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Just last month, I released a series of predictions for digital transformation trends in 2021. It’s something I do every year, but for 2021 I had to factor in perhaps the greatest global disruption I’ve ever seen: coronavirus. Interestingly, many of the trends I predicted are already working their way into the mainstream. One of the fastest: customer data platforms (CDPs).
While many industries experienced downturns in 2020, customer data platform growth is booming—for lots of reasons. In the midst of a pandemic, it’s even more important to businesses to use their data intelligently and efficiently. CDPs help them do that by pulling fragmented data from multiple sources into one organized, central location. Companies like Adobe, SAP, Treasure Data, Microsoft and Oracle have invested heavily in CDP development. In fact, we’ve seen some pretty exciting developments in the space even since writing the 2021 trends article last month. The following are a few I’m keeping my eye on as we finish out perhaps the longest year in human history—2020.
Twilio Acquires Segment in a $3.2 Billion Deal for Customer Data Platform
In mid-October, Twilio announced that it had reached a definite agreement to purchase Segment. The deal was valued at $3.2 billion and closed in early November. If you’re not already familiar with Twilio, here’s a quick rundown: it’s an American company that offers cloud platform as a service (CPaaS). They help businesses reach customers across channels—SMS, voice, WhatsApp, email, and video—in one easy platform. More than communications, Twilio is focused on end-to-end customer engagement. Segment—a CDP/data architecture company—will help them to add intelligence to Twilio’s 1 trillion digital engagement interactions per day. Basically: Twilio has lots of customer interaction data across many channels, and Segment will help them make smart and meaningful sense of it. That means—eventually—more personalized, timely, meaningful engagement through all aspects of the customer journey: marketing, sales, product development, etc.
Will Twilio and Segment take over the CDP market? Honestly, it’s too soon to know. Both companies are relatively young (about 10 years) compared to industry giants like Microsoft and Salesforce, but both were also smart enough to realize that the other had strengths that could take them to the next level. My take on the acquisition was it served as a sound diversification for both Twilio and Segment to really expand the way a CDP is utilized to deliver the best offers at the right time—something that Twilio had long been focused on, which Segment will help it do better.
Treasure Data Launches New CDP Capabilities
Just days after SAP announced its new CDP offering, Treasure Data, formerly known as Arm Treasure Data, decided to announce that it, too, will add new capabilities to its own CDP, which already offers some strong analytics. The company says they will offer 15 new integrations (now up to 170), and that they’ve created an in-store software development kit that helps retailers form a unified view of shopper behavior. Basically, the company is looking to increase its analytics capabilities to give stronger insights on customer behavior: audience segmentation, behavioral attributes, machine-learning insights regarding lifetime value and churn probability, etc.
These announcements should encourage users, especially those looking for more out of the box integrations the opportunity to get started with CDP—this being a big hurdle as companies see the value but find it challenging to know the best route to proceed.
Microsoft Customer Insights And a Growing Ecosystem With Adobe and Tom Siebel’s C3.ai
Much like Treasure Data, Microsoft is not to be outdone, recently releasing its own enhanced capabilities in early October. The company’s current CDP offering, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, is already a staple for many companies. I can’t emphasize enough, however: there is increasing heat in this space to provide even better, stronger, more accurate data management, and Microsoft is working hard so that it does not get left behind. New capabilities for this release include deeper insights about customer intent and behavior across channels; deeper analytic integration with Microsoft Azure Synapse Analytics; and vendor-agnostic sharing capabilities.
Additionally, Microsoft continues to invest in ecosystems. While not specific to just CDP, but to CRM and AI, which are foundational to maximizing data and customer experience. This has been interesting to watch, given the size of Microsoft, that it continues to lean into partnerships to enhance its offerings. The company has worked on optimizing the schema of data for greater flexibility and data enrichment through its open data initiative (ODI), which is has partnered with Adobe among others. Speaking of Adobe, Microsoft also recently partnered with Adobe, and Tom Siebel’s newest venture C3.ai to democratize the use of AI for vertical market solutions. These converging ecosystems will play an increasingly important role for CX—especially for less served B2B applications when married to the CDP.
Oracle CX Announces Broad Innovation of its CDP Oracle Unity
In October, Oracle announced a number of updates to its CDP to make it more compelling as part of its broader CX offering. Of note, the company leaned more directly into B2B with a new data schema that enabled greater automation and better audience targeting. B2B, as mentioned, had been somewhat a second citizen to B2C with early CDP tools. This is changing as more software providers lean into this opportunity.
Oracle also announced a universal digital tag that enabled more accurate tagging of customer data in real-time to better tie activity to users across the customer journey. This capability is increasingly important for CDP’s to maximize value. Privacy, through new partnerships with Sourcepoint and OneTrust, was a standout topic in Oracle’s latest announcements as this nuanced topic will become more important to the CDP as companies balance the power of data and tracking to the desires of consumers and the compliance required of companies.
SAP to Launch New CDP in November
Perhaps sensing the buzz from nearly every one of its competitors surrounding CDPs, SAP decided to throw its on hat in the race, announcing that it will begin offering its own CDP platform in November. The platform—aptly named the SAP Customer Data Platform—focuses on four priorities: connecting data from every source in the enterprise; respecting data with a focus on privacy; processing large volumes of data; hyper-personalizing based on a 360-view of the customer. That sounds pretty comprehensive, right? For the first point, for instance—connecting data from every source—SAP says its CDP will connect and resolve data from first-party sources (CRMs), second- and third-party data (vendors, sales partners); offline data (brick-and-mortar purchases); event and activity streams (social) and transactional behaviors (purchases). Oh—and it will do it in real-time.
If SAP is truly able to meet this gargantuan task, I am confident it will be able to create the promise of hyper-personalization, which customers do desperately want. In any case, I like that, and expect that, privacy be one of SAP’s core values in launching its CDP—greater interdependence between CX and privacy is desperately needed in this data-rich age.
The name of the game, in all cases, is analytics: getting a more detailed understanding of the customer so that companies can better predict behavior—and provide personalized content—in real time. These ideas aren’t new. What’s new is the chase—the fire among all of these companies, among others, to begin providing better data processing. Why? Because companies need it. Still, it isn’t easy. Salesforce has already found this to be true, and it’s experienced some major delays because of it. But now seems to be back on track with Customer 360, its own customer data platform offering, . For both of these reasons, I am confident we will continue to see even more growth and technology advancements in the customer data platform space in 2021 and beyond.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.