Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
Adobe, Salesforce, Oracle have again dominated Gartner’s list of digital marketing technology providers for 2017, striking out a significant lead against the rest of the pack.
The analyst firm’s latest report, Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Hubs, put Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce within reach of each other in the leaders quadrant, followed by Marketo. Leaders are first-movers that boast of integrated martech, adtech and analytics platforms, as well as an extensive install base.
According to Gartner, a digital marketing hub provides access to audience data, content, workflow triggers and operational analytics for executing and optimising multi-channel campaigns, conversations and experiences. These tools are also used for data collection across both online and offline channels.
Four key main areas were rated by the analyst group. The first was master audience profile management, while the second, workflow and collaboration, was about supporting marketing programs through ideation, planning and monitoring customer journeys.
Orchestration was the ability to sequence and coordinate engagement across channels, although Gartner was quick to point out digital marketing hubs were not campaign channel management tools. The fourth criteria, unified measurement and optimisation, was about providing real-time operational applications of data.
Gartner highlighted Adobe’s Marketing Cloud as a leader in the field for mid- and large-size organisations, achieving top ratings in marketing strategy, innovation, product quality and customer experience. The report also noted a wide scope of deployment, support ecosystem and positive references, all of which cemented its leadership position.
However, Gartner warned complexity of the Adobe product set, an identity management gap, and cross-cloud integration still required improvement.
“It [Adobe] sets the pace for a majority of advanced marketing capabilities, and its cost and complexity reflect this,” the report stated. “Although Adobe has taken steps to streamline its notoriously complex product architecture, product boundaries and options still cause confusion among prospects. Users also noted unexpected complexity of integration projects, even among Adobe’s own products.”
Oracle was given top marks for covering the critical capabilities required of a digital marketing hub, and Gartner noted the vendor’s leadership in identifying and targeting anonymous audiences and using behavioural, transactional and offline data to enrich customer and audience profiles. Real-time decisioning and personalisation features were also on the list of strengths.
On the flip side, weaknesses included post-launch technical support and consulting services, integration inconsistencies and a strong knowledge of marketers.
“Smart acquisitions have earned Oracle the right to sell into marketing organisations, but it still lacks the visibility with marketers of many of its competitors,” the report stated.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud was praised by Gartner for its scalable, full customer lifecycle approach, and for incorporating new data management (through its recent Krux acquisition) and artificial intelligence capabilities that unite ad operations with direct marketing. The vendor’s customer-centric vision, built off the back of its CRM roots, and best-of-breed components drew high ratings from users, especially around personalisation and workflow, while its ability to generate market momentum was also mentioned.
In terms of weaknesses, Gartner said support challenges continued to dog Salesforce, while solution fragmentation and a hazy positioning of AI left gaps in the product positioning and future.
“In addition to its Marketing Cloud, Salesforce offers several solutions that share the same cloud platform and many overlapping capabilities, but lack a cohesive marketing and sales strategy,” the report stated.
Fourth on the leaders list was Marketo, which Gartner noted had expanded from its B2B email marketing and lead management focus into multi-channel communications, personalisation and ad targeting in B2B and B2C scenarios. Strengths of the vendor’s platform included application integration and extensibility with third-party tools and data sources, along with its partner ecosystem. Marketo’s new product architecture and ‘audience hub’ approach was also listed as a positive.
Limitations with advanced analytics, however, along with inconsistent sales process and support scores and a change in executive leadership, were potential concerns.
On the challenger’s side of the Gartner digital marketing hub quadrant, and boasting of a similar execution capabilities, were IBM, Nielsen, MediaMath, Turn and DataXu. Challengers are defined as vendors starting later or moving more slowly than those in the leaders quadrant, or adtech players that have survived consolidation and are expanding into more general marketing hubs.
Visionaries, with less ability to execute, were Neustar, IgnitionOne, Zeta Global, Kitewheel and Sitecore. Gartner also listed a number of niche players in the digital marketing space, such as SAP, RedPoint, SAS, Viant Technology, Cxense, BlueConic, Ysance and Eulerian technologies.
Others highlighted by Gartner in the report that didn’t match have all the required capabilities of a digital marketing hub but worth watching included Acxiom’s LiveRamp subsidiary, which launched an identity management solution in 2016; Ensighten, which has been expanding from tag management into a wider customer data platform play; Cake, which offers multi-channel data management and onboarding capabilities for managing digital affiliates and marketing partners; and Pegasystems, a CRM and business process management vendor that recently released support for paid media.
Vendors that didn’t appear in Gartner’s 2017 list but were on the 2016 list of digital marketing hub providers and are still mentioned by the analyst group in its ones to watch were Epsilon (Conversant), Experian Marketing Services, Teradata, Sizmek, Marin Software and RocketFuel.
To be included on the list, vendors had to offer a standalone partner, be SaaS-based, have chalked up at least US$15 million in revenue in 2015, and have a percentage of customers using their product for at least two years.