2014-11-April-Money-320.jpgWhat does IBM’s acquisition of marketing automation email provider Silverpop do for Big Blue? 

Depends on who you ask.

It’s either a strategic move that harmoniously boosts Big Blue’s digital marketing platform.

Or, perhaps, it’s an acquisition IBM had to make because everyone else is adding software capabilities in the digital marketing era.

Strategy or Follow the Leader?

Atlanta-based Silverpop is a “great partner” for IBM, a perfect integration match between Silverpop's SaaS-based platform and IBM’s vision to offer behavioral marketing and personalization abilities to its enterprise marketing management customers, said Hiral Jasani, digital media industry analyst from Frost & Sullivan

“Big Blue has officially set foot in the cloud-based digital marketing automation arena,” Jasani told CMSWire. “It will now compete with Oracle, Adobe and Salesforce in the race to be a leading enterprise marketing solution for global companies. Silverpop’s highly scalable marketing automation platform has strong adjacencies with IBM Unica’s campaign management and marketing asset management capabilities.”

However, Cory Munchbach of Forrester Research told CMSWire the move is simply IBM’s way to keep up in an acquisition-heavy space and will not prove successful until it demonstrates true integration.

“It's a clear move that follows on what we saw from Adobe, Oracle and SFDC last year with their acquisitions,” Munchbach said. “There are five things we think Silverpop adds to IBM, but as with all these purchases they don't mean much beyond checking the box for another capability until they show what they do for integration. For now it's a ‘we are keeping-up -with-the-Joneses story for all these acquisitions.”

What Does IBM Say?

Big Blue gloated over its prize. Only IBM offers a platform of integrated and natively owned technologies that span all four customer engagement disciplines of marketing, analytics, commerce and content, according to Geoff Galat, vice president of marketing for IBM Smarter Commerce

customer experience, Was IBM's Hand Forced by Industry to Acquire Silverpop?

“Now with Silverpop,” Galat told CMSWire, “we will add even more breadth and depth to our offerings by infusing an even higher degree of personalization for marketers in B2B and B2C organizations of all sizes.” The acquisition “strengthens our established leadership position in the market, which we have been heavily investing in since 2008,” Galat added.

It also further demonstrates IBM's investment and leadership in Smarter Commerce, cloud and big data analytics, Galat said.

“IBM will continue to evaluate multiple factors when considering potential acquisitions; chief among those is delivering superior client and shareholder value,” Galat said when asked about future deals. “We identify companies that complement and enhance the IBM portfolio to better provide an end-to-end solution for our clients, while delivering shareholder value and returns consistent with our financial model.”

What About Integration?

But there’s the continuing integration theme in reaction to the Silverpop deal this week.

Atri Chatterjee, chief marketing officer for Beaverton, Ore.-based Act-On, a direct competitor in the marketing space with IBM and Silverpop, said integration is key behind these acquisitions.

“It’s about tying the technologies together to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts,” Chatterjee told CMSWire. “With marketing automation, specifically, it is a system that when integrated with other systems, be it CRM, CMS or another, converts that static data into smart data."

Dale Renner, CEO of RedPoint Global, a Wellesley, Mass., competitor in the marketing automation space, said that with the proliferation of customer touch points and the explosion of data, companies find it increasingly difficult to keep pace with marketplace dynamics.