Forrester: Adobe Marketing Cloud Makes Big Waves, SAS Is 'Best-Kept Secret'

cory munchbach forresterForrester Research crowned Adobe Marketing Cloud in its first-ever ranking of enterprise marketing software suites – informally called “marketing clouds.”

The report, compiled by analysts Cory Munchbach and Rusty Warner and released Tuesday, encompassed eight vendors (Adobe, Salesforce.com, SAS, Teradata, IBM, Oracle, SAP and Marketo). Munchbach and Warner interviewed three clients from each vendor and tallied 53 client responses to an online survey. The solutions were evaluated in Q2 2014.

Adobe’s top positioning had to do with the strength of its core offering and its product strategy. Salesforce.com was slightly weaker in its offering and strategy, but was still in the top “leader” category, according to Forrester.

IBM and, surprisingly, Oracle and SAS Institute were solidly in the second-tier “strong performers” category.

Independent marketing automation provider Marketo and data analytics company Teradata, which has what it calls an “integrated marketing cloud,” hovered between “strong performers” and the third-tier “contenders” categories.

And SAP, which has the hybris commerce suite and struck a deal in March to resell Adobe Marketing Cloud, had a better product offering than Marketo, but its strategy placed it solidly in the “contender” category.


The Surprises

Oracle’s ranking surprised because it positions itself competitively against both Salesforce.com and Adobe. But Forrester’s report indicated it was competitive primarily in terms of its market presence. Oracle declined to comment.

Oracle’s status is partially due to lack of integration, Munchbach said, particularly in the division between its B2B and B2C marketing suites (Eloqua and Responsys, respectively).

“[Some clients] didn’t want those two things to exist separately and wanted one unified system,” she explained. “Though I understand completely [Oracle’s] position where they’re serving different use cases between Eloqua and Responsys, [which is why the priority] is bringing richer functionality to each of those platforms.”

Indeed, Oracle’s most recent integration focused on connecting its BlueKai data-management platform with Eloqua’s B2B campaign tools. And Kevin Akeroyd, Oracle’s GM and SVP of its marketing cloud, has stated in the past his aspirations for Responsys.

Still, for a company whose marketing message focuses on best-in-class technology as well as integration, Forrester’s claim that its integration is lagging stings.

“They’ve done a lot in the last nine months to integrate,” Munchbach said, “But there’s still a fair amount of work to do in terms of integration and having customers who can vouch for its seamlessness.”

Despite the occasional client grumblings around the separation of Responsys and Eloqua, however, Munchbach said Oracle’s point of attack should focus on the plumbing for its data exchange, such that data ingested by, say, the social platform can be easily repurposed within the campaign management tools.

The other surprise in the Wave was the high standing of SAS, an analytics provider often ignored in the marketing cloud discussion.

“They are one of the best-kept secrets in marketing in my opinion,” Munchbach said. “They have a very strong set of capabilities in the marketing area around analytics. That positions them uniquely to do well in the future.”

The only thing keeping it out of the top leader category is its middling strategy – which Munchbach doesn’t anticipate will change, given that SAS hasn’t tried to build strong messaging around its marketing cloud software.

Still, she said, SAS has key components around campaign management and marketing resource management, though she added it’s less focused on execution channels – which is what Adobe is known for.

The Questions

If you’re wondering what exactly IBM and SAP are doing in terms of their respective marketing software strategies, you’re not alone.

IBM, which has analytics in Unica and campaign management in Silverpop, among other tech components, has never committed to a suite.

“I get no clear indication as to the future of Unica and Silverpop working together,” Munchbach said. Yet, IBM still fields decent technology, even if it’s not all offered together. As such, the vendor has the tech to address client marketing challenges, but its sales model focuses more on services and less on products.

“IBM can justifiably make a claim to having a solution to any marketing challenge,” Munchbach said. “It’s a much bigger question of how those things work together or if they’ll even make them work together. IBM can be on everyone’s radar and make any RFP or short list, but in terms of being a marketing cloud, their messaging isn’t nearly as aggressive.”

And it’s still unclear what SAP is doing. By all outward appearances, it’s not really a player in the marketing cloud game, though Munchbach said she believes SAP tries to compete.

Yet SAP has a very close relationship with Adobe – supposedly reselling Adobe Marketing Cloud. Conversely, Adobe uses SAP’s hybris to supply commerce features to its suite.

“SAP is very limited,” Munchbach said. “It’s very unclear [regarding the Adobe partnership] where one starts and the other begins, and that’s why they’re in the contender category.”

Teradata was also a curious case. Forrester ranked the data software provider’s offering highly, though below Adobe, SAS and Salesforce.com. Its middling product strategy, however, pushed it closer to the edge of the “contender” category.

Teradata’s campaign management software, Aprimo, Munchbach said, forms the backbone of its marketing cloud. “They’ve bolted that on top of data warehousing, and are looking at the different scenarios that would be relevant for their offering,” Munchbach said.

While Aprimo, which originated in 1998 and was acquired by Teradata in 2010, is an older technology, Munchbach didn’t see that as a detriment since Teradata has since added functionality. Teradata’s biggest concern is whether it can take its approach to data and push it into the digital marketing realm, since Aprimo traditionally focused on marketing resource management.

The Stalwarts

As mentioned, Adobe and Salesforce.com led the pack.

Insiders have criticized Salesforce.com due to its lack of integration – its ExactTarget campaign management suite in particular is generally regarded as an outlier, even though it’s central to the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. (The company recently dropped the ExactTarget branding.)

Forrester noted that integration was still an issue for Salesforce.com. “There were customers who said it was more challenging than expected,” Munchbach said.

However, Salesforce.com earned second-place status, according to the Wave report, “thanks to its product road map, unified interface and data platform and utility of its Journey Builder product.” Journey Builder is a customer interaction mapping tool with a drag-and-drop interface.

And Adobe’s emphasis on integration paid off, at least in Forrester’s eyes. Adobe has what it calls Core Services, an initiative announced in March to incent the six different applications constituting the Adobe Marketing Cloud to work together. (Despite the name, Core Services isn’t so much a service as it is technical functionality.)

While not everything within Adobe’s stack is seamless, Munchbach said its Core Services strategy brings it much closer to true out-of-the-box integration.

“I don’t think [Adobe would] disagree that [integration] is a massive undertaking,” she explained. “It’s difficult to build technology out [in terms of functionality] and figure out what the pricing will look like and how to justify giving some [features] away [for free].”

How Important Is Integration?

As one might expect, the big differentiator between marketing cloud providers is the extent to which they’ve integrated their tools. Munchbach, after conducting this report, said she was genuinely surprised how much commitment the vendors put into combining their assets.

And yet, she noticed marketers are often wishy-washy in terms of what they want from their software providers.

“Marketers are talking out of both sides of their mouths,” Munchbach said. “They see the integration and want the integration, but at the same time they’re hesitant to move away from best-of-breed when it comes to making those decisions.”

It’s a tendency she sees reflected in the way marketers invest in their marketing suites. While the marketing cloud providers would no doubt love to be a client’s sole provider, there are always elements from other suppliers – whether third-party or in-house – within an enterprise’s cloud.

1 Comment

  1. Interesting report -- there's a case to be made for an open platform that is extensible through native integrations and published APIs vs. requiring intra-platform integrations across the components of the Clouds. I think part of the confusion in the market is driven indirectly by the providers themselves, with some of them sketching a unified vision that (despite built in connectors) can look like a one-stop-shop. There is also the analogy to the ERP system so well known (as not fondly remembered) by the I.T. buyers, who tend to look at comprehensive systems as belonging to a single vendor vs. best-of-breed. The difference is that marketers -- and I know Forrester gets this (as does Gartner;) -- are not welcoming of "lock in" in any form and require flexibility and nimbleness. Probably the true value of a Hub vs. a linked set of point solutions is in the "shared services" layer -- those critical components such as a master marketing record, shared analytics, shared profiles, shared workflow and collaboration -- these are what makes a Hub a Hub and will IMO drive the differentiation in the future.

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