Marketers increasingly want to merge their own customer data with that of third parties to better segment audiences. That's why the Data Management Platform or DMP has been a hot segment of ad tech over the past few years.
Who are the key players? Forrester identifies some of them in its latest Wave report released today, its first attempt to evaluate the market. Among the takeaways: Adobe, a firm that dived into the data services business just a few years ago, is quickly becoming a powerhouse, but it is also running the risk of offering too many services to differentiate in a crowded field.
The report looks at a small number of companies with DMP offerings: Adobe, Aggregate Knowledge, Blue Kai, CoreAudience, Knotice, nPario, and X+1. Forrester focused only on firms with a DMP client base of at least 10 current clients, comprised primarily of marketers rather than publishers. The report analyzes their current offerings, strategies and market presence.
Overall the DMP sector is in its nascent stages, said Forrester Principal Analyst Joanna O'Connell, who wrote the report. One major challenge: mobile. Because DMPs typically rely on third-party cookies to build and target audience segments, non-browser based channels including mobile pose problems.
And, tying third-party behavioral data to first-party data including personal information not only creates privacy concerns, the service isn't really available by most DMPs evaluated for the report. In order to get a panoramic view of their customers, said Ms. O'Connell, marketers need to do be able to connect things like CRM and transactional data to digital data.
"The space still is incredibly immature," she said, noting that she pared down her list of software firms to cover from more than forty candidates. Those that didn't make the cut don't use their own technologies or don't serve a marketer-centric clientele, among other things.
In this still-early era, most DMPs are ingesting lots of data – mainly third-party data – instead of pushing it out into other channels, said Ms. O'Connell.
The report is based on responses to 70 questions intended to illuminate criteria such as data integrations, access, security, reporting, client service and pricing. The companies were attributed scores for each category, so there's not one numeric ranking. Here's a quick overview:
- Adobe AudienceManager: "Leads the pack" as a result of "significant time, technical, and financial investments," however, Ms. O'Connell suggested the company has yet to fully integrate all its acquired tech platforms. "They have a ways to go. They have a very large product set…but from what I can tell they are buying up the right kinds of technologies," she said. As noted in the report, "With the additional acquisitions of buying platform Efficient Frontier, campaign management system Neolane, and tag management system Satellite, Adobe is well down the road in building out a marketing technology stack that broadly addresses data intelligence and audience delivery. With its approach, however, comes some risk: As one client noted, 'Adobe wants to be an end-to-end marketing firm, but it feels as if you run the risk of making the solution too generic, where it ends up being nothing to anyone.'"
- X+1: Well-rounded with "a range of interconnected products for analytics and execution."
- Blue Kai: "Established leadership position in the third-party audience data space"
- Aggregate Knowledge: "Strong analytics chops and market-neutral position"
- CoreAudience: A "competitive offering" but with "less marketer experience."
- Knotice: "Excellent user profile management solution" but a strong focus on first-party data and little third-party data integration.
- nPario: New and "highly flexible" but in need of product development to truly compete.
While the firms in the report have room for improvement, noted Ms. O'Connell, "These systems are truly legitimately fast" when it comes to ingesting and parsing massive quantities of anonymized digital data. "These systems are made to pull in and process and make sense of that kind of data and that just didn't exist before now."
As with most types of technology platforms, marketers will need to determine their needs before choosing the best fit, she said. "Take a look at what you've already got, figure out where there are holes and then fill them."