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Customer data integration 101

Last updated

30 January 2024


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Hugh Good

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High-quality customer data is the foundation of successful sales and marketing strategies.

Organizations collect large volumes of customer data, but it may remain stored in different tools and databases. This can contribute to information silos and prevent data-driven decision-making.

That’s where customer data integration (CDI) comes in.

CDI is the process of collecting customer data from different resources and arranging it into a standardized format for high-quality analytics. This doesn’t just streamline accessibility for your entire team; it also provides a 360-degree view of the customer.

Let’s take a closer look at customer data integration best practices, benefits, and tools.

What is customer data integration?

Customer data integration is the process of turning customer data gathered from different sources into a single accessible format. CDI’s goal is to improve accessibility and enhance data analytics.

While many departments within an organization collect, store, and analyze customer data, it’s often challenging for them to take advantage of each other’s hard work. This slows operations, causes mistakes, and leads to the duplication of activities that can result in employee dissatisfaction, poor customer experience, and financial waste.

Standardizing and centralizing customer data can help your sales, marketing, and product development specialists access valuable information at any time. You can expect this to boost productivity, prevent mistakes, and positively impact the company’s bottom line.

Types of customer data integration

Depending on the size of your business and the volume of data it handles, you can benefit from implementing one of the following three CDI approaches:


Consolidation is the most common type of CDI. It involves gathering customer data from several resources, including customer relationship management (CRM) systems, customer data platforms (CDPs), and local storage, and putting it all in a centralized location. This works well for eliminating data silos and creating an easily accessible database.

Consolidation involves cleansing and standardizing data to ensure accuracy and improve accessibility. You’ll need to overhaul your data storage practices and invest in software that can accommodate this change.


Unlike consolidation, propagation doesn’t require you to change your customer data storage tactics. Instead, it involves synchronizing data across different systems in real time or regularly enough to achieve consistency.

For example, if a customer updates their contact details, propagation ensures that the updated information is immediately reflected in all systems, such as CRM, marketing automation, and customer support platforms.


Federation works well for large organizations where data consolidation could become a time-consuming, expensive, and tedious process.

In this type of CDI, customer data remains stored in multiple systems and locations. However, your team members have a tool that allows them to access it from respective sources on-demand.

Customer data remains in its original location until a user requests to access it. Then, it appears in the virtual database where they can leverage it for relevant purposes.

Benefits of customer data integration

Over 60% of marketing professionals use customer data when making most decisions. This requires direct and simplified access to relevant information.

Besides improved accessibility, customer data integration has several important benefits for any business, including the following:

Higher-quality insights

Customer data integration allows you to leverage customer data to gain better-quality insights. Your teams can use this information to paint a clearer picture of customer behavior, preferences, and buying patterns, resulting in more data-driven decisions, personalized marketing campaigns, and tailored services.

A centralized data repository or enhanced data access tools create an opportunity for higher-quality analytics. You might use AI-driven tools and instruments, for example. These measures also improve data quality, which is vital to proper analytics.

Enhanced customer experience

Since customer data integration leads to improved data analytics and personalized campaigns, it directly affects customer experience. With a holistic view of the customer journey, your team can find new ways to address pain points, enhance communication, and improve service quality.

Today, 88% of buyers say customer experience is just as important to them as the company’s products and services. With a strong approach to CDI, it’s possible to streamline this experience to obtain a higher market share.

Streamlined operations

Data management becomes much easier when you implement CDI tactics. With all the data in one place or accessed through one dashboard, your team can save a significant amount of time when creating personalized campaigns.

Meanwhile, CDI reduces data duplication, errors, and inconsistencies. This doesn’t just speed up operations and reduce waste; it also improves collaboration between departments and eliminates information silos.

Implementing customer data integration

CDI doesn’t have to be complex or time-consuming. With the right tools and approaches, you can start enjoying its benefits quickly.

Here are the steps you should follow to implement CDI:

Assess data sources

First, you need to identify all the relevant data sources that contain customer information. These may include CRM systems, marketing automation platforms, ecommerce databases, customer support systems, and more. You’ll need to review the structure, format, and quality of data in each source.

Cleanse and standardize data

Develop a data mapping strategy to align information across multiple sources. Identify common data fields, formats, and rules for data integration to ensure standardization.

While you are standardizing the data, you can also clean it to remove outdated, inconsistent, and irrelevant entries that may interfere with successful analytics.

Choose integration tools

The tools you need for data integration—a customer data platform, data validation tools, data analytics instruments, or other types of data management software—depend on the type of CDI you choose.

Evaluate the capabilities, scalability, and compatibility of these tools to make sure they meet your CDI needs.

Get everyone onboard

While highly beneficial, CDI implementation can be a disruptive process. While moving data from one place to another or implementing new data management software, you could face downtime and a lack of understanding from your team.

To ensure a smooth transition, take an efficient approach to change management, educate your team members, and make sure everyone understands the process’s potential benefits.

Customer data integration software

You can leverage several types of tools to perform customer data integration, including the following:

Customer data platforms

A customer data platform collects customer data from multiple sources, such as CRM systems, marketing automation platforms, ecommerce databases, and customer support systems.

It unifies and standardizes the collected data to ensure the same format for further access and analytics. It also merges duplicates.

A CDP can also arrange real-time or near-real-time customer data updates across systems.

Cloud storage tools

Cloud storage tools provide a secure and scalable environment for customer data storage. They help centralize and manage large volumes of customer data from multiple sources cost-effectively.

With the right cloud storage tool, your team can facilitate a seamless data-sharing process. If you haven’t considered full or partial cloud migration yet, doing so could help simplify CDI.

Customer data integration best practices

Consider the following approach to streamline the customer data integration process and achieve the results you’re looking for:

  • Define your CDI goals: identifying your CDI goals and defining metrics can add structure to your CDI process and ensure the desired results.

  • Make a plan: a detailed CDI integration plan with a timeline can keep everyone on the same page and on track.

  • Emphasize data quality: focusing on maintaining quality data and removing duplicate or irrelevant information ensures accuracy. Take advantage of data validation tools and practices.

  • Ensure flexibility: as your business grows or scales, you’ll need to add more data sources to your CDI strategy. Preparing for this in advance can eliminate any future downtime.

  • Focus on transparency: it’s a good idea to work on the process’s transparency since all departments have to be on board for CDI.

Once you have implemented CDI tools and practices, continue monitoring the integrated customer data to keep it relevant, accurate, and up to date. The goal is to ensure data quality before it enters the system.

Launching customer data integration

Customer data integration has many important benefits, including higher productivity, risk mitigation, and improved decision-making. Simplified access to cleansed, validated, and standardized data is the driving force of effective analytics.

To launch customer data integration, you need to identify your goals, invest in the right tools, and get everyone onboard. There may be some challenges, but with the right approach, you can start taking full advantage of CDI benefits almost immediately.

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