Adobe bulked up its Marketing Cloud earlier this year when it acquired marketing-automation and campaign-management solutions provider Neolane. Through other acquisitions, which include Omniture’s Web analytics (acquired in 2009), Day Software’s content-management system (2010), Demdex’s data-management platform (DMP) (2011), Auditude’s video advertising platform (2011) and Efficient Frontier’s media-buying platform (2012), Adobe offers solutions for analytics, targeting, social media, Web content management and media optimization.
Adobe offers some ecommerce capabilities through its Adobe CQ eCommerce product, which is designed to let marketers create landing pages, embed social media features in product selection pages and deliver other branded content across the Web and mobile sites. The product is part of Adobe’s Web Experience Management platform and integrates with the multichannel commerce platform hybris (which was acquired by SAP in August).
Yet it remains unclear what the impact of SAP's acquisition of hybris will have on its partnership with Adobe. Ecommerce is not one of Adobe’s core strengths, but it would not be a surprise for the company to expand its offerings through an acquisition or partnership with another ecommerce platform.
As mobile advertising continues to heat up, Adobe is also building out its mobile capabilities. In November, Adobe unveiled mobile services for its Marketing Cloud, specifically for Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target. The services include a new user interface, app experience targeting based on GPS location and audience testing. The company has said that it will add mobile capabilities for Adobe Campaign and Adobe Experience Manager next year.
In addition, Adobe needs to clarify what its value proposition is for marketers, said Nucleus Research VP Rebecca Wettemann. “We know what IBM’s message is — smarter commerce — and we know what Salesforce’s message is, which is being a ‘customer company,’ but what is Adobe’s message?” Wettemann asked. “While they may have some great pieces of technology that they’ve acquired, until a prospect identifies with their pitch, they’re not going to have the position in the marketplace that perhaps they should.”
After making its mark in the sales and service sectors, CRM giant Salesforce.com is setting its sights on the marketer. CEO Marc Benioff has said on several occasions that marketing will be the company’s next “$1 billion business.” Salesforce.com’s Marketing Cloud is built on the social media monitoring platform Radian6 (acquired in 2011), social media marketing and campaign-management platform Buddy Media (acquired in 2012) and the email marketing services firm ExactTarget, which it acquired this year.
The company also unveiled its new platform, Salesforce1, at this year’s Dreamforce. Salesforce1 includes new application programming interfaces (APIs) and tools that are designed to make it easier for developers to build custom mobile apps as well as connect the company’s customer data across different devices and apps. The idea is to let users “sell, service and market on any device,” according to the company’s Salesforce1 website.
Even though Salesforce.com has made progress in closing the gaps among its products, its offerings are light when it comes to ecommerce solutions and the ability to do extensive campaign testing and other forms of data processing. The company offers several ecommerce solutions through its AppExchange and partnerships with analytic firms like Birst and GoodData, but it has yet to offer a dedicated ecommerce or analytics solution.
Not having a strong analytics solution puts a company that is pursuing marketers at a disadvantage, argued Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst of Constellation Research. “You can't do marketing effectively without putting data to use,” he said. “Any marketing product without a link to big data and analytics is outdated in 12 months.”
Like Salesforce.com and Adobe, Oracle also has a reputation for buying its way into markets, and it has built out its marketing suite with numerous acquisitions. Oracle bought the intellectual property assets of demand-generation specialist Market2Lead in 2010 and acquired marketing-automation company Eloqua and social-marketing firm Vitrue last year. In October this year, the company announced that it will acquire both BigMachines, a provider of cloud-based sales automation services, and content-marketing startup Compendium.
But even with its many acquisitions, Oracle still has a few gaps to close in advertising technology, such as mobile marketing solutions. Integrating its many acquisitions is another challenge, Wettemann noted. “In the marketing space, Oracle’s biggest competition is itself,” she said. “With the different acquisitions and different sales strategies, it [Oracle] has the potential to be its own worst enemy in selling to the marketer.”
Wettemann also dismissed Oracle and Salesforce.com’s new partnership as “window dressing” while noting that, like Adobe, Oracle needs a “unifying message” for its marketing suite. Oracle, she argued, needs to “explain what its pillars of technology are so that they can be more prescriptive in the way that they do marketing.”
Founded more than 100 years ago, IBM has navigated numerous technology shifts. Today, Big Blue is competing with other enterprise giants for the attention of CMOs and their budgets. IBM has built up a huge portfolio that includes the business intelligence platform Cognos (2007), marketing analytics firm Unica (2010), Web analytics provider Coremetrics (2010), retail analytics provider DemandTec (2011) and customer service analytics provider Tealeaf Technology (2012) — all of which it has tied together in its Smarter Commerce initiative. The company has also launched a “MobileFirst” suite of mobile technologies and services that are aimed at SMBs and large enterprises.
Despite these acquisitions, IBM has yet to develop its own CRM system to help companies collect and process their customer data nor has it developed many options for small and medium-sized businesses, according to analysts.
“The hole for IBM today is the transactional CRM system,” Wettemann said. “However, they’re doing a lot in that area, which includes their partnership with [independent CRM company] SugarCRM, which is also making the integrations with Cast Iron Systems [a cloud-based data company that IBM acquired and renamed the WebSphere Cast Iron Cloud Integration] platform more attractive … to the smaller midmarket guys.”
Leslie Ament, SVP of research and principal analyst at Hypatia Research Group, also noted that IBM does not have its own CRM solution but pointed out that it “partners agnostically with nearly every CRM vendor you can think of,” she said.
Given that acquisitions require companies to spend time integrating the different companies and technologies, partnerships can be an attractive alternative, Ament added.
“There have been a lot of acquisitions in the digital marketing and social media space lately and it will take time to integrate those companies successfully, and so the acquisition rates could slow down," Ament said. "Currently, we’re seeing a lot more partnering.”