Browsing posts in: Ecommerce

Paradigm Shifts

phonesFor a long time, the marketing technology world has been obsessed with “channels.” Email, web, social, mobile, advertising, and now N types more. First, “multichannel” was the must-check buzzword, then “omnichannel,” and now, it’s mostly just “commerce” writ as broadly as possible. Billions of dollars later, creating, nurturing and converting relationships with customers across these different channels remains an unsolved puzzle today for most companies. The intricacies of “omnichannel” marketing, and the new technical and business challenges they pose, are a big part of the widespread adoption of cloud-based marketing tech and ecommerce platforms we’ve seen.

Today, we live in the era of the “marketing cloud.” Adobe, which coined the term in 2009, has seen such remarkable success that its major competitors have actually chosen to ape borrow it, leading to the Oracle Marketing Cloud, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, IBM Marketing Cloud and others. (For the record: these were Marketing-101-level bad branding decisions, guys.) The bold vision of integrated, analytically-informed marketing orchestration that the all-in-one “marketing clouds” articulate is a good one, and achieved to widely varying levels by their users.

Yet looking ahead, I think the world beyond the “marketing clouds” is beginning to come into focus. It’s a paradigmatic shift, and one driven largely by the inexorable rise of mobile technology. User platforms, built and bred for mobile, will increasingly disintermediate merchants – by which I mean retailers, banks, airlines, telcos, or any other consumer-facing company – from their audiences. (Note, I didn’t say “customers.”) These platforms – most of whom are already established today, though some are still emerging – will command more and more of their users’ loyalty by offering superior experiences that merchants simply cannot match, driving the primacy of content, merchandise, and customer intelligence over all other differentiators.

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An update on Adobe Marketing Cloud

My January post, “The State of the Digital Analytics in 2015,” is far and away my most-read this year. In my research for that piece, I did a fair amount of financial analysis tracing Adobe’s steady rise as the juggernaut of “MarTech” over the last five years. I hadn’t updated my numbers in a couple of quarters, so I was interested to see how my predictions had panned out. Turns out – pretty well!

Click for a link to the full spreadsheet.

You can see the full breakdown here, along with my predictions for Adobe’s Q4 2015 results.

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Ecommerce: Gradually, then suddenly


boosterThe way we’ve come to understand the role of ecommerce in the broader consumer/retail economy has evolved pretty remarkably over the last ten years. In many ways, the rise of ecommerce resembles the proliferation of consumer mobile devices, a trend best described by Hemmingway: “gradually, then suddenly.”

Somewhere in the late 2000s, we went from a slow, gradual adoption of the internet to a tipping point, where we accelerated rapidly to 3+ billion people online today. A big part of that is due to the maturation and commoditization of mobile technology. More people got online to access a certain bundle of goods there: information, services and products. As those things improved in quality, it drew more people online. A virtuous cycle that happened gradually, and then suddenly. We’ve moved into the “suddenly” part now, as another billion (!!) come online in the next year or two, which is part of why Google and Facebook are investing so much money in welcoming those new users to the internet.

Ecommerce has grown tremendously, but its growth has so far been gradual. As a percentage of overall retail sales here in the U.S., it’s still in single digits – but growing at a steady clip. Yet this growth pattern drastically understates its potential. Ecommerce is quickly approaching its own “suddenly” function. And I think the day is getting closer when we’re going to see a major shakeout in retail between those companies that are prepared, and who “get it,” and those that do not.

I’ve given some thought here about what that shakeout might look like.

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Collision Course

shipsOver the last few months, I’ve been meeting with a lot of folks working in ecommerce at major retail brands in North America. There’s been a ton of interest in the Shopping Index reporting my team at Demandware has been working on, particularly as everyone begins their holiday campaign planning. The Index is a project to apply analytics reporting to the incredible amount of ecommerce data that flows across the 1,300+ retail sites on the Demandware platform – you can read more about it here.

Since I joined Demandware, I’ve been struck by the many similarities between the digital analytics and ecommerce platform markets. These are both fast-developing markets whose clients – small, mid-sized and large companies, mostly B2C but also B2B – are seeing most of their new growth, if not all of it, in digital rather than brick-and-mortar. As a result, these companies are racing to adopt new technology to support that growth, which often leads to painful and awkward change in their organizations.

I’ve noticed that, over and over, when I’ve been talking with ecommerce teams, the conversation begins squarely in ecommerce and gradually drifts towards… something else. Part marketing, part commerce, part customer experience, part “digital intelligence,” if you want to call it that. Ecommerce folks are constantly referring back to topics I used to talk about while at Coremetrics – contextual marketing, using data to inform merchandising, leveraging browsing and search data, and so on.

For someone whose tech career has been built in the technology of how people buy and shop online, this convergence is… interesting. And it has given me some clues about where the industry is headed, probably sooner than we think.


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Oracle and Maxymiser

Today, Oracle announced its acquisition of Maxymiser. You can read the press release here.

This is the 7th acquisition by Oracle for its “Oracle Marketing Cloud.” (Check out my running tally of Marketing Tech acquisitions.) While not Oracle’s largest by a wide margin, I think this acquisition actually says a lot – both about Oracle, and the direction for the “MarTech” field as a whole. I have another blog post brewing on that topic….

Broadly, though, relevancy is becoming the new table stakes across a broad swath of industries. Retail, as usual, leads the pack. Maxymiser gives Oracle a whole new set of capabilities around optimizing user experiences that Eloqua and Responsys didn’t, and as Oracle looks to challenge Adobe and the others in that lucrative market, building out their strength in this area was a must. In that way, you could see this acquisition as the keystone of their marketing technology strategy – Oracle can now offer cross-channel delivery of promotions, products, and content, and the optimization thereof, by use of a very high-quality and market-tested solution in Maxymiser.

I would guess that Oracle, as usual, outbid a small number of other suitors for Maxymiser. I have a pretty good idea of who those suitors might’ve been (though no privileged information there), but you can figure it out with a quick Ghostery check. Per usual, Oracle’s extended ROI timeline – if they are even held to an ROI timeline! – probably allowed them to offer a better deal.

My next post, which I’ve been cooking for a while, is going to deal with what I see as the endgame for MarTech. It’s coming. And probably sooner than we think. More soon.