SAN FRANCISCO -- Oracle has entered the customer data platform market, but some observers wonder whether the category is already headed into obsolescence.
The Oracle Customer Data Platform (CDP) joins Adobe's, released earlier this year. Salesforce and SAP have their own CDPs in development. While they attempt to solve a difficult technical problem -- matching, updating and deduplicating customer records across marketing, sales, service and e-commerce systems -- CDPs are difficult to explain to c-suite leaders who sign off on large IT purchases.
Moreover, for CIOs, a CDP represents another tool to support and secure in already complex cloud enterprise application stacks.
No one disputes the need for B2C and B2B companies to aggregate customer data to drive faster, more precisely personalized sales and promotions, said Paul Gaynor, a technology consulting leader for PwC, a tax and audit services firm based in London. But when selling clients on CX initiatives, he said, his team leaves the CDP discussion to the developers, instead focusing on outcomes and bottom-line potential.
"We don't make it about the data," Gaynor said. "The data is the currency, a really important part of the equation, for sure. But the infrastructure and how it has to pass from platform to platform to drive AI- or human-based decisions … that's just part of workflow."
That said, he sees potential for the Oracle CDP to derive more specific, usable insights from many more data sources than customer experience platforms , even reaching into supply-chain systems to shape personalized customer offers.
Oracle CDP goes beyond marketing
When Oracle talks to customers in advertising-heavy sectors, those users believe that CDPs are the technology answer to melding customer data from third-party advertising platforms with their own marketing data, said Oracle EVP Rob Tarkoff. In other sectors, CDPs are less important, Tarkoff said.
Yet Oracle bills its CX Unity platform as "more than a CDP," able to reach past marketing systems and draw deeper insights from ERP and other peripheral data systems. In Tarkoff's mind, current CDPs tend to be limited to marketing automation. Yet in conversations with some customers, CDPs "are coming up all the time," Tarkoff said.
Whatever the platform is called, profile veracity -- the ability to dedupe, normalize and resolve different data sets to real identity, at scale -- is a big challenge for these data platforms.
"That, and in every industry, there's a different schema for how you want to represent a customer profile," Tarkoff said. "A bank has a different set of attributes than an insurance company, a communications company or a retailer."
Data wrangling to remain difficult
Some observers, such as Sam Kapreilian, a leader in Deloitte Digital’s customer and marketing practice, believe that despite the difficulty of easily explaining CDPs -- let alone their value -- customer data platforms will become bedrock technology to garner data insights and drive revenue in the years to come. Rather than headed toward obsolescence, Deloitte's customers see the potential of new versions of the tool like Oracle CDP.
Michael KrigsmanAnalyst and founder, CXOTalk
"This stuff wasn't possible two to three years ago," Kapreilian said. "It just wasn't affordable."
Michael Krigsman, analyst and founder of CXOTalk, said whatever future platforms perform the processes currently assigned to CDPs will have to solve the same problem: Figure out how to find and track revenue in data that often is far removed from the final sales process, aggregate it in a single platform and ultimately assign a value to AI-fueled data personalization.
"It's an ongoing project; it's going to take years," Krigsman said. "It's like the journey to self-improvement -- it never ends."