The Customer Data Platform (CDP) has gotten major boosts in the last few days from announcements by three of the biggest marketing clouds – Salesforce, Oracle and Adobe.
CDPs unify structured and unstructured data from multiple sources into single, “golden master” profiles that can then be acted upon by other tools, and can be managed by non-technical users.
At first glance, it seems like an obvious need, especially since customer relationship management (CRM) systems are so common, but the set of complex tasks required to serve this role has turned it into a separate and growing category. For the last few years, that category has mostly been dominated by relatively small firms.
Earlier this week, Salesforce announced that the next generation of its Customer 360 platform would include a CDP. First made available in the fall of last year, the Customer 360 platform brings together disparate B2C customer data into one view from the company’s Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud and Commerce Cloud.
While a single customer data profile has existed on Salesforce’s B2B side, brands had to previously implement their own connectors for linking B2C customer data across the platform’s applications. But Salesforce had insisted Customer 360 was a “federated solution,” not a CDP, because it didn’t store the customer data in a single location. In fact, in June of last year Salesforce Marketing Cloud CEO Bob Stutz told AdExchanger that the CDP was “a passing fad.”
Now, however, Salesforce is fully aboard the CDP fad, providing unified profiles from diverse data sources to create audience segments, provide personalized engagement or conduct unified consent management. As an example, the company said a brand can now build an audience of female shoppers interested in running shoes by combining data from, say, web browsing across several retail sites, email interactions and previous purchases.
Also in the fall of last year, Oracle launched CX Unity, which it not only described as a CDP, but touted as a “CDP-Plus” because it offered a unified data profile across both B2B and B2C data on the company’s Experience Cloud, and it provided related intelligence. For example, the company said at the time, this intelligence can show which customers are the most loyal ones across multiple touchpoints.
On Monday, Oracle announced a collaboration with consultant groups Accenture and Capgemini to “address the hype and confusion” around the CDP market. The big difficulty, said Capgemini Global Partner Executive for Oracle Jane Arnold Hommet, is that “the customer journey has changed beyond recognition, making it much harder to gain a single source of customer truth.”
It’s not entirely clear what the result of this collaboration will be, although the announcement implies it will help Oracle’s clients better understand how to use CDPs in this complex environment.
In March of this year, Adobe Director of Product Marketing Ali Bohra published an extensive post that explained how his company’s platform already offered “a world-class solution to the CDP use case” by bringing together its Experience Platform with its Audience Manager.” The Experience Platform, released last year, was launched with the ability to create persistent profiles.
As a result, he said, Adobe already brings “together known and unknown customer data to activate real-time customer profiles with intelligent decision-making throughout the customer journey.” This was, he said, “getting the value of a CDP without a point CDP.”
Apparently, though, Adobe decided it needed to declare a CDP point solution across its platform, although it’s not clear if anything differs from what the company offered before. This week, Adobe announced several enhancements to its Experience Platform, including a Real-Time Customer Data Platform. It’s now articulated as a clear functionality and use case, and is helping the company deliver what it says is a new capability: individualized Triggered Journeys, where an event in a consumer’s interaction with a brand can trigger in real-time a series of customer journey touchpoints – such as an email, push notification and in-app ad.
“It’s taken a while but all three vendors now acknowledge that a CDP must store its own data,” posted analyst and CDP Institute head David Raab about the CDP moves by the three major marketing platforms.
“Cynics might say,” he added, that “it also confirms that software vendors define user requirements based on what their systems currently do, not what users actually need. It’s hard to interpret the CDP story in any other way, since the need for a persistent data store has always been clear to anyone who tried to support core CDP use cases such as attribution, prediction, and journey analysis.”
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