Who is winning the Marketing Cloud wars?

PRWeek sister brand The Hub takes an in-depth look at five tech giants and their race towards the first truly integrated digital marketing hub.

IBM thought of it first, but Adobe got there before them. Salesforce caught up quickly, HP's right behind, and Oracle's buying its way to the party.

Welcome to the digital marketing cloud wars, where five legacy software companies take each other on in the battle to win the hearts and minds of CMOs across the land. While each company has its own strengths and is at a different stage in the journey, the destination is the same - to be the first to offer a completely integrated suite of marketing tools that provide an end-to-end solution for the increasingly digitally oriented CMO. The question is: who will get there first?

The growing demand for the digital marketing cloud
Recent years have seen explosive growth in the marketing technology sector, causing research firm Gartner to famously predict that CMOs would outspend CIOs on IT by the year 2017. With the rise of the connected consumer, and the importance of search and social media in their decision making, the traditional path to purchase has been obliterated. It's now much more difficult to engage consumers in their journey from "see product" to "buy product," since it takes place on so many different channels. This includes search engines, web pages, blogs, social media, digital ads, and email.

As the complexity of reaching customers across a swath of digital options increases, brands are more willing to spend money on technology that will take some of the guesswork off their hands, automating their marketing across different channels, engaging customers on social, and using analytics to be more efficient in their targeting. They could buy a platform to do each of those things. Or they could get one vendor to give them all the solutions they need for their digital marketing strategy.

That's the gold standard that Salesforce, IBM, Adobe, Oracle, and HP are striving for. There's plenty of money to be made in being the single provider for all digital marketing solutions. The margins are high and customers are less likely to shift to other platforms once they've put all their eggs in one basket.

The quickest way to scale up to offering that complete solution is through acquisitions. All five companies have snapped up smaller software firms to make them part of their digital marketing arsenal. However, the real challenge has been getting all those parts to work with each other, which is where the true value of a digital marketing hub can be realized.

"Vendors with more than one piece are trying to demonstrate multiplied value, instead of additive," says Forrester analyst Cory Munchbach. "They're saying that, by buying five solutions that work together in a unique way, it can provide far more value than if you had these five components working separately."

However, the promise of these digital marketing cloud solutions is yet to be realized, as a lot of the acquisitions were made fairly recently and the integrations aren't quite mature enough. So what does each marketing cloud offer, and how far are they along the journey to complete integration?

What makes a digital marketing cloud?
There are at least 4 components that every digital marketing cloud should be offering:

1) Multi-channel marketing automation – For publishing and promoting content that helps marketers engage customers across several different channels, particularly mobile and social. It also needs automation for the intelligent algorithms that sequence how that engagement happens.

2) Content management tools – To create and manage the content and engagement tools that can be deployed across different channels.

3) Social media tools – For listening to and engaging with social media networks to tap into consumer conversations, responding with custom content, or social media advertising.

4) Analytics platform – To create profiles of consumers based on their online behavior, and evaluate which marketing campaigns are working and which aren't.

Each of the five companies offers these components to varying degrees, which makes it difficult to compare their individual applications to each other. However, using this benchmark, we can evaluate the company's offerings as a whole, identifying their strengths, as well as the gaps they're trying to fill.

Click here to read more on The Hub, including reviews of five digital marketing cloud offerings.

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