Dueling Strategies: Adobe and Oracle Take Opposite Paths to Customer Experience Management


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Adobe on Monday announced a new “Digital Enterprise Platform for Customer Experience Management“. The platform fills the center of Adobe’s three-part corporate mission to “make, manage, and measure” digital content and experiences. The other two pieces were already in place: “make” is Adobe’s original content creation business, while “measure” is Omniture Web analytics.

The strategic significance of the announcement seems more important than the actual product enhancements. These include improved integration of the company’s Web content management system (formerly Day C5) with Scene 7 dynamic content and Omniture Survey and Test & Target; features for salespeople and customer service agents to customize standard documents in a controlled fashion; integrated content reviews and workflows; and a platform to build and share content in multiple formats. The announcement also included beta versions of tools for social engagement, online enrollment, and agent workspaces. Good stuff but nothing earth-shaking.

Adobe’s strategy itself is a curious mixture of broad ambition and narrow execution. Adobe describes its scope as nothing less than optimizing customer experience and marketing spend across the entire customer journey, from first learning about a company through validation, purchase decision, product use, and commitment. But Adobe also explicitly limits its scope to digital channels, and implicitly limits its concern to content creation, delivery, and evaluation. In fact, the only customer-facing technology Adobe offers is Web site management. Otherwise, Adobe expects even digital content such as emails to be delivered by third party products. Offline interactions, such as telephone and retail, are definitely out of the picture. Nor does Adobe manage the underlying customer database, marketing campaigns, or deep analytics. The only exceptions are customer profiles, segmentation, and content to support Web personalization.

The company argues the tools it does provide, combined with the cross-channel content sharing, are enough to build a unified digital customer experience. I’m not so sure that’s correct, and even if it is, I question whether customers will be happy to have only their digital experiences be unified. Either way, marketers will certainly need other vendors’ products to manage their full customer relationships.

On the other hand, I do agree with Adobe’s argument that its approach lets clients create a unified digital experience without replacing their entire enterprise infrastructure. This is certainly an advantage.

Adobe’s announcement was released on Monday, but I didn’t get around to writing about it until today. The delay is unfortunate, since the attention of the enterprise marketing automation world has already shifted to yesterday’s announcement that Oracle is acquiring Web “experience” management vendor FatWire Software. I’m not sure I accept “Web experience management” as a legitimate software category, but FatWire does combine conventional Web content management with unusually strong targeting, personalization, content analytics, digital asset management, mobile, and social features. Perhaps that justifies calling it more than plain old Web content management.

The strategic purpose of the FatWire acquisition is self-evident: to fill a gap in Oracle’s customer-facing technologies, which already had ATG ecommerce and general Enterprise Content Management for Web sites, as well as Oracle CRM and Oracle Loyalty. (Oracle isn’t very creative with product names.) FatWire will allow much richer, more personalized and targeted Web site interactions. It also provides some Web analytics, although I still think Oracle has a gap to fill there.

The Oracle and Adobe announcements do highlight a clear strategic contrast. Adobe has largely limited itself to digital interactions, and has largely avoided customer-facing systems except for Web sites. Oracle has embraced the full range of online and offline interactions, including customer-facing systems in every channel. Oracle has also hedged its bets a bit with Real Time Decisions, which can coordinate customer treatments delivered by non-Oracle systems and powered by non-Oracle data sources. Of the other enterprise-level marketing automation vendors, IBM, SAS and Teradata share Adobe’s focus on digital channels and its avoidance of customer-facing systems, although they resemble Oracle in offering deep analytics and customer database management.

Based on my fundamental rule that “suites win“, I think Oracle’s strategy is more likely to succeed. But only time will tell.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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