For 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.