This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Oracle OpenWorld 2018 news, trends and analysis

Oracle CX Unity unveiled at OpenWorld

In an attempt to compete with Salesforce, Oracle unveils Subscription Management, a software tool to help users manage the growing number of consumer-facing subscription products.

Signaling that it will dive deeper into the battle over customer experience improvement, Oracle has introduced CX Unity, which brings together data from Oracle's various cloud products, and a subscription management software tool.

The new Oracle products, expected to be available in summer 2019, appear to be aimed at competing software leaders seeking to dominate the CX space such as Salesforce and Microsoft, SAP and Adobe, which have formed a partnership on CX.

Oracle's plan with its CX Unity product is to combine all the data from its various Customer Experience Cloud applications for users to get a more complete picture of their customers, while also applying AI and machine learning to find insights. Oracle CX Unity is similar to what other software vendors are trying to do -- to bring together customer data from various places where it may have been isolated.

Oracle CX Unity is designed to allow its users to connect data from both front- and back-office tools, such as PoS, CRM, digital analytics and transaction systems and third-party information. The business applications vendor said CX Unity will enable users to find insights in data from its customers to create better, more personal experiences.

While subscription management software is an emerging need for organizations, improving customer experience and unifying the data that corresponds with it is a pressing need, and Oracle CX Unity wants to address those concerns for its users, the company said.

The Oracle efforts around CX appear to a smart move for the big software vendor that has traditionally been focused on large enterprises rather than consumer markets.

Des Cahill, vice president and head CX evangelist for Oracle CX CloudDes Cahill

"The problem that Oracle CX Unity is trying to solve is to help companies provide deeply personal, in-context interactions to customers across their journey," said Kate Leggett, analyst at Forrester Research, in a telephone interview from at the Oracle OpenWorld user conference. "Today, front-office applications are [in silos] and customer data solutions are focused on the B2C marketing journey, are data-storage-centric and require costly customer integrations."

Unifying customer data is an ongoing problem that businesses are trying to solve. As organizations have grown in the cloud era, data has been scattered across legacy applications, cloud software and third-party products. Technology that can bring all that data together and provide users with insight is a valuable addition to that environment, Oracle said.

"The number one issue our CX customers are facing when implementing digital transformation is the ability to bring together different areas of customer data," said Des Cahill, vice president and head CX evangelist for Oracle CX Cloud. "CX Unity is a cloud-based customer intelligence platform designed to bring together customer data into one place. We then apply AI and machine learning on top of the data to apply real-time insight to their customers."

'A much richer set of data'

When describing Oracle CX Unity, Cahill directly took on competing customer data products and vendors, specifically the coalition of SAP, Microsoft and Adobe, as well as Salesforce's Customer 360 offering.

The problem that Oracle CX Unity is trying to solve is to help companies provide deeply personal, in-context interactions to customers across their journey.
Kate Leggettanalyst, Forrester

"We see the data partnership as just announcing a standard and not providing a solution," Cahill said. "And for Salesforce, we see Customer 360 as a much lighter offering than Oracle CX Unity. It's limited to marketing, sales and service and doesn't consolidate customer data together."

When reached for comment, a Salesforce spokeswoman said that Customer 360 will initially focus on B2C and will connect Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Commerce Cloud, with a plan to expand to additional clouds and industries. Salesforce is also working on the ability to use AI to auto-map fields from system to system, but have yet to set a release date on this feature.

"We're bringing together a much richer set of data," Cahill said.

Leggett noted that Salesforce Customer 360 doesn't create a unified, real-time consumer profile.

"Rather, what it does is it creates a customer view between Salesforce's Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud and Commerce Cloud -- all of which are built on different architectures and have different data models."

Subscription management comes to Oracle

The addition of a subscription management software tool is built around the consumer trend of buying subscriptions rather than one-off products. The rise of streaming services like Netflix, Spotify and Hulu has opened up to nearly every consumer-facing industry offering a subscription model, from toothbrushes to food to clothing.

"The Subscription Cloud is positioned to help companies manage recurring revenue, subscription billing and revenue recognition, and provide customer-facing personnel with a complete view of purchasing behavior," Leggett said.

Meanwhile, Oracle's Subscription Management software works within the customer lifecycle, from marketing to sales contracting, revenue recognition and renewal. Oracle is offering both subscription sales and traditional ownership sales models.

"The reality is we're moving toward an era of subscription-based commerce, and it's going to be a hybrid world for a long time," Cahill said.

Tech analyst Ray Wang, founder of Constellation Research, said he sees the industry moving more toward subscription-based selling, and companies need to have the software in place to accommodate this process.

"Digital businesses are built on selling more than the product, but also the services, insights and experiences," Wang said. "You need to have the ability to support subscription billing and other bundled experiences."

Oracle said that Oracle CX Unity will be sold under an additional license that users can upgrade to work with existing CX applications.

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