It's one thing to spend a couple of billion dollars acquiring digital marketing technologies and another to make them truly useful to today's marketers.
Nobody knows this better than companies like Oracle or Adobe, who went on multiyear shopping sprees to beef-up their capabilities in email management, social listening, customer analytics, email management, omnichannel messaging and other areas. The big question was could these companies quickly integrate these products in a meaningful way amid a fast-changing marketing industry.
Oracle, a newer player in the "marketing cloud" arena, showed off a series of its summer releases today at its Interact 2014 show in San Francisco, drawing boffo reviews from many of the 1,000-plus marketers in attendance. Clearly, the unofficial theme of the conference is "we are very, very good at integrating," as marketing cloud General Manager Kevin Akeroyd told us last evening.
The question of integration is key because marketers sending messages across channels now need to personalize the right message to increasingly mobile customers at just the right time and in the right place. Adobe has made progress in some areas. For example, a year after purchasing Neolane's email management tools, it has them working with three of the five other areas of its product suite. Another update is expected this fall.
Based on today's presentations, it appears Oracle is moving faster following acquisitions that included $871 million for Eloqua, $1.5 billion for Responsys and an estimated $350 million-plus for BlueKai. As Akeroyd noted, Oracle integrated Eloqua in just six months, and added the features of Compendium to that just four months later.
John Stetic, group vice president for the Oracle Marketing Cloud, today demonstrated how features from BlueKai, Reponsys, PushIO, Eloqua and other acquired companies are all part of the current release.
For example, a marketer can now use a single system to track social media traffic, target emails to specific users, have content approved through a simplified workflows, send messages that adapt to whatever device the person is using, coordinate text and email, set up new campaigns and manage content assets. "We're going to be even more excited in the fall when we start to talk about additional integrations," he said.
To be sure, it will take years to determine if the massive investments in today's marketing technologies will pay off for Oracle or other large players. Scores of new, cheap, SaaS-based alternatives are readily available, offering the advantages of easier upgrades. And new marketing demands surface by the month, an evolutionary process that is likely to test the useful lifespan of the acquired technologies. But today, the marketers seemed to like what they heard.
They Like It
CMSWire asked some of the marketers in the audience what they liked and what they didn't about what they saw. The feedback was overall quite positive.
For example, we asked Susan Jit, a marketing manager for Harry & David who used the Reponsys platform before the acquisition, how she'd rate the tools on a scale of five. "I was expecting three and what they showed me was a five," she said. "It seems like it's a lot easiier. There's so much that they can offer. The only challenge is learning the things they can offer."
Kevin Bird, president of Buddhacom, a digital agency, said the new products were "absolutely" things they would use with clients. "We work with our clients on the SRM and Eloqua platform, so the addition of the Responsys and BlueKai are a big plus," he said. "To be able to go back and forth between Responsys and Eloqua gives them scale."
"Responsys gives our customer the opportunity to develop a deeper relationship and understanding of the customer's wants and needs," he added. "When you combine that with the BlueKai data management platform, it enables medium to large retailers or enterprise-level companies to be able to extract data that not only enables their sales teams, but enables product development and enables customer relationship management development."
Steve Mosinski, director of e-commerce for the Dollar Thrifty Automative Group, said the tools would let him build on the Responsys platform he already uses. "We're looking at becoming a little more dynamic, such as geo-targeting customers when they arrive at an airport," he said. "We can find a way to make that kind of campaign setup work for us and get a little bit more dynamic ... we probably need to get better in targeting."