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The latest Forrester Wave for data management platforms named five leaders in a growing field PHOTO: Rachel Kramer

Customer experience has dominated the headlines for several years, but in all of the discussions, data management and its role in delivering those experiences often goes forgotten. 

However, behind the headline-grabbing customer experience stories, many vendors have started buying, building or integrating data management platforms to help marketing and sales departments identify new prospects and keep old ones on board.

Data Management Platform Wave

In its Wave for data management platforms, Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester identified what it says are the top 11 vendors in the market, broken down into leaders, strong performers and one contender:

  • Leaders: Salesforce, Adobe, MediaMath, Neustar, Oracle
  • Strong Performers: Nielsen, Lotame, KBM Group, Adform, and Turn
  • Contender: The ADEX

In order to qualify for the Wave, all 11 vendors had to:

  • Offer the data management platform as a standalone product
  • Have more than 150 data management clients
  • Cater for both marketers and publishers.

Susan Bidel, a senior analyst with Forrester and lead author of the report, The Forrester Wave: Data Management Platforms, Q2 2017 (fee charged), noted enterprises should choose a platform based on their needs rather than platform functionality.

“I think the main point is that if your primary activity, or the main reason you need a data management platform, is for media buying and shaping advertising, you can work with any of the vendors that are in the Wave,” she told CMSWire.

“If you have larger ambitions for the use of your data within the organizations, then you need to think more critically about who you are going to work with. Forrester believes that those vendors in the leaders category would be more appropriate to these kind of task and challenges.”

This means that if your enterprise’s sole purpose for using a data management platform is to inform media (advertising) buying any of the vendors that are listed in the Wave will suit your needs.

That said, the report notes only 50 percent of all online display advertising in 2016 was bought programmatically, but that percentage will grow to 70 by the end of the decade.

For many enterprises this is not enough. Those enterprises looking to move beyond basic marketing towards customer communications and marketing are using intelligence engines to drive decisions.

There are only a handful of data management leaders and all can be found in the Leaders segment.

It is because of this that the data management market is growing. Enterprises are increasingly looking to their data resources to develop a 360 degree view of their customers and their needs.

Rapid, Continuous Change in the DMP Market

With the ongoing evolution of DMPs in the customer experience space, the market has witnessed rapid and continuous change.

San Francisco-based Salesforce is the undisputed leader, with San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe a very close second. Though neither Salesforce and Adobe traditionally have been associated with data management platforms, they've progressed in the space based on acquisition and development. MediaMath and Neustar rounded out the Leader’s list, with Redwood City, Calif.-based Oracle.  

“All three companies [Salesforce, Adobe, Oracle] bought data management platforms. Adobe bought Demdex in 2011, Oracle bought BlueKai, and Salesforce bought a company called Krux. All three are in the process of forming stacks of capabilities that clients can use on an a la carte basis, or they can choose to go all in on one stack,” Bidel said.

“What these platforms do at the core is they ingest a whole host of different kinds of data which, when normalized and integrated, can offer all kinds of insights about who the customer is, about how they come to be your customer — the path to your site — and how loyal a customer they are."

“More importantly, they also show who is not your customer, what that person who is not your customer looks like and offers information from a marketing and product perspective on how to conquest those people who are not yet customers.”

New York City-based MediaMath, which comes third in the Leader segment also boosted its capabilities with acquisitions, notably Akamai's data co-op business, which it bought in 2013.

With the Akamai acquisition, MediaMath could offer real-time media execution, open interoperability with data, media, and technology providers and omnichannel integrations.

Sterling, Va.-based Neustar, for its part, has access to huge amounts of offline personally identifiable information (PII) at the individual and household level, and email addresses derived from over 200 sources.

A Data Hierarchy in Value

The success of the platforms, of course, relies on the quality of data available to them.

“In the hierarchy of data, first-party data is king, second-party data is queen, while third-party data — the kind of data you can buy — really has to prove its value. It is largely expensive, it is largely inaccurate and that makes it even more expensive even if it still has a place in the system,” Bidel said.

“Enterprises endowed with first-party data and the skills and tools to make the most of that data are going to have an advantage over a company that don't have the data or are exploiting it inappropriately.”

In this world, analytics provides an advantage, but only if the analytics can gather information from all channels.

“I would say analytics can be far more effective and efficient when all the sources of information in an organization are aggregated and normalized rather than when analytics are applied to single channels of data,” she said.

“You have tools, for example, that can spend a lot of time directly analyzing emails and you can do the same with media buying activities. The result is going to be that much smarter if you can combine all the different teams of data in your organization and look at that holistically as well.”

More Consolidation in the Future

The market will continue to evolve over the coming year. One criteria for inclusion in this year’s Wave was the vendors had to offer data management platforms as a standalone product — a requirement which may become moot in the years to come.

“I think it’s conceivable that they will cease to do that and that the DMP capability will simply be a capability that is available to clients of a suite of products and that will further the trend we are seeing of companies working with full stacks of capabilities,” she said.

Bidel expects to see further acquisitions in the market as vendors strive to offer all capabilities in one platform.