The last couple weeks have been an exciting time for the customer data platform (CDP) category. At long last, major marketing technology vendors formally declared their intentions to get serious about managing and activating data for marketing. For the CDP community, the entry of marketing clouds is a big deal, carrying equal parts excitement over the implied market validation and concern (nay, fear?) as competition intensifies.

The concept of CDPs originated about three years ago in response to the very real challenges of collecting and leveraging data for marketing. Since then, a broad range of vendors offering an equally broad variety of solutions claimed the label and have been marketing themselves as such. At their core, CDPs promise to unify corporate and customer data and make it accessible to marketers for analytics and campaigns. But Forrester believes that standalone CDPs aren’t equipped to solve this problem for enterprise B2C marketers. For these reasons, Forrester welcomes continued progress from CDPs as well as new solutions entering the market. The question about CDPs was never whether there’s a business problem to address but rather who would ultimately solve it.

It was nearly inevitable that large martech vendors would join the fray. Forrester made the call in 2018 that marketing clouds would enter this market and have solutions in place by the end of 2019. In our October 2018 report, we stated that: “Ultimately, CDPs’ greatest competitive threat is the marketing clouds, such as Adobe, Oracle, and Salesforce, that are already ingrained in most enterprise martech stacks and are investing in capabilities far more sophisticated than CDPs’.”

So we weren’t surprised when, as if on cue, Adobe, Oracle, and Salesforce announced and previewed new offerings within days of one another:

  • Adobe states that its Experience Platform will incorporate data ingestion, customer profiles, analytics, and triggering capabilities as a foundation for its marketing, experience, analytics, and ad products.
  • Oracle continued the rollout of its CX Unity product at its recent event, intended to connect data, insights, and activation across the Oracle CX Cloud family of offerings.
  • Salesforce gets an honorable mention. It hasn’t provided any meaningful details about the product or when it might be available, but it’s definitely an “enterprise CDP.” It’s promised more information in June.

As of this writing, we haven’t seen official announcements from IBM or SAP, but they haven’t been sitting idly. SAP has major customer events coming up in a few weeks that could be opportune for new announcements. And while IBM is divesting its marketing products, its Universal Behavior Exchange certainly factors into this market. Place your bets now!

Note that the marketing clouds don’t necessarily call these offerings CDPs, although they are certainly CDP-like and are developing these solutions internally rather than through acquisition. CDPs are a component of a broader solution to address complex and sophisticated enterprise marketing data needs, so it’s fitting that marketing clouds are putting their own spin on the CDP concept within the context of large product suites. Their claims go beyond that of traditional CDPs; they: 1) span a broader view of the customer journey; 2) support a strong intelligence layer for analytics and AI delivery; and 3) offer open environments for broad data distribution and development extensibility. Ultimately, we need to see these products launched, ask the right questions about the solutions and how they work, and see that the product road maps fully develop the capabilities over time.

Solving marketing data challenges is of paramount importance, and we encourage marketers to consider all their options — including internal environments and existing applications, marketing clouds, identity resolution providers, and cloud infrastructure providers. The race is on to make meaningful progress, which is good for everybody.