The marketing cloud battle between cloud-based software companies Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle has intensified over the past year as all three companies have made significant acquisitions.
Salesforce bought Datorama for a reported $800m to enhance its Marketing Cloud with expanded data integration, intelligence and analytics, while Adobe purchased Magento Commerce Cloud in a deal valued at $1.68bn to boost its Experience Cloud with digital commerce capabilities.
While Oracle has strengthened its martech stack, it is keen to ensure that its clients do not treat the company like a ‘7-Eleven convenience store or a Giant supermarket’, where they pick out one or two tools to use without understanding what they do, Stephen Hamill, vice president of Oracle Marketing Cloud in Japan and Asia Pacific tells The Drum.
“If and when that happens, it is easy say, “Okay, here it is.” However, because we own more than 22,000 products, it makes more sense that we say to our customers, “Look. Stop. What exactly is it you're trying to do?” he says.
“When we understand what their problem is, we say, “Look. We are not a 7-Eleven full of products that we can bring to bear.” If your question is, what is it you really want? You want a chocolate cake. We will get the right amount of cocoa and sugar and milk, and we will bring the right amount of the right ingredients so that we will get you the chocolate cake that you want.”
Hamill is also keen to stress that in terms of products, Oracle is trying to move away from talking about specifically about products and to take on an approach where it is clearer about what the client is trying to do as an organisation.
For example, he says a much more intelligent conversation to have with Oracle is - “We've got 40 bricks and mortar stores that we're looking to close down and move to digital. At the same time, we're looking to expand our marketing to India, and we don't want to drop our revenue.”
“That's a conversation we can work out, “What do we need to apply to that problem in terms of digital marketing and in terms of data, not just digital marketing, in terms of any kind of engagement to get you that outcome?” explains Hamill. “Whether it's Grapeshot or whether it's Responsys, or any of our other technologies, it is not what matters That's just the milk, the sugar and the chocolate."
Oracle also wants its clients to use its martech stack to solve challenges like talking to their target audience across channels like email, chatbots, search and display any point in time, in a way that makes sense to the previous conversations that occurred across other channels.
This is because stitching the data and experience together in a single tone of voice that makes sense is tough, explains Hamill. “If you're an airline, you have a tone of voice. If you're a brand, you have a ton of voice. You can't have a different tone of voice on an app than the one you have on your website even though you answer different questions as people don't go to different channels for the same things.”
“As a marketer, trying to get your head around that is a really tough thing, particularly when you add personalisation in the mix because now it says you've got all of these channels and then you multiply them by all the different conversations you can have. It is phenomenal. Without artificial intelligence and machine learning and deep learning, that's just not possible,” he adds.
Changing the conversation
With the marketing cloud battle staying in the headlines for the foreseeable future, Hamill wants a shift from the conversation on the targeting and measurement capabilities of Oracle’s martech stack. He notes that as a ‘massive organisation’ known for data and storage, it is very often that that the message on its martech capabilities is overwhelmed by some of Oracle’s other messages as a company.
“I think a lot of that has to do with so many organisations now whose entire business is digital marketing. They are a digital marketing company and nothing else effectively. The challenge then for the organisations that were not born digital, that are trying to become digital is, how do they make that shift, and how do they compete in this new world?” he explains, noting that chief marketing officers’ focus has gone from brand awareness to focusing on revenue.
“We have got all these startups coming up that are digital first, using all the technologies to their best, and the traditional guys are still trying to figure out, how does that apply to us, how do we become one of those?
When, and if the conversation changes, the former Accenture and Adobe exec is confident that Oracle will remain relevant because the company has been in digital marketing ‘forever’ and has been providing martech solutions for the last 15 years.
“The fact is that we do very well because we are helping our clients generate billions in attributable revenue on our marketing platforms. We have clients doing more than a billion dollars a year of revenue on our marketing platforms. I think we've been a bit of a quiet achiever,” says Hamill.
“You know what's really interesting to me? It is that there has been a reconciliation of technologies in different spaces. Marketing said, okay, we need to bring together our marketing stack and start to connect all of that. You have got the service and call centres saying, we need to bring together our marketing and data stacks.
"In different parts of the organisation, everyone is clustering their technologies, and those clusters are starting to connect now so that the entire business is a connected digital business.”
Another reason for Hamill’s confidence is that Oracle is now a connected digital business, which he predicts will be a challenge for others. “Suddenly, organisations that have created hubs of technologies, those hubs actually become a point solution. It used to be end to end, but now, it has become a point, because connecting all those hubs is where their opportunity is, particularly with customer experience."
“Your organisation is saying, we need customer experience, but that is such a broad topic. If you're an airline, customer experience means that the engagement you have online right through to the flight attendant on the plane. That's all customer experience. It’s all part of brand. It’s all part of tone of voice. How do you bring all those things together in a consistent meaningful way?”
Hamill also points out Oracle does everything from e-commerce to loyalty platforms, digital marketing, supply chain management, even blockchain and chatbots.
“If you buy a package and you need to send it back, the experience of getting that package back to the company and on to the shelf, the experience you have on the call with that same company, it’s all part of the customer experience, which is so much bigger than just marketing. That's where Oracle really is in a unique position to play.”
Marketing the Oracle way
Customer experience is also at the heart of Oracle’s marketing message to market through its Data Cloud, which Hamill claims has changed organisations it works with fundamentally, because it is built around helping the chief information officers and the chief technology officers.
“Those guys know us and love us,” he says. “We have all these great products, but what has really changed is how we bring them together to connect to the backend systems. It's not even just about marketing. It's about customer experience.”
What rankles Hamill, is brands and companies saying that they are doing digital transformation, but just applying technology to things that were done before. It is not, he argues.
“Transformation means changing what you fundamentally do as a business – the products and services you offer, and technology can help you do that. Transformation in reality, is in the business. It is not in the technology in itself," he explains.
For example, if a company sells DVDs, that is its business, but if they are selling DVDs and want to sell more DVDs to more people, that is not transformation, that is just more of the same, Hamill asserts.
“What we want to do is transform that company to compete with Netflix who don't sell DVDs at all, but they do fulfill the client’s need, which is access to content. That is transformation. Buying a whole bunch of technology and connecting it together, is just buying technology and automating processes.”