Enterprise technology providers like Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce.com have engaged over the last four years in a marketing cloud arms race, snapping up point solutions at breakneck speed.
Consider that from 2010 to 2013, tech giants cumulatively spent close to $30 billion acquiring marketing solutions.
The press releases announcing each of these acquisitions tend to go the best-thing-since-sliced-bread route, as if new functions simply plug into existing software, generating immediate benefits for clients. But, practically speaking, the integration process takes time and acquiring companies need to develop new ways to sell these aggregated suites and make them palatable to marketer clients.
One of the biggest issues, said a digital marketing source whose company partners with large enterprise companies, is that the acquirers don’t always build applications with ease of use in mind for digital marketers since these companies are typically used to selling to IT directors or caretakers of the data center.
Vendors don’t concentrate first on filling out features and functionality in marketing applications since the initial focus, naturally, is how the point solution integrates into their larger cloud offerings.
That integration isn't easy. Data solutions provider Teradata acquired marketing automation from Aprimo in 2010 and email marketing capabilities from eCircle in 2012, finally merging the two in 2013 as the product Teradata eCircle across the EMEA region. "We spent quite a bit of time putting the teams together to make sure we have tightly woven integration," said Deb Woods, VP of product marketing for Teradata Applications.
In some worst-case scenarios, vendors may realize they lack the capacity to evolve a product following an acquisition.
“One example is Oracle, which acquired [CRM solution] Siebel some number of light years ago,” said Bill Wagner, CEO of standalone marketing technology solutions provider StrongView. “They acquired a marketing platform and they basically let it atrophy to the point where it's not even really part of the equation anymore. They had to go out and buy a net new marketing application.”
Since Siebel, Oracle's acquisitions have included B2B marketing tools from Eloqua, content marketing with Compendium and cross-channel campaign management with Responsys. It was the Responsys buy, which happened just last December, that catapulted Oracle into B2C marketing.
Kevin Akeroyd, SVP and GM of the Oracle Marketing Cloud, told AdExchanger that the enterprise company’s goal is to help its customers develop “Universal Customer Profiles” through data integration and management, content marketing, analytics with “marketing automation married to data and content.” The Marketing Cloud is being wired to work amid the broader Customer Experience Cloud (CX) offering.
Beyond integration, the challenge for Oracle and its acquisition-happy peers is the need to relearn how to sell products that are in and of themselves being redefined. The opportunity is that once a client purchases a point solution (or once a vendor inherits the customer base of an acquired company), it can start pushing more product to, in theory, add more marketing functionality.
“Some of our customers might have come into Teradata [Integrated Marketing Management] beginning with marketing ops (for plan and spend management), but may have since added campaign management,” Woods said. (Teradata rolled out a new version of its Customer Interaction Manager product Tuesday with predictive analytics baked into its campaign management suite.) “We’re seeing this a lot now, especially since we made the [email marketing solution] eCircle acquisition.”
But this strategy can create additional complications. While some marketers embrace the simplicity of buying from one vendor, others are wary of it. Ryan Bonifacino, VP of digital strategy at jewelry manufacturer and retailer Alex and Ani, told AdExchanger in a recent interview that the aggressive upsell tactics of large marketing cloud vendors are off-putting.
Hiral Jasani, industry analyst for the media practice at technology research firm Frost & Sullivan, said vendor messaging around product suites is consistent with the solutions deployed by client organizations. But, she added, “The tricky part is to understand whether the firm ends up getting operational use once the solution is deployed. The learning curves are still steep and that’s the biggest growth restraint.” This takes us back to ease of use for the marketer which, Jasani said, is key for adoption.