Web Content Management Systems (Web CMS) are the backbone of digital experience (DX) delivery — at least if you listen to Forrester Research analyst Ted Schadler.

In a Forrester Wave for Web Content Management platforms in February, he wrote: "Along every step of the customer journey, from discovery to engagement, companies use some specialized product — marketing software suites, commerce suites, customer service systems, social networks, community sites and so on. Each one of these is linked to or built on a web content management backbone."

Guess what Salesforce couldn’t show the crowd of 150,000 in San Francisco at Dreamforce last week? A Web CMS.

Its major marketing cloud competitors could. Adobe offers Experience Manager (AEM), IBM has its Web Content Manager and Oracle has WebCenter Sites

What It Means to Salesforce

Gartner Research VP Mick MacComascaigh told CMSWire Salesforce's lack of a Web CMS is "not a hindrance, per se." 

"However, it would be one heck of an opportunity for Salesforce to have a stronger story around Web content management and content marketing," said MacComascaigh, one of the authors of Gartner's most recent Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management

Customer data and point solutions play an increasingly important role, according to Brian Payne, vice president of technology for Connective DX, a Boston-based digital agency that works with many Salesforce Marketing Cloud clients.

But, Payne said, "as long as Salesforce lacks a legit CMS, and calling CloudPages a CMS is a huge stretch, it’s role in content/experience delivery is diminished as compared to Adobe, Oracle and other competitors.” 

Payne called Salesforce’s lack of a CMS a “big gap” — but not one that's necessary to close completely.

Marketo isn’t going to move into the CMS space,” Payne added. “Adobe isn’t going to move toward CRM. And other leading marketing cloud players like Oracle seem to be better at acquisition than integration.”

CRM For DX

Does Salesforce think it needs a CMS? Apparently not.

It's already delivering excellent DX with the world's most-used CRM system, according to Eric Stahl, senior vice president of product marketing for the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, the platform Salesforce built with acquisitions such as ExactTarget, Buddy Media and Radian6.

When CMSWire asked Stahl about Salesforce’s lack of a Web CMS, he responded:

“While many companies claim to be a ‘system of record’ for marketing, our customers know that it's impossible to be a system of record without a powerful complete CRM at the center. Combining the Marketing Cloud with the Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Community Cloud, and now IoT Cloud, Salesforce is the only company that delivers a complete CRM that powers customer journeys across all interactions."

Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud is moving from “systems of record to systems of engagement and intelligence,” Stahl added.

“The idea of a marketing cloud and having a central hub is absolutely the direction marketing technology is headed in, according to our customers,” he continued.

“Having this marketing hub doesn’t preclude the idea of openness or innovation. There will always be innovation happening across the ecosystem where an organization may want to experiment. We are an open platform, which is as critical as ever. While we’re consolidating things in the Marketing Cloud, we also integrate with the ecosystem.”

Web Experience vs. Web CMS

In Forrester's 2014 evaluation of enterprise marketing software suite (EMSS) vendors, analysts did not view lack of a native Web CMS as a critical flaw. 

"Consistently in the various surveys we do about buying behavior, the vendor's — or brand's — website ranks very high as a source of influence at all stages of the decision journey, for both consumer and business purchase decisions," said Forrester VP and principal analyst Lori Wizdo. "So, it's easy to make an assumption that a solid marketing cloud offering better include a Web CMS."  

The selection of a Web CMS is often made by the IT department, outside of marketing's control, she said.

"So, in practice," she told CMSWire, "it's more important that the marketing cloud offering have the ability to fully leverage the website as a channel to deliver a personalized, contextual experience. That takes certain capabilities in the Web CMS and certain real-time personalization and analytics capabilities, but not necessarily a native CMS as part of the cloud or suite functionality."

IoT Invested

Salesforce claims its new IoT Cloud will transform the Internet of Things (IoT) into the Internet of Customers.

“The Marketing Cloud has a very special relationship with IoT Cloud,” Stahl said. “With the Marketing Cloud, we have always enabled marketers to manage massive amounts of data about customers. But the potential to connect to the Internet of Things is a whole new level of scale and involves volumes of data previously unthinkable.”

The IoT Cloud connects to connected devices, apps, sensors, and more, and ties the events that come from the IoT universe to customer journeys.

“The relationship with Marketing Cloud is special,” Stahl added, “because of the potential of the IoT is ultimately about engagement with customers.”

’Breakthrough’ Innovation

Is the IoT Cloud integration enough to pull Salesforce ahead of Adobe, Oracle and IBM?

Constellation Research’s Natalie Petouhoff, vice president and principal analyst, called the IoT Cloud “breakthrough” technology in a blog post

She told CMSWire Salesforce remains “very focused on customer experience, especially on the cusp of IOT of customer experience.” Salesforce’s focus on customer experience IoT may make them a winner in customer experience, she added.

The differences between Salesforce’s marketing cloud and Oracle’s and Adobe’s? Acquisitions.

They’ve all spent billions buying marketing technology, but, Petouhoff said, “Salesforce ... has kept is simpler. The question always is: how much technology can you provide that people are actually going to use? The more complicated the technology, certainly the more data and accuracy and precision marketers can be. But it also takes training and change how those marketing roles do their job.”

Acquisitions Become Integrations

Stahl told CMSWire Radian6 and Buddy Media are now integrated as Social Studio, delivering social listening, engagement and publishing.

screenshot of the salesforce marketing cloud journey builder platform

It’s also integrated ExactTarget and a CRM-based advertising platform, Active Audiences, into Marketing Cloud, with the Journey Builder (Salesforce’s real-time, 1-to-1 marketing engine) at the center. 

“This means that you have a single marketing platform to engage with your customers wherever they are on their journey with your brand,” Stahl said. “Customers are seeing great success with the next generation of Journey Builder, which we announced at Connections, our digital marketing conference." 

Customer Chatter

Salesforce was a strong performer in the July  Forrester Wave for Real Time Interaction Management. All four of the big marketing cloud vendors — Adobe, IBM, Oracle and Salesforce — scored similarly in terms of managing digital experiences, including dynamic email content and web personalization, according to Rusty Warner, principal analyst serving customer insights professionals for Forrester Research.

“IBM was a bit ahead because of real-time decision capabilities,” Warner told CMSWire, “packaged in its Interact module, part of IBM Marketing Solutions versus its marketing cloud.”

But, Warner predicted, the new IoT Cloud's real-time data management and complex event processing capabilities, married with the Salesforce Marketing Cloud's digital marketing and engagement capabilities, will strengthen Salesforce's position for real-time interaction management.

One of the nine Salesforce Marketing Cloud customers Warner and Forrester surveyed uses Salesforce Marketing Cloud for retention marketing, primarily email and web recommendations.

“They have been pleased with the uplift in conversion rates from the more personalized experiences they deliver,” Warner told CMSWire. “The other retailer uses the predictive intelligence capabilities for e-commerce recommendations, and they are also seeing uplift from offers personalized based on browsing behavior.”

One Salesforce client that uses Journey Builder, Contact Builder and Mobile Connect for SMS said it took about six months to get up and running initially with the Salesforce Marketing Cloud in 2012. But the company added journey builder and contact builder last year in about eight weeks.

“They leverage the solution for driving email marketing and they launched a new product line that includes text notifications and reminders, as well as real-time booking notifications,” Warner said. “They use Journey Builder for their welcome and onboarding programs globally.”

At Dreamforce, Warner interviewed Christophe Eymery, head of digital and media for L'Oréal in Australia and New Zealand, which uses Salesforce’s social media components of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. The company aligns its advertising campaigns with programs they execute with their retail partners. It uses audience select capabilities to inform media buying for Facebook and social studio to build content stories that it can activate at the appropriate time. If someone engages, it shares relevant components, and then connects directly based on the opt-in.

“The listening component supports both customer care and complaint handling, as well as trend analysis for campaign planning,” Warner said. “They are using the tools to create joined-up experiences across social media, direct marketing, and in-store face-to-face interactions.”

Connecting Dots

So who is winning? 

Gartner has Salesforce as the fastest-growing CRM marketing vendor since 2011. Then again, there are marketers who really don’t care who “wins” with digital experience among the large marketing clouds. They want systems that integrate and create real leads, and sometimes that means using a piece of all of these clouds.

Payne, of Connective DX, said he recently spoke with a large, global organization that's in the process of evaluating and selecting a new CMS and in parallel migrating off Oracle Siebel CRM to Salesforce

The company currently uses Oracle (Eloqua) for marketing automation and IBM (Unica) for managing other aspects of their global marketing efforts.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they revisit those decisions once they're up and running on Salesforce,” Payne said. 

“I think the Salesforce’s biggest strength is its install base. They still have catch up to do on the marketing cloud side to be considered a leader in the enterprise space. But our clients that use Pardot, ExactTarget, etc. tend find them really approachable — in some circumstances having less features helps. Ultimately, with so many marketers being measured by how many qualified leads they get into Salesforce, the renewed focus on user experience their recent redesign demonstrated, and their sizable resources, it’s hard to imagine Salesforce not being successful.”

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by b0jangles