As the volume and variety of data grows, so does the quest to make it actionable in the form of insights-driven marketing.
But as Forrester is quick to note, few firms have the requisite budgets, technology capabilities or analytical skills to advance their analytics agendas internally, so they frequently turn to extended analytics ecosystems for guidance.
Firms have to navigate a complex vendor marketplace of analytics technology, software and service providers, and selecting the right vendor can be challenging. To make that task a little easier, Forrester just identified the 11 most significant software providers in this category — Adobe, AgilOne, Alteryx, Angoss, FICO, IBM, Manthan, Pitney Bowes, SAP, SAS and Teradata — and researched, analyzed and scored them.
So which of those 11 vendors have the right stuff to give organizations a comprehensive views of the customer lifecycle?
In a new Wave for Customer Analytics Solutions, Forrester rated Cary, NC-based SAS , Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM, San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe and Stamford, Conn.-based Pitney Bowes – as the leaders. Analysts concluded that all four of those companies can ingest any kind of data, apply almost any algorithm on the market to produce accurate insights, and can integrate with just about any other system operating in the enterprise.
Senior Forrester analyst and lead author Brandon Purcell told CMSWire that all but one of the 11 companies researched offer user-friendly products.
“The dearth of data science talent has really resulted in the growth of business-user friendly analytics solutions like the ones we have looked at here. All of these vendors with the exception of Teradata have some sort of graphical interface for business users that don’t know how to code so they can start doing their own analytics on their big data,” he explained.
So what exactly are customer analytics? In a world where understanding customers and customer actions is a key requirement of business success, customer analytics must provide:
- Systems of insight with the raw data needed to understand customer actions
- Offer an overview of the entire customer lifecycle from prospecting to retention
- Applications and graphic interfaces that can be used by business people
These solutions go beyond traditional analytics by offering machine learning and other advanced technologies to provide insights about individual customers, predictive analytics and the ability to analyze semi-structured and unstructured data
The The Forrester Wave: Customer Analytics Solutions, Q1 2016 (fee charged) assessed vendors on 33 criteria that fall into three main categories: current offerings, market strategy and market presence, including reach, revenues and number of customers.
All vendors need to provide a comprehensive customer analytics solution that performs detailed customer lifecycle analysis, provide deep and broad insights, and serve large enterprises in multiple verticals. In addition to the four leaders, Forrester identified six strong performers — SAP, FICO, Teradata, Angoss, Alteryx and Manthan — and one contender, AgilOne.
Purcell noted that “there is tremendous opportunity in this market place," adding that the number of vendors Forrester analyzed for this Wave have increased from six to 11 in less than four years.
"Companies see the promise of customer analytics. They are either seeing successes in their own company, or they are seeing pilot projects elsewhere realizing successes. They realize that they have all this data and all these valuable insights locked in the data that is waiting to be extracted," he said.
In addition, the solutions have been simplified, so companies no longer need to write code to extract meaning.
Most of these solutions have interfaces designed for business users, with a second interface for coders who want to build their own analysis models.
Customer Analytics Leaders
Taking all this into account, it is not a surprise to see who Forrester identified as leaders.
According to the Wave report, all four have continued to build out their offerings since Forrester's last evaluation in 2012–13 and have demonstrated their commitment to customer analytics by adapting their solutions to meet clients’ ever-changing data needs.
“It’s the overall breath of their functionality that has sets them apart. IBM and SAS in particular, can ingest almost any kind of data that you throw at them and apply almost any algorithm in the market to them,” Purcell said. In terms of systems of integration and execution, he points out that both vendors can do just about anything so there is endless amount of flexibility for enterprises to incorporate those solutions into their data warehouse structure or marketing applications and operations
He added that Pitney Bowes "has a really customer-centric flavor to their analytics that was pretty differentiated from the other vendors. They have been doing this for a long time and have invested considerably in R+D."
The only newcomer to this leader pack was Adobe, which he said "has a very differentiated strategy around the use of [Adobe] Experience and integrating it into the fuller Adobe Marketing Cloud. With their acquisition of Omniture and its expertise in digital data, I was expecting them to very targeted to the digital side of the business and not so much the offline side but they have made serious investments in trying to bridge those two worlds," he said.
The six strong performers offer competitive options focused on large enterprises. They also offer the dual interface system for business users and developers, as well as a number of focused functionalities.
These vendors offer analytics workbenches that work with larger scale tools, while Teradata offers big data capabilities. Manthan was included in the Wave on the back of its business-friendly interfaces and out-of-the-box metrics.
AgilOne barely missed the cut to be a Strong Performer, the Wave noted.
Purcell said governance is also worth noting. "Analytics governance is a real area of opportunity for many of these vendors. How do you annotate models as your data scientist or as business people are building them? How do you share them, how do you communicate them, how do you collaborate on them? What is the ethical use of our customer data, what do with it?" he explained.
“There is a maturing curve and some of our customers here at Forrester are very far along the maturing curve and they are doing really amazing things with analytics and predictive analytics, cluster modeling, customer journey analytics,” Purcell said.
“But there are others that are still struggling to bring all their customer data together to get the 360-degree view that the analytics promises and place analytics on top of that. For many there is still a long way to go.”