Marketing analytics is an increasingly complex business. It’s meant to collect as much information as possible across multiple channels from multiple tools and provide marketers with as complete a picture of their customers and their experience in dealing with you as possible. Perhaps not coincidentally, Adobe, which is holding its Adobe Summit this week in Las Vegas, and Salesforce both made Customer Data Platform (CDP) announcements this week.
The Customer Data Platform is a complex construct, but it’s basically a marketer’s dream, a central database that pulls customer data from a variety of channels and disparate data sources to give marketeers deep insight into their customers, all with the hope of gathering enough data to serve the perfect experience. As always, the ultimate goal is happy repeat customers, who build brand loyalty.
It always comes down to experience for marketers these days, and that involves serving up the right kind of experience. You don’t want the first-time visitor to have the same experience as a loyal customer. You don’t want a business customer to have the same experience as the consumer. All of that takes lots and lots of information, and when you want to make those experiences even more personalized in real time, it’s a tough problem to solve.
Part of the problem is that customers are working across multiple channels and marketers are using multiple tools from a variety of vendors. When you combine those two problems, it’s hard to collect all of the data on a given customer.
The process is a bit like boiling, the ocean and to complicate matters even further, it involves anonymized data and non-anonymized data about customers being stored in the same database. Imagine those two elements being hacked. It wouldn’t be pretty, which is just one reason that these kinds of platforms are so difficult to build.
Yet the promise of having a central data hub like this is so tantalizing, and the amount of data growing so quickly, that having a tool to help pull it all together could have great utility for marketers. Armed with this kind of information, it could enable marketers to build what Salesforce’s Bob Stutz called “hyper-targeted messages” in a blog post yesterday.
Stutz used that same blog post to announce Salesforce’s CDP offering, which is not the same as the Customer 360 product announced at Dreamforce last year, although you would be forgiven for confusing the two. “Salesforce Customer 360 helps companies easily connect and resolve customer data across Salesforce and 3rd party applications with a single customer ID. Our Customer Data Platform builds on this unified identity foundation to deliver a ‘single view of the customer’ for marketing professionals,” Stutz wrote.
Adobe, which announced its CDP use case today, sees it in somewhat similar terms, but its approach is different, says Matt Skinner, product marketing manager for the Adobe Audience Manager product. For starters, it’s powered by the Adobe Experience Platform and “brings together known and unknown data to activate real-time customer profiles across channels throughout the customer journey,” Skinner said. In addition, he says it can use AI to help build these experiences and augment marketer ideas.
Both companies have to pull in data from their own systems, as well as external systems, to make this work. That kind of integration problem is one of the reasons Salesforce bought MuleSoft last year for $6.5 billion, but Skinner says that Adobe is taking its own open API approach to the problem. “Adobe’s platform is open and extensible with APIs and an extensive partner ecosystem, so data and applications can really come from anywhere,” he said.
Regardless, both vendors are working hard to make this happen, and it will be interesting to see how each one plays to its strengths to bring this data together. It’s clearly going to be a huge data integration and security challenge, and both companies will have to move carefully to protect the data as they build this kind of system.