Wait, SAP has a marketing cloud too?

Last week I was at the SAP CRM 2014 conference. I’ve never been to an SAP conference before but I was told that SAP has an interesting play for the marketing cloud space. What I heard and saw in Las Vegas wasn’t a competitor limited to marketing clouds, but instead an offering that’s a comprehensive enterprise marketing platform.

The SAP Social Portfolio

SAP is charting a course into the CMO’s office via strong existing relationships with CIOs and CFOs, who are long-standing customers of SAP’s ERP, financials, and supply chain management offerings. Those are mission-critical systems for the companies that use them, much more so than typical marketing systems like digital asset management and social media publishing. What’s the top item on every CMO’s agenda right now? Driving business results. And marketing has been building stronger relationships with finance and IT in order to gain business intelligence and track operating impact.

But because of those long standing relationships, SAP has a perception challenge that it’s not a system for marketers. That’s where three points of information come into play, under the umbrella of CRM:

  1. Social media engagement. As pictured above, SAP offers a full suite of products that covers the external and internal aspects of customer engagement.
  2. Customer service use case. T-Mobile provides a compelling client reference, with SAP driving a 15% productivity increase. This is AFTER T-Mobile had been running with Radian6 + Jive as their customer service solution, citing millions of dollars in cost savings.
  3. The Adobe – HANA partnership. SAP and Adobe have inked a partnership where SAP will resell the Adobe marketing cloud in conjunction with HANA analytics and Hybris commerce.

Now, point #3 should be a head scratcher when thinking primarily about marketing clouds. The deal might mean that different SAP business units aren’t aware of what the others are doing, creating a conflict of interest. Or the companies have discussed and decided that their marketing cloud offerings aren’t meaningfully competitive right now. And may never be — the combined suite creates an offering as comprehensive as Oracle, that can claim to beat Salesforce (point #2), and broader than any point solution (point #1).

When discussing how marketing technology can support critical needs including analytics, omnichannel, and customer experience, it’s critical to evaluate solutions from a comprehensive online + offline point of view. SAP has defaulted to an enterprise-level approach to solve these issues, as opposed to focusing solely on the marketing department, which may prove to be a winning strategy in the long run.

As the big vendors are busy integrating their marketing cloud/platform acquisitions, there’s still a market for point solutions. Not all brands are ready for an all-in-one solution, whether because of budget, organizational structure, or ability of vendors to deliver on their sales promises. But the strategic positions in market are becoming clearer and the big players are raising the competitive stakes continually higher.

Three Wildfire alternatives

Wildfire Evaluation Guide

I’ve spoken with two vendors this week that are experiencing an influx of inbound interest based on Wildfire’s impending shutdown.

I’m also discovering that not all buyers are ready to commit to the idea of a massive integrated social business platform.

If you find yourself in a position to explore Wildfire alternatives, here are a few choices to consider:

I did not find any public statements from Hootsuite, Adobe, Oracle, or Salesforce regarding Wildfire.

Endgame: Social Business Platforms

Three early social business platform leaders are emerging (Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce), while point solutions will continue to struggle and consolidate over 2014.

The news started trickling out late last week that Google is freezing support for social media management solution Wildfire in order to integrate more closely with DoubleClick. The company’s official statement says that they “won’t be building new features or signing up new customers” and current customers and competitors know what this means — there are suddenly dozens of brands and agencies looking for alternative social business platforms.

What U Choose Is What U Get - same goes for social business platforms

As an analyst at Constellation Research, I’m ramping up my marketing technology coverage and see a familiar pattern emerging as the social business software market matures. We’ve evolved well beyond the early days of the The Stack first identified by Jeremiah Owyang and now point solutions — which received all the early attention — are yielding to platforms.

My early take is that a “big three” have a headstart as the leading social business platforms:

  • Adobe (Marketing Cloud),
  • Oracle (Social Cloud), and
  • Salesforce (Marketing Cloud).

Each of the “big three” platforms acquired a standalone Social Media Management System (SMMS): Context Optional (now Adobe), Vitrue (now Oracle), and Buddy Media (now Salesforce), and Google + Wildfire, integrating with other social technologies to offer a multi-faceted value proposition. But buyer beware: websites and logos are easy to create; integrating multiple solutions to deliver a fully functioning unified platform takes a lot of time and effort.

Remaining standalone SMMS players have rebranded the space as Social Relationship Platforms (SRP) and include Spredfast, Hootsuite, Expion, and Sprinklr. Some have started to expand capabilities (e.g. Sprinklr has added listening and Expion has added advocacy) and some clients still want point solutions, but it’s clear that these players need to get big fast or find their way to an exit before they end up like Syncapse. It appears that they may be heading in that direction: as Forrester’s Nate Elliott recently found out, most SRP clients aren’t willing to recommend their vendor to a colleague.

In fact, I see SRPs on a path similar to brand monitoring providers. Their solutions gained a lot of attention in 2006 and I wrote the first Forrester Wave on these vendors. Here’s the current status of those original leaders:

  • Nielsen Buzzmetrics: went private, JV with McKinsey, shut down.
  • TNS Cymfony: acquired by Visible Technologies
  • Umbria: acquired by J.D. Power
  • Biz360: acquired by Attensity
  • Factiva: integrated into Dow Jones
  • Brandimensions: pivoted into anti-fraud
  • MotiveQuest: still standalone (!)

Even after rebranding as “listening platforms,” the market made clear that listening is a feature, not a product. Increasingly, publishing / social media management / social relationship management is turning out to also be a feature, not a product.

My take: the big three have the early lead in the competition to own the social business platform market, but we are in the early innings of the game. Standalone vendors will add features as rapidly as possible in order to stay competitive, and some categories originally thought to be independently viable — like enterprise social networks — will turn out to be nothing more than bundled feature sets as well.

I’ll write more to define social business platforms in upcoming weeks, including user case studies, vendor profiles, and technology evaluations. Stay tuned.