ABSI - far beyond system integration

On 16 November 2015     By Julie Minner      Salesforce , Marketing-Automation , Digital-Marketing

Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle were named leaders in 2014’s Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Hubs. Last year was the first time Gartner published this Magic Quadrant.

As we are now almost one year later and Gartner will soon publish a new Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Hubs, I would like to take the time to look back on improvements made by Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle to their marketing clouds in the past year. How did the three of them take Gartner’s criticisms into account? Were they able to carry through sufficient changes in order to keep, or even improve, their leadership position?

First of all…

What is a Digital Marketing Hub?

A Digital Marketing Hub according to Gartner’s definition is “software that can unify disparate marketing data and processes to drive audience acquisition, engagement, conversion and transaction across fragmented and complex decision journeys.” In today’s market, if a company wants to be successful, focus needs to be on personalization and communication across different channels. Therefore attention needs to be paid to customer segmentation and targeting. This requires an aggregated dataset and marketing platform.

The current marketing automation technology landscape however, is still fragmented and exists of different providers offering platforms and solutions that focus on a specific niche or domain (social media, email etc.). Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle were named leaders by Gartner because their current marketing technology portfolio approaches the ideal of a Digital Marketing Hub most closely. They were able to attain this position through acquisitions of marketing technologies from smaller players. Their market position gave them the advantage of being able to acquire best of breed niche technologies of small independent competitors. While each application in itself offers a strong solution in a specific marketing domain, all three were not able yet to integrate the technologies sufficiently in order to reach the ‘magical’ status of a completely integrated ‘Digital Marketing Hub’ in December 2014.

Gartner Magic Quadrant Digital Marketing Hub

Who approaches the Holy Grail of Marketing Automation?

Holy Grail of Marketing Automation

Salesforce is taking on the integration challenge

The main reason for Gartner positioning Salesforce as a leader is the introduction of Journey Builder. With this tool Salesforce wants to integrate the marketing, sales and service ‘silos’ and enable companies to create customer journeys. All this is made possible through Journey Builder and predictive intelligence. Furthermore, Salesforce thanks its leadership position also to its email marketing and lead management. While Journey Builder is a step forward in the integration process of Salesforce’s diverse digital marketing portfolio, it was still too early to speak of a true Digital Marketing Hub in December 2014.

Salesforce.com knight

With its releases in 2015 Salesforce proved that Gartner’s remarks didn’t fall on deaf ears.

The strongest criticism by Gartner last year, was about Salesforce Marketing Cloud customization and integration. “Some customers complain that Salesforce's UX customization and data integration are cumbersome.” The absence of a Data Management Platform (DMP)resulted in Salesforce scoring lower in its ‘ability to execute’ than Adobe and Oracle in the leader quadrant.

Regarding data integration, Salesforce made improvements to its Marketing Cloud connector for the Salesforce.com CRM:

“With new Data Streaming capabilities in the Marketing Cloud connector, you can easily build digital marketing campaigns utilizing data from across the entire Salesforce Customer Success Platform. The continuous data synchronization provides seamless access to all of your Salesforce data, including the data schema and relationships found in your Salesforce CRM, all available to use directly inside the Marketing Cloud (Salesforce release notes, October 2015).”

The enhancements made to Audience Builder improve segmentation and targeting across different channels and platforms:

  • Audiences publish with Salesforce Send Activity (EAP)*: Publish and send to audiences from Audience Builder with tracking back to Salesforce records
  • Copy Audience Functionality Enhancement*: Selected channel for publishing is copied along with filter and segments
  • Predictive Audiences*: Apply Predictive Score insights through new dimensions to filter and segment audiences with drag-and-drop ease

*Salesforce release notes June 2015 & October 2015

Salesforce also made some changes regarding usability.

“We completely re-imagined the first-time configuration and connection user experience from start to finish, making connecting the Marketing, Sales, and Service Clouds faster, more intuitive, and more user-friendly (Salesforce release notes, October 2015).” Throughout 2015 Salesforce also improved its marketing cloud dashboard. It’s now easier to navigate to all the different applications and the loading time is faster. In the dashboard you get an overview of the marketing calendar and different marketing campaigns and you receive real-time updates via Pulse.

A lot of improvements were also made to Journey Builder. “In [the Summer ‘15] release [Salesforce] primarily focused on implementing improvements to the customer experience through various updates (Salesforce release notes, June 2015).”  Duplicate and unnecessary API calls were removed from the User Interface to increase performance. A few usability enhancements were made to give a clearer overview of the Journey Builder dashboard and the different ‘pathways’ of the customer journey. The same goes for Automation Studio. A feature released in October ‘15 is that “emails in Journey Builder will now support personalization for event payload attributes using the standard Personalization String format. This feature opens up a new set of Journey Builder data, specific to a particular contact and interaction (such as commercial transactions via custom events or Sales and Service Cloud events), for you to use and make your emails even more relevant and personal.”

It is clear that Salesforce did a great effort to improve usability, connectivity and data management (segmentation, targeting, personalization) by improving the Marketing Cloud Salesforce.com connector, and tools like Audience Builder and Journey Builder.

More info in the Salesforce release notes here.

Adobe builds a bridge between marketing and sales

Adobe’s strength lies in its top notch Creative Cloud products: Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign etc. Its quasi monopoly in the offering of content creation products, together with its Marketing Cloud, is its greatest advantage in the strive to become a ‘Digital Marketing Hub’. Adobe can offer marketers the entire spectrum of content creation, distribution, analytics etc. However, Salesforce’s strength is Adobe’s major weakness. Gartner critiques that its focus is “purely on marketers, and not so much on the sales side of businesses. That means plenty of content creation and analytics, but less of a CRM focus, since that hasn't been its historical strength.” Adobe’s most powerful tool is Adobe Analytics.

Adobe knight

In March 2015 Adobe added the ability to use customer data from your CRM in the Marketing Cloud, but a an even greater strategic step is the partnership with Microsoft Dynamics in April 2015 “that will redefine how enterprises manage their marketing, sales and services to better engage with customers across all touch points. [...] This new integration will help eliminate frustrating customer experiences that result when marketing, sales and service interactions are siloed.” The partnership is a major step forward for Adobe, as well as Microsoft. The latter seems to have decided to move away from acquisitioning marketing automation technologies. The integration of Adobe’s extensive portfolio is also moving forward.

More info in Adobe’s 2015 release notes here.

Oracle is struggling with usability for marketers

Oracle is also leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant, but like the other two it was criticized for insufficient integration of its marketing technology portfolio. “Oracle has a history of limited integration and innovation and areas of significant overlap in acquired products. While there are indications it is moving more deliberately to integrate products, Oracle will need to do a better job communicating how these products will come together over time (Gartner, December 2014).” Oracle’s strength lies in offering two equally strong platforms: Eloqua for B2B and Responsys for B2C. “Oracle offers nearly equivalent depth for both B2B and B2C marketers, although the solutions are partitioned (Gartner, December 2014).” Oracle’s acquisition of BlueKai, a leading Data Management Platform, also contributed to attaining a leader position and explains why it scores better than Salesforce regarding the ‘ability to execute’. A final criticism by Gartner is that Oracle’s marketing solutions are perhaps “more skilled at serving the CIO, but unproven at serving the CMO and the CMO's team”, by which they point to the lack of usability of the Marketing Cloud platform.

Oracle knight

While the quality of Oracle’s Marketing Cloud is undisputed, It is clear that Oracle has to consider improving the usability of its marketing tools if it wants to keep its leader position. The big question is: were the releases of 2015 sufficiently directed to improving usability for marketers for Oracle to keep or improve its position in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant? When browsing the Internet little is found on Oracle’s usability improvements of the Marketing Cloud. A few reviews about Eloqua, found on TrustRadius, give the impression that the quality of the product is estimated high, but usability appears to remain a big issue:

"Excellent tool, poor usability" (26/6/2015)

"Industry leader, but complex product." (16/6/2015)

"A lot of features but hard to master" (16/6/2015)

More info on changes made in Oracle Eloqua in 2015 here.

After walking through the release notes of the three leaders in marketing technology, it is clear that none of them rested on his laurels. Things are moving in the industry. I’m looking forward to Gartner’s evaluation of the current state of all three leaders regarding their quest to become a real Digital Marketing Hub.

Discover the complete Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Hubs Report