Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff speaking to a crowd of people.
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Salesforce acquired Evergage to fill gaps in its marketing cloud offering for personalization and add a real-time focus in Web and app channels, putting it ahead of Adobe in the personalization and recommendation categories. The move also creates a “race to the intelligent marketing platform” where many providers in the space will be targeted by larger marketing cloud players.

Industry analysts shared those thoughts with CMSWire on the heels of Salesforce’s acquisition of Evergage this month. Salesforce, which offers marketing software alongside its CRM suite, added the Somerville, Mass.-based personalization and CDP provider to its marketing suite Feb. 3.

Acquia, Salesforce … Who’s Next?

Jim Lundy, CEO and founder of Aragon Research, said consolidation in the $1 billion CDP market is a “natural step,” and that Acquia, a marketing software provider, beat Salesforce to the punch in this regard when it acquired CDP vendor AgilOne in December.  “Between Salesforce and Acquia, Aragon feels that this has fueled a new race: the race to the intelligent marketing platform,” Lundy said. “Many other providers will be targeted.” 

On Lundy's target list? Exponeia, Lattice Engines, Segment, Selligent and Tealium Audience Stream CD. “Consolidation is a natural step for the rapidly emerging CDP market,” Lundy said. “We predict the shift to AI-based marketing clouds that can customize journeys and offers in real-time based on behavior. Ultimately, the Salesforce acquisition of Evergage reveals many interesting facets of the growing CDP market.”

Related Article: Salesforce Acquires Evergage, CDP Industry Reached $1B in 2019

Personalization Story More Than CDP

One thing to remember here: Salesforce already has a CDP. Salesforce announced plans to build its own CDP, what it called a “natural extension of Salesforce Customer 360," which was announced at Dreamforce 2018 and was made available last year.

Evergage CEO Karl Wirth blogged that his company’s offering of real-time, cross-channel personalization and machine learning capabilities complement Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s robust customer data, audience segmentation and engagement platform. Salesforce and Evergage officials declined commentary for this article. Wirth didn’t cite CDP, but some do see Evergage’s CDP capabilities helping the Salesforce Customer 360 story

However, analysts like Joe Stanhope of Forrester don’t see this as a CDP play but rather one of personalization. Evergage is primarily a personalization vendor for web experiences and email marketing experiences (it’s among leaders in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Personalization Engines) supported by a CDP-type of data layer. “This is not about CDP,” Stanhope said. Rather, Salesforce’s message here is better personalization capabilities and variety in commerce and marketing cloud offerings. “That’s what resonates in the marketplace,” Stanhope said. 

Salesforce has acquired Mulesoft (APIs provider), Datorama (AI-powered marketing intelligence), Tableau (analytics business analytics) in the last two years. It also debuted a Salesforce CMS. “Personalization sits at the nexus of all those capabilities,” Stanhope said. “Personalization is the actionable cousin of analytics, data and content.”

Dave Frankland, managing director at Winterberry Group, agrees this is more a web personalization pickup for Salesforce. In recent years, Evergage jumped on the CDP bandwagon, Frankland added, but Winterberry Group doesn’t think of Evergage as a pure play CDP. Rather, it's a web personalization company that has built data integration and hygiene into its solution. 

Salesforce Now Beats Adobe?

The acquisition of Evergage allows Salesforce to leapfrog Adobe in the personalization and recommendation category, Frankland said. That's fitting, if Salesforce can prove its merit over Adobe because Evergage — and likely Salesforce, too — has long had Adobe in its sights on top of the competition list. Evergage's gone to great lengths to prove it. "Following Monetate’s acquisition by Kibo last year and even McDonald’s acquisition of Dynamic Yield, it was predictable that personalization and recommendation engines would become the next target category for the giant commerce and marketing clouds," Frankland told CMSWire. "Most importantly, Salesforce trailed Adobe in this area, and Evergage was one of the most attractive players in the space."

Related Article: Evergage Trolls Adobe Summit in Las Vegas 

Lack of Focus on Real-Time Personalization

Salesforce already has Einstein, which has started to become a quiet hit with customers, according to Lundy. However, the same cannot be said about Einstein’s play inside Marketing Cloud, which offers a number of insights on past behavior, but isn’t as focused on real-time personalization. “It is the personalization that Evergage provides that fills a gap that Salesforce had in its Marketing Cloud,” Lundy said. 

CDP, Personalization Are Linked

While Salesforce’s Evergage grab may not be directly related to the desire to gain another CDP, personalization and CDP are linked, according to Ben Bloom, senior director analyst at Gartner for Marketers. “CDP vendors increasingly offer personalization features,” Bloom told CMSWire. “Evergage developed and offered a productized CDP as well as a personalization solution, and these two categories are linked: effective personalization requires data, among other necessary capabilities, to predict the best offer as well as to track impact.”

All that said, there is this, Gartner also predicts the perils of providing personalized experiences will lead marketers to abandon the efforts by 2025. Demonstrating ROI and managing customer data and consent will be too hard, Gartner found. “Salesforce’s move appears to align Evergage’s machine learning and CDP capabilities to support or extend with Marketing Cloud’s real-time decisioning capabilities,” Bloom added, “which could strengthen Salesforce’s product in ways that would benefit potential buyers and current customers seeking to improve their marketing outcomes.”

Related Article: Salesforce Plans to Make Marketing Cloud Even Smarter

Filling a Gap That Was Long Overdue

Salesforce filled a “long overdue” gap in its marketing cloud product with the acquisition of Evergage, according to David Raab, founder of the CDP Institute. “It shows Salesforce is moving beyond the outbound messaging focus of email-centric marketing cloud to a real-time interaction focus in web and app channels,” Raab said. “That was long overdue. Unlike many of their acquisitions, Evergage is a relatively small company so they were buying for the technology, not market share.”

Not All Smooth Sailing

The downside to the acquisition, according to Raab, is this is yet another stand-alone product that will be one of the large chunks floating in the Salesforce stew. “Salesforce,” he said, “really needs to integrate these pieces more completely, to go from stew to smoothie, as it were."

Apoorv Durga of Real Story Group pointed out, like Raab, that Salesforce already has a lot of “cobbling together” to do with many technical parts, citing Datorama, Salesforce Journey Builder, Salesforce Interaction Studio, Mulesoft, Krux (data management platform) and other pure-play CDP vendors through its corporate investment arms.

R Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst for Constellation Research, wonders what happens to the Salesforce-Thunderhead partnership on Journey Orchestration. Salesforce OEM-ed journey orchestration vendor Thunderhead in 2017, like what Acquia did with Kitewheel. “Evergage is like Dynatrace meets RichRelevance,” Wang said. “It’s very different than what Thunderhead has."