This blog was originally published at Acquia.com, authored by Kevin Cochrane, SVP, Product Marketing at Acquia.

At the start of the year, Bloomreach announced they were acquiring Exponea, a customer data platform (CDP) with the goal of fueling their growth to digital commerce experiences. At Acquia, we saw this move as inevitable. We’ve long-predicted that a CDP is central to the future of digital commerce. However, not all CDP and commerce solutions are created equal. While Bloomreach claims their CDP addition can provide a total digital commerce experience, they fall short in both the flexibility and maturity to optimize these experiences across all channels and the foresight to predict and personalize customer experiences in real time, leading to missed opportunities and dissatisfied customers.

Recently, Acquia, an established leader in open digital experience platforms (DXPs) announced Acquia Digital Commerce, an open commerce solution built with innovative digital commerce providers like Lucidworks and commercetools. Acquia Digital Commerce unifies data, content, commerce and digital merchandising to offer brands connected experiences that extend to meet all sides of customer expectations. While Bloomreach focuses mainly on the “buy” phase of the customer lifecycle, Acquia, commercetools and Lucidworks offer an end-to-end composable commerce experience.

The Future of Digital Commerce Must Be Open, Not Limited To a Single Channel or Industry

Around a decade ago, digital industry experts claimed that to truly capture customers’ hearts, every company needed to be their own media company, delivering the same exceptional content-and data-powered digital experiences as the world’s most popular publishers like Netflix or Spotify. A parallel transformation from transactional relationships to fully immersive, data-driven experiences has also occurred in the way we shop. This year, more people than ever turned to online and mobile channels to buy items and services. To continue to boost revenue, every company, not just retailers, must be capable of creating digital commerce experiences. Bloomreach’s legacy is in the traditional retail arena, but they seem to lack the extensibility and scalability to deliver flexible and data-driven commerce functionality beyond this space.

Unlike monolithic online retail and e-commerce platforms, Acquia Digital Commerce is a “composable commerce” solution that brings together best-of-breed components within an open architecture to meet any customer’s needs on any channel or interaction point. Our strategic partnership extends the value of an open DXP with Lucidworks’ Connected Experience Cloud (CXC) to capture user signals from every action, understand customer intent and deliver real-time personalization and product recommendations. The API-first architecture allows businesses to unify their commerce data and power more relevant search and merchandising experiences anywhere their customers are.

Lucidworks blends together easy-to-navigate search functionality with data science to connect the right customers to the right products at the right time. The ability to launch dynamic landing pages and browse features powered by machine learning keeps shoppers engaged while they research and explore different options. Acquia Digital Commerce offers personalized, connected commerce experiences that support all sides of the customer journey. The combination of Lucidworks’ intelligent search and discovery, the rich customer insights and machine learning from Acquia CDP, and the commercetools composable commerce platform makes it possible to innovate faster and adapt to whenever a customer needs instead of staying stuck in place.

Lucidworks Offers Scalable Machine Learning and Explainable AI

While Bloomreach and Lucidworks both possess AI-powered merchandising, Bloomreach hasn’t necessarily embraced the full potential of machine learning to understand customer behavior and signals through actions like clicks and queries, so they can offer more relevant search results.

The disadvantages of a prescriptive, AI-assisted approach to search that cannot anticipate customer needs on a moment by moment basis. Bloomreach users must rely on teams to review, edit and adjust rules and add new ones to their system, which can leave room for human error. In our current climate marked by constant change, a rules-based approach might be too inflexible to keep up with customer demands.

In the age of personalized, intuitive content experiences from brands like Amazon, people expect sites to learn about them in order to interpret and anticipate the next best action they should take. Lucidworks’ machine learning models and user interaction data, such as clicks, form fills and document views, derive insights about the kind of results actual users want. This signal-based approach to capturing customer data allows organizations to generate truly intelligent search recommendations and display search results in the most helpful order, so customers can stay engaged along their path to purchase.

Lucidworks goes beyond a generic black-box approach to artificial intelligence through explainable, accessible AI options that allow users to customize the algorithms and fine-tune results to their needs. Lucidworks Fusion Data Science Toolkit Integration provides seamless integration with query and index pipelines to add intelligence for processing incoming queries and documents. The ability to bring your own data model enables data science teams to develop and validate models built for specific data and use.With Bloomreach, users cannot modify pre-existing models meaning that customers have to adhere to their signal specifications and cannot add additional metadata.

Through Lucidworks’ advanced machine learning approach that includes things like natural language processing (NLP), named entity recognition, deep learning sentiment analysis, semantic search and self-learning and relevancy tuning, brands can optimize their approach to continuously generate smarter and more adept results for their customers.

Acquia Delivers on the Promise of an Enterprise CDP Out of the Box

While no one is denying that CDPs are the way of the future, it’s clear that not all CDPs are created equal. Acquia CDP is certified by the CDP Institute as a RealCDP, fulfilling all requirements needed to provide a complete, unified and accessible customer database. Exponea’s CDP capabilities lack the machine learning configurability, identity resolution capabilities and scalability that are all critical components to succeeding with data-driven commerce. On Exponea’s publicly available product roadmap, they present a vision of a potential future world that contains all the capabilities that the Acquia CDP has offered for years now. The Exponea wishlist features things like standardized use cases and campaign templates and combined product and customer recommendations ― all abilities that the Acquia CDP offers out of the box, informed by insights from our persistent and unified customer database.

Moreover, Exponea’s approach to machine learning is static and limiting as it doesn’t allow for customized use cases. Instead, Exponea leverages rigid CRM-like data structures. However, in reality, every business has unique needs, and we believe a solution shouldn’t box brands into just a handful of pre-fit options. Acquia’s CDP embraces configurations in machine learning so that brands can adjust models to suit their specific needs. This is accomplished by a layered, robust machine learning framework that allows all teams to create and run the tests they want.

Some of the issues with the Exponea solution is that it doesn’t fulfill the true promise of an enterprise CDP. Exponea’s customer identification abilities are limited to exact matching only. This means it cannot ensure a complete and accurate customer record or account for things like variations in email addresses, change of location or cross-device matching.

However, Acquia’s Identity Resolution Engine offers multiple layers of identity resolution, allows you to configure rules to meet your needs and supports more layered identity resolution processes, including fuzzy and probabilistic matching. Acquia CDP also supports marketers who want to combine customer data attributes relative to their brand, things like a customer’s distance from store, their seasonality or their lifetime value, and combine these things with machine learning. The result is a much more complex and personal view of the customer than what is possible through Exponea.

Customers today shop on their own terms and they expect an individualized and engaging experience that spans multiple devices and channels, both online and in-store. An open approach is the key to overcome limitations and power intelligent, personalized digital search and commerce experiences at scale.