Salesforce to Acquire Datorama - What Does This Tell Us About CDPs?

Traditionally the Customer Data Platform (CDP) marketplace has been dominated by rather smallish but agile vendors. That's changing.

Rise of Platform Vendors

Several big infrastructure or platform vendors have built new (or re-packaged existing) capabilities, or acquired companies to offer CDP-like capabilities. As a result, almost all the big infrastructure vendors now can at least claim to have a play in this marketplace. For example:

  1. IBM has Universal Behavior Exchange
  2. Oracle has Customer Data Management Cloud and a few other (mostly acquired) services/products
  3. Adobe released a a new edition of Adobe Cloud Platform with CDP-type features

Last week Salesforce announced it is acquiring CDP vendor Datorama and will make it a part of its Marketing Cloud. In fact, Salesforce has been on an acquisition spree to build capabilities in CDP and allied marketplaces. Last year, it acquired Krux, a Data Management Platform (DMP) and also announced it will acquire MuleSoft.

Salesforce plus datorama logo
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Key Differences between Platform Vendors and Specialized CDP Vendors

This is an interesting marketplace and evolving rapidly. Most small vendors offer CDPs targeted at marketeers, suggesting their tools are marketer-friendly, easier to use, and so on.

My take is that such CDPs are more Marketing-friendly than marketer-friendly. They are purpose-built for the institutional data needs of marketing departments as a whole. In that sense, CDPs represent a highly purpose-built solution. For example, most CDPs provide:

  • Support for specific martech (and increasingly adtech) use cases like e-commerce shopping cart abandonment, or pushing specific marketing offers (e.g., 1 month free if you signup for 12 months) to visitors
  • Data Management -- cleansing, de-duping -- with marketing use cases in mind, and likewise identity resolution to resolve to a unified customer profile across channels and devices
  • Segmentation and even some lead scoring in certain cases
  • And so on...

The big vendors (with the exception of Salesforce) on the other hand offer a more broader platform, with a subset of CDP capabilities but targeted at broader, integration-centric use cases. Or to put it another way, they are selling more to IT than Marketing, though of course that line can get blurry.

I say "subset" because the big players mostly focus on integration and data management and not so much on engagement. Their platforms are also more complex to implement  compared to purpose-built CDPs. In fact, these vendors need a CDP-like platform just to integrate their own myriad products and services that make up their own marketing clouds.

That brings me to next question:

Why Should CDPs be Marketing-only?

Core tech capabilities of these CDPs include data management and integration with input sources and output channels. Many of them also provide advanced machine learning-based capabilities to enhance different services.

I believe these core tech capabilities of CDPs are relevant to several non-marketing use cases such as customer service. As such, they should not be limited to just marketing use cases. Currently, the platform vendors are better suited for non-marketing use cases but some of the smaller CDP vendors are also looking at targeting those more integration-centric use cases.  The marketplace is likely to converge a bit going forward.

RSG's forthcoming CDP vendor evaluations will cover 18 vendors. Among them will include evaluations of CDP-capabilities of platform vendors IBM, Oracle, and Adobe in addition to more specialized CDP platforms.

For more information on our CDP research and how you can get it hot off the digital presses, please contact us directly.


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