Will Adobe become the go-to company for all digital marketing technology? Company executives, speaking at the Adobe Summit in Salt Lake City today, certainly paint that picture. But a dynamic and expanding industry proves there is room for plenty of other players, as digital marketing complexity expands.
Adobe's drive to integrate more and more marketing functionality into its Marketing Cloud may be welcomed by some of its largest customers. But it also points to the challenge of digital marketing: The inherent complexity of marketing tech and the constant thirst for new tools that fill gaps -- from startups or otherwise.
In speeches this morning, Adobe Executives here largely celebrated their recent roll-up of acquisitions such as Omniture and Day Software, which have now been fully integrated into the Marketing Cloud. The suite includes single sign-on, integrated asset and tag management, collaboration, among other features, presented in a single interface.
"We want to change the world through digital experiences," said Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen. "Bring the best of creative expression ... break through the clutter of the buzzwords and reach the customers. Let's collectively make the real time enterprise a reality."
It all sounds good on paper. And Adobe did a good job showing how clients such as REI have standardized everything from creating and managing digital assets to managing mobile apps around Adobe's products.
Brad Brown, vice president of Information Services at REI, said the company was making a "big bet" on the Adobe Marketing Cloud.
But what about the other technology providers? As dozens of companies in Adobe's partner pavilion prove, there's plenty of room for new technology, especially if it solves a specific pain point. There's still plenty of e-commerce, CRM and niche customer experience applications that Adobe doesn't own.
Living Below the Iceberg
One example is Elastic Path, which earlier this month signed an agreement with Adobe to collaborate on e-commerce platform technology, product integration, sales and marketing.
"Adobe above the iceberg, with the obvious ones: analytics, social, test and target," said Lisa Walker, product marketing manager with Elastic Path. "But there's also below the iceberg with e-commerce and back-end tax integrations. Big Data is coming, analytics will have to get stronger, and there's predictive analytics coming."
Clearly plenty of technology companies will coexist with Adobe, and probably many of them will be acquired. Even the tag management vendors don't seem terrified, though Adobe has made centralized tag management part of the Marketing Cloud, although there might be some scrambling in the back channels of venture-backed tag management space.
"Google Analytics didn't kill the enterprise analytics space; in fact, it helped to educate the market and increase adoption of enterprise solutions," wrote Jay Calavas, the chief evangelist of Tealium, when I asked him what he thought Adobe would do to companies in the tag management space.
"We are seeing the tag management space continue to evolve rapidly," said Calavas. "What we have is a classic barbell market, where free solutions will dominate one end of the market, and an enterprise provider will dominate the other."
That's a theme here at the Adobe Summit, where the point players figure out how to craft a technology product position as "best of breed" -- closely integrated but also complementary to Adobe's offering.
"Adobe suite -- it's very promising," said Ashwin Nayak, director of professional services with Quaero, an Adobe partner. "Thy are bringing in the experience manager and profiling. The question is how many people are going into that full suite versus picking best of breed of technology."
Being Best of Breed
And it's clear that Adobe will continue to partner with the companies it perceives as best of breed. Two examples: Adobe is partnering with Epsilon to integrate the Adobe products into Epsilon's Agility Loyalty Program. Adobe's Experience manager will integrate with PhoneGap Enterprise, and mobile app development platform. Another part of the mix are the many third-party CRM systems and data analytics platforms. It's clear Adobe has that in mind as well, announcing a partnership with SAP on data analytics.
So, while Adobe's integration moves are impressive and not without notice, the underlying complexity of running sophisticated digital marketing operations shows that hundreds -- if not thousands -- of tools will still be necessary.
There's a reason why Scott Brinker's now-famous chart includes more than 940 companies. Will all of them survive? Of course not. But the ones that figure out how to fill the customer gaps will continue to flourish, and they may even end up being acquired by companies such as Adobe as the digital marketing ecosystem expands.