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Oracle's Recent Software Buys Fuel Customer Experience Strategy

New Oracle Customer Experience (CX) offering melds capabilities from ATG, Endeca, RightNow, and Vitrue, to advance Siebel/Fusion customer relationship management play.

Oracle is bringing together seven of its latest software acquisitions to deliver Oracle Customer Experience (CX), a set of new cross-channel customer engagement, fulfillment, and service capabilities to be announced Monday at a splashy media event in New York.

Designed to complement Oracle Siebel (on-premises) and Oracle Fusion (cloud-based) CRM applications, Oracle CX is said to deliver an end-to-end customer experience that graduates from a multi-channel approach to a cross-channel strategy.

What's the difference between the two? "Multi-channel is where you try to offer a consistent experience on each channel, [whereas] cross-channel means you recognize that customers might start the experience on one channel and then choose to end on a different channel," Oracle senior VP of CRM Anthony Lye told InformationWeek.

Electronics retailer Best Buy, for example, evolved from a multi-channel strategy to a cross-channel strategy, Lye said. Rather than presenting an either-or shopping experience, Best Buy lets customers research and buy online and then pick up their merchandise at a store.

[ For more on CRM competition, see CRM Battle Heats Up As Economy Cools. ]

Oracle says CX is aimed at improving the total customer experience by engaging customers with dynamic content that responds to the way they navigate a site. The approach will increase sales with predictive, customer-specific offers across websites, contact centers, mobile devices, social media, and physical stores.

CX will improve customer retention by integrating marketing, loyalty, and social engagement programs, according to Oracle. Order accuracy and fulfillment rates are improved with better tracking and management of orders and customer requests. When there are gaps in the customer experience, Oracle says CX self-help tools are there to help customers find answers without inflating support costs.

Behind the scenes within CX are several software components acquired by Oracle within the last 18 months. The ATG e-commerce engine provides the predictive offer capabilities, while FatWire supports dynamic Web content management. Endeca supports search-driven commerce, while RightNow and Enquira offer customer-service and knowledgebase support tools, respectively. Vitrue and Collective Intellect, Oracle's latest acquisitions, will support social marketing and social-media monitoring, respectively.

Most of these tools and technologies have yet to be fully integrated into the Oracle stack, Lye admitted, but he said many have been moved onto Oracle middleware and consistent data models. "When we acquired ATG, for example, we made sure that the ATG object model was consistent with object model used in Siebel's order and loyalty engines." Lye added that Oracle also works on consistency across Web services and integration points.

The depth and breadth of Oracle's portfolio gives it advantages over its competitors, according to Lye. IBM, for one, has built up extensive e-commerce and digital-marketing capabilities on Unica (marketing automation), Coremetrics (Web analytics), Sterling Commerce (e-commerce) and WebSphere software components. Lye noted that IBM lacks its own CRM software, "so they're just providing point solutions," though that underplays Big Blue's role as an integrator of CRM systems from Oracle, SAP, and others.

Salesforce.com, meanwhile, has enhanced its digital marketing capabilities with Radian6 and, earlier this month, Buddy Media. Lye said Salesforce.com capabilities favor business-to-business relationships and sales force automation rather than consumer e-commerce.

Oracle CX was set to be unveiled Monday night at event in midtown Manhattan with Lye following Oracle President Mark Hurd as a keynote presenter.

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