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Cutting Through the Noise: What is the Salesforce Marketing Cloud CDP?

Ryan Greene

Head of Marketing

The customer data platform (CDP) market is confusing — but it doesn’t have to be. This is part 2 in a series of blog posts exploring different types of CDP vendors, how their products differ from other technologies and what you can do to select the right CDP for your enterprise company. Check out part 1 on the Adobe Marketing Cloud CDP.

Because of the popularity of its customer relationship management software, Salesforce has widespread brand awareness. Yet confusion remains about what Salesforce considers its CDP.

Despite former Salesforce Marketing Cloud CEO Bob Stutz referring to CDPs as a “passing fad,” the company now has multiple solutions competing for the title: Interaction Studio and — in its latest naming iteration — Customer 360 Audiences. Both are part of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, which, like the Adobe Marketing Cloud, is a collection of point solutions. These solutions — either created in house or by vendor acquisition — are intended to serve different business functions.

Salesforce promotes Interaction Studio — a personalization and interaction management solution based on the acquisition of Evergage — as the “CDP” brands should deploy first. Meanwhile, Customer 360 Audiences remains in the works.

Image depicting disjointed customer journey

Who is the Salesforce Marketing Cloud CDP for?

Interaction Studio — which is designed for e-commerce teams that manage website personalization — is prescribed for organizations using technologies outside the Salesforce suite of cloud products. Meanwhile, Customer 360 Audiences is promoted for organizations that use Salesforce-specific technologies exclusively.

It’s claimed the Salesforce CDP is intended for business users, but its current release mostly supports technical users in charge of unifying data across previously deployed Salesforce technologies.

Customer 360 Audiences may eventually be updated to support everyday business users, but there’s a big difference between demonstration-only capabilities and what’s currently available. As it stands, the Salesforce CDP is designed for IT and data analyst professionals tasked with creating a customer 360.

With high licensing and support costs, as well as a lack of integrations with technologies outside the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, the Salesforce CDP is geared toward enterprise organizations that are already significantly invested in Salesforce Marketing Cloud point solutions.

How Do You Use the Salesforce Marketing Cloud CDP?

As analysts have pointed out, neither Salesforce product is designed for the full array of CDP use cases. The fastest way to understand how they should be used is by inspecting each tool’s underlying architecture. For example, Interaction Studio’s architecture prioritizes speed of response over use case flexibility, preventing it from excelling at any use case beyond site personalization. This makes it undesirable for marketing, advertising, CX, sales and customer service teams.

On the other hand, Customer 360 Audiences uses an Amazon Web Services-based infrastructure capable of supporting big data needs, but has not been developed to fulfill use cases beyond data unification and basic segmentation. While companies have licensed the Salesforce CDP, there’s currently no proof that it’s in use by many, if any, brands.

Now that Salesforce has officially retired its DMP, the company may invest more seriously in its CDP(s). However, like Adobe, the Salesforce CDP will require you to use other Salesforce products and discourage integration with non-Salesforce tools and data sources.

Image depicting ideal customer journey

What Are the Pros & Cons of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud CDP?

There’s very limited information about the Salesforce CDP’s success in the real world, making it difficult to highlight benefits. However, analysts refer to the Salesforce CDP as “very much under construction,” as well as, for a larger enterprise, “ungodly expensive.”

Like Adobe, Salesforce requires you to license different tools within its marketing cloud to execute on common use cases supported by well-established CDPs. For example, organizations must license Journey Builder for journey design and orchestration (but beware of its lack of full omnichannel capabilities). Salesforce will also likely require licensing Interaction Studio for any real-time use cases, such as profile lookups for inbound channel support.

Since few of Salesforce’s tools were architected to operate together, it means you’ll likely pay services costs in the six or seven figures to integrate them in addition to the enormous licensing costs typical of large marketing clouds. Expect deployments to take up to a year for anything beyond basic use cases, as all data must be preformatted in order to fit into either of Salesforce’s CDP offerings.

Without a doubt, one of the biggest risks associated with the Salesforce CDP concerns vendor lock-in. Because marketing cloud architectures make it difficult to replace older solutions with newer, more cutting-edge technologies, organizations are forced to use only one brand’s solutions instead of taking the best-in-breed approach 56% of marketing technology buyers prefer. This is especially concerning when you consider that the majority of marketers add new types of technologies to their martech stacks on a monthly or quarterly basis.

How Does ActionIQ Compare to the Salesforce Marketing Cloud CDP?

Unlike the Salesforce CDP offering — whatever that may be — ActionIQ takes a flexible approach to martech management, empowering enterprise organizations to integrate new technologies with their CDP to drive innovation and personalize customer experiences across every marketing channel.

Our proprietary InfiniteCompute data infrastructure provides unlimited computation power and our intuitive UI is designed to help non-technical business users quickly access the customer data they need and activate it across whichever final-mile experience delivery solutions they prefer — including Salesforce point solutions.

Easy-to-use tools allow business users to efficiently analyze audience insights, segments and behaviors while orchestrating multi-step customer journeys without having to rely on technical resources, helping to reduce data analyst workload by 40% while driving a return on investment of 522%.

Stay tuned for part 3 in this blog series, where we’ll explore the Segment CDP.

Learn More

Download our 2021 CDP Market Guide to learn more about different types of CDPs or contact one of our experts to see how ActionIQ differs from Salesforce and other marketing cloud CDPs.

Written By

Head of Marketing

Ryan Greene is an expert on the intersection of customer data and digital strategies who has led big data marketing initiatives within the retail and financial services industries. Ryan joined ActionIQ because he believes business stakeholders are most effective when they have user-friendly solutions to extract intelligence and value from all their data.

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