketing information for sending newsletters)

  • Enforcement of consent declarations by the customer for the cross-system use of his or her data ("I permit the use of my customer data for marketing purposes")

  • Evaluating customer data to initialize the customer journey (define "Activity Indicators" such as "number of purchases," "total of all sales," "number of purchases from a specific line of business," average NPS score as "satisfaction indicator" of the customer, etc.)

  • Setting up customer segments based on the Activity Indicators (For the sales team, the segment "New eco-friendly customers in Italy" will be identified through the Activity Indicators, which combine the browsing behavior of customers on the website with their shopping behavior, survey results and geolocation, and passes it on to the sales tool)

  • Setting up audiences (e.g. "Create a list of high turnover customers who have given an NPS score of less than 5 in the last 2 purchases" and have 2 or more service incident tickets open, makes out a list of high valuable customers which the service and support must address immediately)

  • Setting up customer journeys (The customer "Joe User" is a VIP user and raised a service ticket with a really annoyed tone. Send this information to Service and Support immediately to contact the customer by phone and ask how to help)

  • Data activation and real-time processing of the delivery of customer data to target systems, be it the customer information itself or the segments and audiences to which the customer belongs

It is a wealth of tasks that CDP must perform as an aggregator and processor of customer data and their activities, across platforms and purposes in all ID systems within an organization where customer data is generated. Addressees for this data are all systems that rely on this data: a support agent needs to know if a VIP customer who has just reported a problem should be given priority, how he/she wants to be addressed, and for which order he/she reported the problem. Or a marketing system needs to know if the same customer should receive "compensation" that matches his/her interest level and that should be considered as the company's response if the customer threatens to leave.



The Customer Data Platform is the data processing engine that analyzes the customer data and customer activity exactly according to these requirements and makes these analyses available to the "Execution Platforms" so that they can address the customer as effectively as possible. It is important to emphasize that CDP only provides customer data, segments, and audiences and thus will be leveraged mostly by the roles of a Data Analyst, Data Scientist, or similar. It is not the entity that directly contacts the customer, i.e. places a banner on the website or even sends an email. That´s where the so-called "Execution Platforms"  come into play which will be used by a Marketer to create a highly personalized experience for its customers. Here, the SAP Emarsys Customer Engagement platform stands out in the market due to its widely recognized capabilities in the field of personalized omnichannel customer engagement.


Emarsys as an Execution Platform: From 1:many to 1:1

As a Marketing Engagement Platform, Emarsys is built from the ground up for Marketers, to achieve fast time-to-value through built-in, industry-specific best practice tactics and use cases, a real-time decision engine and native, built-in channel execution.

That allows Marketers to execute on customer data using one single platform. With the SAP CDP plugged into the Emarsys Platform, the Marketer has access to all relevant and compliant data sets in a Unified Customer Profile, specifically built for Marketers.

The Emarsys Customer Engagement Platform is made up of 5 key parts:

  • Capture Data for Marketing and make it actionable: Allow Marketers to use Data from different sources. The most important source being the CDP, but also connecting to other business critical data sets like Product Catalogues, Store-specific data or other third-party sources.

  • Accelerate Business Outcomes: Use pre-built Tactics, Dashboards and KPIs like Lifecycle Status to roll out Industry Best Practice Programs in a matter of minutes. Discover more Tactics that fit your Business strategy and measure success.

  • Personalize: The Industry-leading Personalization Engine of the Emarsys allows you to build a consistent Personalization approach throughout all of your Marketing channels using omnichannel personalization tokens. These tokens are available in all connected channels for all personalization needs, from simple CRM-based attributes like first name, last name, complex business rule-driven data like next best item, and individual Loyalty messages to contextual customer attributes transferred by the CDP.

  • Automate: Leverage the built-in Marketing Automation and Real-time decision engines to build your Automation flows, using Marketer-friendly UIs to work with data and segments from the built-in channels and external data sources like the CDP, or build and combine your own segments based on any connected data sources, including real-time event streams. Execute in our native channels, like Email, Mobile Push and In-app Notifications, SMS, Web Push, Google and Facebook Audiences and connect to a broad variety of partners for additional channels such as Direct Mail, Messengers and more.

  • Measure: Understand your success, not just by looking at simple click attribution but by understanding your customer’s channel behavior, purchases and lifecycle status. Define goals, understand channel success and attribute based on tactics and programs instead of just individual channel behavior.

Why is this important?

Marketers face huge challenges today. Quite often, orchestrating channels is very difficult, driven by disconnected point-solutions and data silos, resulting in inconsistencies in the brand’s customer experience. On top of that, the marketer’s job is changing: while until not so long ago, having your typical ad-hoc newsletter and a couple of regular segment-driven programs was considered good enough, we now live in a hyper-connected world where customers don’t buy through one channel and don’t perceive brands in a linear fashion. Your journey might start in the newsletter, continue on the website, be reactivated in the app and end with purchase in the retail store.



Marketers therefore need to understand all data sources and channels, and very importantly work with real-time data and events. This is where the combination of CDP plus Emarsys becomes so important: the CDP feeds the Emarsys platform with all the critical information that’s available in the customer’s profile with the right level of granularity, based on the customer’s consent. On top of that, the CDP and other systems can stream real-time events from all kinds of sources directly into the Emarsys Platform. There, the combination of CRM data, Sales, Product data, Preferences and Channel behavior can be used for real-time decisions, Lifecycle Programs, your regular marketing communication and more. Without the need for additional help or segments from IT and powered by a unified customer profile coming from the CDP using best-in-class Customer Data Processing.


Bring it together: CDP and Emarsys hand in hand

While each solution covers key areas of customer interaction streamlining on its own, they are especially powerful when used in combination: SAP CDP, as the data processing layer, prepares the data consumed by Emarsys to deliver a rich customer experience. Let's take a closer look at this fruitful cooperation with an example:

The customer buys an expensive shirt online and searches for a matching tie in parallel. The tie is no longer in stock online but is still available in the store near the customer's home. Following the purchase, the customer receives an email offer for the tie if he decides to pick it up at the store.

In that scenario, the contextual view of the customer delivered in real-time by the CDP (customer’s history contextualized with offline stock availability) allows the Marketer in Emarsys to activate an automated, operational use case to drive cross-sell.

And if the customer has the app installed, a push message can remind him as soon as he’s near the store that the tie he was looking for is available for pickup just a few feet away. All of that by synchronizing source data from the website, customer profile, wishlist data and purchase history (CDP) and making it actionable in the Customer Engagement Platform (Emarsys) and by connecting all available Marketing Channels for this customer with real-time decisioning.

In this use case we clearly can see the huge opportunity for companies when considering the full context of each customer and thus being able to reach out to them in a consistent, personalized, and relevant way. For that, Marketing relies on a deep understanding of all related customer interactions with the brand – as delivered by the CDP with the “digital customer twin” and the corresponding segments.



However, it is important to note that Emarsys not only consumes the insights on the profiles & segments from the CDP, but also complements and enriches them with specific information preliminarily available in Marketing. These particularly include channel events like email opens and clicks or in-app behavior like real-time customer decisioning. In that way, the Marketer has the possibility of leveraging the CDP segments and profiles and complementing them in Emarsys with Marketing-specific resources. Of course, this information ultimately also can be transferred back to the CDP to successively complete and further enhance the customer profile.

To summarize, with its capabilities for delivering the "customer digital twin" with its corresponding audiences and segments in a compliant and trust-based way, the CDP provides the required deep customer insights. It thus lays the foundation for Marketing to be able to talk to the right people about the right things at the right time through the right channel – something which will be done in the omnichannel engagement platform Emarsys. In that way, the solutions jointly allow the right people to access the right tool and data required to drive business success. Brands are thus able to stay on top of the ever-increasing variety of customer interaction channels while being able to meet customer expectations by delivering consistent, yet hyper-personalized experiences with the fastest time-to-value.


Iris Konrad - Presales Associate SAP Marketing Cloud | SAP Customer Experience
Bastian Hagmaier - RVP Services & Solutions EMEA, Emarsys
Peter Gergen - Solution Architect Customer Identity and Access Management