The Best Customer Data Platforms (CDPs): The 2021 CRM Industry Leader Awards

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The Market

Customer data platforms (CDPs) have been around since about 2016, but the technology is still relatively new and widely misunderstood. The main goal of CDPs is to yield one persistent, unified customer record that is accessible to other systems. Data is pulled from multiple structured and unstructured sources, cleaned, and combined to create a single customer profile.

Research firm MarketsandMarkets valued the worldwide customer data platforms market at $2.4 billion in 2020 and expects it to reach $10.3 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual rate of 34 percent.

Costs for many CDPs are still a little high, making it difficult for small and midsize businesses to update their data platforms, but growing demand for analyses of consumer behavior across industries and the proliferation of customer channels are likely to play a role in the sector’s growth.

The Top Five

Since introducing the Adobe Real-Time Customer Data Platform in mid-2019 as part of its Adobe Experience Platform, Adobe has steadily been adding capabilities. The platform already offered real-time customer profiles, continuous intelligence, and an open and extensible architecture, and this year Adobe added data governance, helping companies manage customer information across the enterprise, and B2B data that lets users create and manage account profiles.

Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, also released in 2019, quickly became a favorite among analysts, and Microsoft has only strengthened the platform throughout the year with cross-channel analytics and data governance and protection capabilities. Microsoft also integrated its CDP with Dynamics 365 Customer Voice, Microsoft Azure Synapse Analytics and machine learning templates, AutopilotHQ, Bing ads, dotdigital, Facebook, Google Ads, HubSpot, LiveRamp, Marketo, Mailchimp, SendGrid, Experian, Leadspace, and other CRM systems. It’s those integrations that make Microsoft stand out: “The key differentiators for Microsoft are the investments in AI and Microsoft Graph (Microsoft’s common data model which includes deep prebuilt industry schemas) and its ease of integration with both Microsoft solutions and third-party line-of-business applications,” says Rebecca Wettemann, principal of Valoir.

Oracle’s CDP, launched in late 2018, can consolidate data from multiple sources, including online, offline, and third-party customer data sources, and then applies built-in machine learning to prescribe the next best action within existing business processes. This year it added a new B2B data schema that relates contact data to individual accounts; an Oracle Eloqua integration; real-time behavioral data collection and personalization capabilities powered by Oracle Infinity; data collection and importing capabilities that support universal digital tags across all Oracle Fusion Cloud Customer Experience (CX) applications and customer websites, mobile apps, or other digital properties; web analytics through integration with the Oracle Data Management Platform (DMP); and integrations with Sourcepoint’s Consent Management Platform and OneTrust’s PreferenceChoice platform.

Salesforce already had a pretty potent CDP offering that it launched in June 2019 as part of its Customer 360 solution, and in November it bolstered the offering with Customer 360 Truth, creating a single source for customer data across all customer touchpoints, and an integration with Merkle’s Merkury identity resolution product. “Salesforce CDP’s key differentiators include integration with activation points across marketing and commerce, a no-code interface built on Lightning, and an open architecture to support integrations with partner applications,” Wettemann says.

Though much smaller than the other four vendors on this list, Segment gained prominence last fall when it was acquired by Twilio, a cloud communications provider, for $3.2 billion. In sharp contrast with the rest of the industry, whose products primarily serve marketers, the Twilio-Segment platform is unique in that it begins with a customer service perspective and incorporates both data and communications. Twilio-Segment in June added Journeys to Segment, helping users build sophisticated customer journeys and orchestrate personalization at scale through every channel and across their entire customer experience stack. That followed the launch a few months earlier of Segment Data Lakes, which provides a foundation for advanced analytics and artificial intelligence.

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