Oracle Underlines Data Unity

“A persistent data store.” That’s how Shashi Seth, SVP at Oracle Marketing Cloud, described CX Unity during one of his presentations at Modern Customer Experience this week. The CX Unity initiative was announced at OpenWorld last fall; this was an opportunity to explore in more detail how it will support the Marketing Cloud (think Eloqua and Responsys) before being rolled out across the entire CX eco-system.

Seth laid out the challenge in simple terms. “Customers want to be treated uniquely. Customers are in charge, in both B2C and B2B settings.” Only connected data can support connected intelligence and connected experiences. “This is not a to-do,” he said, “it’s a requirement. We are making data the foundation of all the marketing technologies we are creating.” In the view of the Oracle executives I spoke to, this is a major differentiator for Oracle going forward. “Oracle is uniquely positioned in the data space, and we are playing a long game,” said Seth. “We are building a platform that will be timeless.”

Part of that claim is based, of course, on Oracle’s decades-long experience handling back-office data (which perhaps doesn’t starkly differentiate them from SAP). Rob Tarkoff, who presides over the full experience suite as EVP and GM of CX Cloud, underlined the proffer: “No-one is better prepared than Oracle to provide this to you. We’ve been in the data business for 40 years. That doesn’t make us old, it makes us experts.”

But just what is being provided. I sat down with Manoj Goyal, the Oracle Group VP responsible for Unity to dig deeper.

Oracle has cracked the code

“CX Unity started with marketers in mind, but it has become a CX-wide initiative, and both Rob and Shashi are super-invested in it. Here’s the reason why. So many companies have tried to understand the total picture of the customer, but it has been a Herculean task, bringing all those identities together, and then listening to the fire-hoses of social, behavioral and transactional data. Sure, that’s what big data is all about, but it requires so much customization.

“I think Oracle has finally cracked the code to make a data lake configurable,” said Goyal. This is resonating with the initial customers we’re talking to, who bear scars from data lake projects. Secondly, once you bring the data in we’re able to do things like lifetime value, engagement scores, health scores — all kinds of interesting behavioral analysis so we can tell marketers that can start really doing intent-based marketing, using the information for targeting in a more powerful way.”

What does configurability mean in practice? “We have made CX Unity multi-tenant. Each customer can decide all of the sources they want — they can choose one of our industry specific templates or schema, but you can configure it, you can bring your own enrichment relationships, and also choose how long you want to retain the data.”

Enriching first party data with probabilistic data from third-party sources results in an “intelligent, or super profile” for the customer. It’s intended to be the end of what Goyal calls “batch and blast.” Marketing can be personalized down to well-defined segments in preferred channels. “Once you can do this one-to-few marketing, the next thing becomes one-to-one.” 

When a customer arrives at, for example, a brand website, CX Unity will be able to tell the source of the traffic, and match the customer to a profile, surfacing not thousands of attributes, but relevant ones like lifetime value and engagement scores. Based on that, and to use a phrase on everyone’s lips these days, marketers can take the “next best action.”

Magic micro-moments

We’ve been thinking about micro-moments here at DMN for at least the last year. It turns out that CX Unity is deeply wedded to the concept. “Your customers, who are engaging with you in micro-moments, are still expecting you to have a conversation with them. Those micro-moments cannot be discrete and disconnected, but your marketing automation, CRM, and support systems are disconnected. Use CX Unity as the fabric to bring the connectivity. The more contextually you are conversing with them, the more the customer feels their previous conversations are known, and that starts driving conversion.”

CX Unity will be tightly integrated with all of Oracle CX Cloud, but also Salesforce and Adobe, recognizing the reality of today’s mixed environment. Marketing Cloud is the first use case, but Goyal expects that native integration with the Commerce and Support Clouds will be happening in 2020. “2019 is about focusing on the marketer, and we think marketers are in a position of influence.” 

CDP or not CDP?

In several sessions, Goyal and other Oracle executives pondered whether CX Unity is best described as a customer data platform. After all, whether it’s a valid category or not, CDPs are being talked about.  “After speaking to a bunch of analysts who are creating CDP categories,” Goyal told me, “a lot of these CDPs are either predictive scoring companies, or data services companies, dressing themselves as CDPs.” Oracle consciously adopted “customer intelligence” as the descriptor for CX Unity to make it clear that it’s not a data services offering. “The first thing is organizing your data.” Enrichment from other data sources is a subsequent step.

Independent CDPs, said Goyal, lack scale, and they also lack the tight integration with CX Clouds. “The experience is lacking. Customers are saying, when I use these two together [a CDP and a CX solution from different vendors] it doesn’t feel like I’m working with one application.”

The battle is Oracle v. Salesforce

Goyal sets out a compelling proffer. Oracle is not seeking to make money out of storing data. In fact, data storage in the Oracle eco-system will be, he says, cheaper than brands’ own private clouds. The value of CX Unity lies in driving conversions and ROI.

Customers will need finally to decide which product will drive their data. “In that space, I think Adobe is working with Microsoft and saying they’ll run it on Azure. I think SAP is in the same boat; they just bought Qualtrics and are wondering how to catch up to Oracle’s maturity at the CX level. The battle is really between Oracle and Salesforce, and we’ve pulled out our Trump card with CX Unity. If we start winning the customer intelligence battle, we have a chance to make our CX Cloud equal or competitive to Salesforce, because all the others are incomplete to begin with.”


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