Bluecore doesn’t identify as a customer data platform – but a lot of people see it as one.
And that’s the category’s conundrum in a nutshell: Buyers are still trying to figure out what differentiates a CDP from other types of data management technology, and also what differentiates one CDP from another.
“From my point of view, the CDP category as we know it is still being defined,” said Fayez Mohamood, Bluecore’s CEO and co-founder. “I actually see customer data management as more of a capability than a stand-alone category.”
Bluecore’s marketing platform specifically focuses on the needs of retailers, which include unifying and processing transaction data, in-store data, customer search and browsing data, loyalty data and, most importantly, product catalog data.
“A customer might look at that and go, ‘This is what a CDP does,’ but without product catalog data, which most CDPs don’t have, a retailer can’t truly personalize its communications,” Mohamood said. “And that is exactly what we do.”
Bluecore has more than 200 million products and SKUs in its system. Clients include CVS, Tommy Hilfiger, Perry Ellis, Sephora and Teleflora. Headcount is around 200 people, of which roughly one-third are engineers.
Mohamood spoke with AdExchanger.
AdExchanger: What is the main business problem you solve for?
FAYEZ MOHAMOOD: We focus on performance, and we don’t combine data for the sake of combining data. We do it to drive results for retailers and solve retailer-specific problems.
What are some retailer-specific data problems?
A retailer’s data sets are very specific and quite different from those of a B2B company, for example. We concentrate on the product catalog and on building intelligence on top of it. Classic CDPs do a lot of data ingestion, but they don’t necessarily drive intelligence, which is especially hard to do if you’re focused on more than one industry.
DTC retailers need to predict what customers might be interested in buying, and they need to use data to inform their communications. Retail is a high throughput, transactional environment, and you don’t always have time to analyze data with the data science team, to cut lists and push them out in real time. It might be a week before you get there, and then the opportunity is gone.
With COVID-19, it became a matter of how quickly retailers could use their offline data for brand awareness campaigns on Facebook, for example, without needing to bring in their big data science team.
How have the past few months been, and what sort of concerns have been cropping up from clients?
We service the digital portion for all of our retailer clients, who also have significant brick-and-mortar presences. But there’s been a violent shift from offline to online, and that brings up a lot of needs. They need to keep their brand top-of-mind with their offline customers, they need to use offline data to connect to consumers online, and they need to drive online conversions while making sure their messages are performing. At the same time, they’re operating in a cash-constrained environment.
Speaking of cash, though, you just closed your $50 million Series D round in May. Why raise again now?
The conversations came out of our last raise [in 2017]. We were coming off of more than two years of growth, we had good insight into our product road map, and we made the decision to raise at the beginning of the year, before COVID-19 started.
COVID-19 has been very difficult for a lot of retailers, but it also signifies the fact that they need to be able to live in a digitally fluid environment. We’re fortunate to be attached to the growth parts of these businesses.
What is Bluecore’s differentiator?
From a technology perspective, it’s our ability to process product catalogs in real time. But we also differentiate with our business model. We charge based on performance, not on volume or scale. It’s a subtle but important difference. We’re not incentivized to send more messages, like the marketing clouds. We’re incentivized to send relevant ones.
Who are your competitors?
Because we’re focused on the enterprise, our biggest competition comes from the marketing clouds. Typically, they’re the incumbent in a stack and almost every retailer uses at least one. We also see competition from personalization providers, recommendation systems or some type of CDP-plus-email-service-provider combination. The latter is less because we provide the exact same functionality and more. Customers are trying to combine multiple technologies to solve their problems rather than having a stack.
Do you think the marketing clouds will be able to make a go of it with their CDP offerings?
This is why I say that being a CDP is ultimately more of a capability than a stand-alone category. The marketing clouds are trying to build CDPs to unify their own internal systems rather than focusing on identity resolution or syndication to different platforms or even building a frequency model based on specific outcomes.
And that’s because they all have a lot of data to unify – but that doesn’t address the business problems we’re trying to solve specific to retailers. I wouldn’t say the approach that the marketing clouds are taking is wrong, they’re just building to serve a different purpose.
This conversation has been edited and condensed.