Back to blog

Integrating your CDP with Ad Platforms for Customer Journeys that Convert

Conversion optimization Data management

Written by ,

Published June 11, 2019 · Updated December 21, 2022

Integrating your CDP with Ad Platforms for Customer Journeys that Convert

A well-mapped customer journey gives you insight into the changing needs of your customers from discovery to purchase. If the customer journey is a roadmap, how can you locate individuals on that map and help them smoothly progress forward?

In this post we’ll cover how to configure a Customer Data Platform (CDP) to transform static roadmaps into customer journey tracking powerhouses.

If you’re unfamiliar with customer data platforms, they’re marketer-managed platforms that use multiple data sources to provide you with detailed information about your customers.

CDP integration with ad platforms (Google Ads, Facebook Ads) as well as demand-side platforms (DSP) also plays a critical role in the strategies we will discuss. They help marketers reach out to prospects and customers, getting their message seen.

Ad platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ads target and display advertisements within their own specific network, while DSPs offer marketers more reach with access to multiple networks across the web. Read more about Demand-Side Platforms.

By combining customer information from a CDP with the reach of ad platforms and DSPs, marketers can launch audience-specific campaigns driven by data. Campaigns that move people through the journey to improve customer experience, retention and loyalty – three factors affecting customer lifetime value.

Tracking the customer journey

This post isn’t about creating customer journeys themselves, but rather how to track them and maximize their potential for providing information. To help us understand the concepts to be discussed, we will present a generic customer journey as a point of reference.

Here’s a simplified customer journey for an e-commerce or online retail platform:

Stage 1: Anonymous visitor

These are most likely first-time visitors to the website. They aren’t customers, and you don’t know their name or email address. The only information you have is what’s gathered in web analytics.

Find out more about tracking anonymous users in this post:
Anonymous Tracking: How to Do Useful Analytics Without Personal Data

Stage 2: Known visitor

Although still not a customer, data (such as email address or name) has been collected that identifies them when they visit your website.

Stage 3: First-time customer

The first purchase has been made and you now have all the related CRM data, such as name, address, email, purchase value, etc.

Purchase data can come from both online and offline (brick and mortar) transactions. As long CRM is being used as in both cases to track purchase data, it can be integrated with your CDP.

Stage 4: Returning customer

Repeat customer making occasional purchases. CRM keeps track of the data related to these transactions as well as customer lifetime value.

Stage 5: Loyal customer

Purchases are being made on a regular basis. They are loyal and advocate the brand. Transaction history as well as lifetime value is managed in CRM.

After mapping out your customer journey, the goal is to move prospects and customers to stage 5 as quickly as possible and keep them there as long as possible. This is the stage where customers are the most valuable, not only buying frequently but also advocating the brand.

Let’s see what part CDPs play in locating and tracking people as they move through the customer journey.

The relationship between customer journeys and CDP audiences

Many e-commerce companies use web analytics, CRM, email marketing and DSPs that do not integrate with each other – they just exchange UTM parameters. The ability to track customers and help move them along the customer journey, ultimately increasing their lifetime value, is restricted by these data silos.

Piwik PRO’s Customer Data Platform avoids this issue by allowing you to integrate those technologies and get the most from your data. Integration with CRM, email campaigns, DSPs etc. provides vast opportunities for marketers to make data-driven strategic decisions.

The real magic happens when you integrate your CDP with your CRM and web analytics – but first you need to configure your CDP to correspond with your customer journey before you start tracking visitors and launching marketing campaigns.

You need to establish what stage customers and prospects are at in their customer journey. If you can’t locate them, your marketing efforts to help them take the next step are just shots in the dark.

With the customer journey broken down into stages (see examples 1-5 above), every stage needs a corresponding audience in your CDP. This way, every visitor from first-time to loyal customer can be segregated into the appropriate audience.

Translating the stages of your journey into audiences in CDP bridges the gap between hypothetical models and real, actionable data.

Using the five-stage customer journey laid out above as an example:

Customer Journey Stage Customer Data Platform Audience
Stage 1: Anonymous visitor Audience 1
Stage 2: Known visitor Audience 2
Stage 3: First-time customer Audience 3
Stage 4: Returning customer Audience 4
Stage 5: Loyal customer Audience 5

There are no limits to how many stages and correlating audiences you can have in your customer journey – everything depends on your company’s strategy.

Now that we’ve established the stage-audience relationship, let’s look at how the audiences are populated with prospects and customers and what data you need.

Audiences one and two (anonymous/known visitor) do not contain customers, only visitors who have not yet made a purchase. Without transactional data from a CRM these two audiences can be populated with profiles that only have data from web analytics.

On the other hand, CDP audiences 3, 4 and 5, which are populated with existing customers, require data from multiple sources:

  • Web analytics data showing how and when they interact with the website
  • CRM or e-commerce data showing their transaction history
  • CRM, web analytics and transactional data integration to record customer lifetime value
Screenshot of Piwik PRO CDP audience builder

Customer Data Platform advanced audiences

You can build audiences that reach beyond the scope of analytical data alone by integrating CDP, CRM and analytics. With this configuration and integration your CDP can:

  • Connect web analytics behavioral data with CRM transactional data
  • Track how individual customers move through audiences and how they progress along the customer journey
  • Record individual customer lifetime value

Now that prospects and customers can be segmented into advanced audiences, how can we influence them to progress from one audience to the next (move along the customer journey stages), ultimately boosting purchase frequency and lifetime value?

Learn more about targeting audiences in CDP in our post:
Audience Targeting: How to Successfully Use a CDP.

Integrating Customer Data Platform with advertising platforms

Integrating CDP with ad platforms and DSPs links your audience segmentation and tracking efforts to your outbound marketing efforts. Advertising platforms (Facebook Ads, Google Ads) and DSPs give marketers huge opportunities to reach not just potential customers but also existing ones.

When you export audiences from CDP to ad platforms, they will begin mapping users. Basically, what this means is that the ad platform will begin looking for the users you have provided within its own network.

In the example below we’ve taken our “Anonymous” audience and uploaded it to Google Ads. You can see within which networks Google is finding users from this audience.

Once DSPs and ad platforms have the audience members mapped you can see the size of the audience targeted for each type of campaign and launch laser-focused retargeting campaigns for individual audiences.

For a step by step walkthrough on integrating Piwik PRO with Google Ads visit our help center.

What does a retargeting campaign look like after CDP integration with ad platforms? Let’s see what it looks like getting Audience 1 members to work their way down to Audience 5.

Keeping track of anonymous visitors

A first-time visitor comes to your e-commerce site. All you know about this visitor is what’s been captured via your web analytics tool (no email or purchase). There is no record of this visitor in your CRM yet; they aren’t a customer and are assigned to “Audience 1: Anonymous user”.

Two things automatically happen as a result of this visit:

  • Single Customer View is generated in the CDP platform that will serve as a link between web analytics data, CRM and transactional data, and will be responsible for tracking the full customer journey of this specific user (read more about Single Customer View).
  • Audience 1: every Single Customer View meeting the conditions established for Audience 1 (Anonymous user, most likely first time visitor to the website, not yet a customer) will automatically be added to Audience 1.

On the CDP side of things, users are segmented into different audiences that correspond with journey stages and tracked as they move through them. You also have a detailed Single Customer View for every individual in all the audiences.

So what are some marketing actions you can take to convert unknown visitors to customers and increase customer lifetime value? This is where ad platform integration comes into play.

Converting from anonymous to known visitor

An anonymous visitor viewed your e-commerce platform, visiting several product pages and finally leaving without making a purchase. You want to move this visitor to the next stage of the customer journey: known visitor/Audience 2.

To get this visitor’s information, or better yet for them to make a first purchase, we push Audience 1 (Anonymous user) to an advertising platform like Facebook Ads, Google Ads or DSP and launch a retargeting campaign.

To gather the data needed to identify this visitor, the campaign will have a few goals such as:

  • Encourage them to subscribe to your newsletter and get a discount on their first purchase
  • Get them involved in a prize competition on social media
  • Convince them to buy a “tripwire” offer – usually an inexpensive offer that “gets your foot in the door” and creates the opportunity for up/cross selling

Remember, these campaigns are targeting anonymous users (Audience 1), so they have one goal in mind: turning anonymous visitors into known visitors and first-time customers.

Once we collect basic CRM data like email, name and potentially address, this data also appears in the Single Customer View in CDP. At the same time, this Single Customer View is assigned to the appropriate audience, which in this case is Audience 2 (Known visitor).

From known visitor to first-time buyer

As users move from one audience to another, they are automatically exposed to the retargeting campaigns designed for the audience they populate. For example, a user who has moved from Audience 1 to Audience 2 stops seeing campaigns created for Audience 1, and sees only those for Audience 2.

As for moving known users (Audience 2) to first-time buyers (Audience 3), possible campaign objectives can include:

  • Incentivise them to take advantage of a “first-time purchase” discount
  • Remind them of the benefits of buying from your website, like free shipping, competitive pricing or unique products

If successful, this campaign will take known visitors to the next step in their journey: first-time buyers. As soon as they make their first purchase, their single customer profile is again updated with the relevant information and moved to Audience 3.

The value of a customer’s first purchase appears in the Single Customer View and becomes part of the customer lifetime value, which increases with each additional purchase.

Getting first-time customers to come back

As we’ve already discussed, a new audience means a new campaign. To help first-time buyers become repeat customers you can:

  • Offer discount & promotion codes applicable to their second purchase (send these right after the first purchase because customers who’ve made one purchase are more likely to make another)
  • Promote cross-selling offers
  • Offer loyalty points for returning customers

This campaign’s main goal is to increase lifetime value by creating returning customers and moving them even further down the customer journey.

Again, single customer profiles are assigned to audiences based on their activities. In this case, after a second purchase has been made the profile is moved to Audience 4: Returning customer. The lifetime value is always kept up-to-date.

If you want to learn more about customer data platforms read our blog post:

Can you influence brand advocacy?

The final step in our example focuses on making returning customers into brand advocates. Brand advocates refer new customers and generally speak positively about the brand, creating positive word of mouth interactions. Some potential strategies for the campaign could be:

  • Asking for new customer referrals in exchange for discounts and gifts
  • Encouraging feedback on social media or on a rating website (possibly in exchange for discounts and gifts)

Success in this stage means bringing in new customers referred by your current customer base, driving word of mouth marketing and increasing your brand’s social proof on social media and rating websites.

Free comparison of leading customer journey analytics platforms

Compare over 30 features of web analytics software: Piwik PRO, Google Analytics 4 360, Google Analytics 360, Adobe Analytics and Countly Enterprise

Download your copy now


You can see how integrating and customizing tools you already use like web analytics, CRM and CDP gives you the power to create automated marketing campaigns that not only organize and track customers along the customer journey, but also influence them to take the next step in their journey.

We hope this post has shown how some “outside of the box” thinking can extract more data and insight from your tools and help you better understand how customers interact with your brand.

While this post is ending, it shouldn’t be the end of our journey together. Check out the Piwik PRO blog for all your analytics needs, and if you have any questions about integration with ad platforms just reach out to us. We’d love to hear from you!

We believe that following our guidelines will help it go smoother for you. If you have any questions about these issues or want to know more about our product, just…


Peter Curac-Dahl

See more posts by this author


Marek Juszczyński

See more posts by this author