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First Look – Unica


A little while ago I got an update from Unica. While Unica may seem like a slightly tangential topic for me it actually is not. Not only do I think that many efforts to adopt decision management start with customer marketing decisions (Unica’s focus as part of Enterprise Marketing Management) but Unica has done a nice job of managing these critical customer decisions.

Unica is focused primarily on big enterprises with more than 800 customers. Unica has a strong presence in those customers, largely in campaign management. Enterprise Marketing Management is their thing – more than just campaign management – but campaign management is where many of their customers start. They used to focus on companies with a big direct mail focus but increasingly their customers are multi-channel and Unica is broadening the definition of a “campaign”.

Unica supports a lifecycle of Plan, Design & Produce, Execute, Measure, Analyze repeat. They aim to be the marketing “system of record” handling Marketing Resource Management, web and cross-channel analytics, predictive modeling, campaign management and event-based marketing. They are moving more and more to interactive marketing and position their products as customer aware, centralized decisioning (next best message), cross-channel and integrated (supporting all marketing operations). The product as a whole is VERY marketer-centric, making it easy for marketers to define rules, build models and so on. That said, lots of folks use Unica and SAS or other analytic platforms though most integrate through the database by running batch scoring to update customer records with score (though some score live by calling a service).

Customer Awareness, Centralized Decisioning and Cross-Channel Execution are three stacks of functionality all built on integrated marketing operations.

  • Customer Awareness
    Customer, web and predictive analytics as well as some reasonably sophisticated state-based event detection all aimed at marketers.
  • Centralized Decisioning
    Segmentation, offer management, interaction history, real-time targeting (using conversation as it happens) and contact optimization
  • Cross-Channel Execution
    Outbound fulfillment, inbound integration, distributed marketing (local control in organizational structure) and lead management.

Clearly the centralized decisioning is the part of most interest to me and Unica has a nice white paper on the Customer Decision Engine that expands on this position. The paper is well written and correctly focused on customer decisions as a distinct opportunity for improvement and focuses on integrating “front and back office systems in order to coordinate targeted customer communications”. While that’s not the end game for customer decisions (there is a broader opportunity for a customer decision engine to focus on all customer treatment decisions, not just customer communications), it is a great starting point as customers will likely find out about 99% of your decisions through your communications.

I would describe a customer decision engine as a managed platform for coordinating, improving and optimizing customer decisions across the life cycle and across all channels and departments

  • Not just focusing on communication decisions
  • Focusing on improving and optimizing decisions not just coordinating them
  • Considering the customer life cycle as a critical element of decision-making.

The paper gets into the technology you need – customer analytics (especially predictive analytics), business rules, centralized marketing information, optimization, event detection and real-time responsiveness. All true. Customer treatment decisions (and not just communication ones but all treatment decisions) need to be managed like the corporate asset they are. Your customers think all these decisions are deliberate so you should make sure they are.

Throughout this functionality they focus on being able to do both online/offline and inbound/outbound. They support integration with CRM systems too for call center activities and are starting to integrate with POS systems (real-time receipt marketing or employee offers at POS). They focus on “campaigns” and “next best offer” and they try to use “offer” very broadly although they’re not quite at the point where an offer is a general purpose action. For instance, their lead management functionality is less offer-centric and more action-centric. The models and rules used for this, however, can access transactional data, web data and behavior data.

Organizations wanting a nice, focused place to start thinking about decisions as an asset and decision management as an approach could use Unica’s approach to customer communication decisions as a starting point.