Has the marketing cloud lived up to the hype?
Since cloud computing first gained mainstream attention around 2009, its popularity has exploded.
Promising increased efficiency, flexibility and cost-effectiveness, it was hailed as the ultimate business solution. This year, IDC predicted that CMOs will drive $32.3bn in marketing technology spending by 2018.
According to Sean Grimes, Director of IT services for Agilisys, “there is no denying that Cloud Technology is creating as much disruption as the dotcom boom”. But are users seeing the benefits?
What is a ‘marketing cloud’?
The marketing cloud is made up of a suite of cloud-based marketing tools covering analytics, targeting, social media management, audience management, customer experience and more. It can be used to track and measure customer data, keep tabs on individual users and automate time-consuming tasks.
It seems marketers are now beginning to recognise it as a viable alternative to traditional software. ‘What the hell is a marketing cloud, anyway?’, a new report by ClickZ Intelligence, surveyed nearly 200 marketing professionals to discover their thoughts on the marketing cloud. Over half (52%) of respondents claimed to be using marketing cloud technology, with another 27% saying they were considering using it.
Another 12% claimed not to know what the term ‘marketing cloud’ meant. Although the majority were already using the technology, this suggests there may be some confusion amongst marketers around the term ‘marketing cloud’ – backed up by interviews with senior client-side executives. Many were sceptical that the technology they used could be classed under the term ‘marketing cloud’. However, further investigation revealed that all were using vendors and products that fitted the survey’s definition – ‘an integrated suite of marketing tools which are available to marketers as web-based services offered by a software vendor’.
Does it work?
The question is: does this technology have a tangible effect on productivity and profitability? An overwhelming majority (82%) of respondents in the same survey said the marketing cloud had a positive impact on their organisation’s marketing, and 88% agreed that an integrated suite of marketing tools has a positive effect on business performance. Pete Markey, Director of Brand Communications & Marketing for Aviva, explained:
‘The right use of cloud technologies can transform capabilities in the marketing team. These tools help you get activity out faster and it changes the nature of people’s jobs. You spend a lot less time on grunt work so you can get on and make the most of your skill set.’
In this case, ‘grunt work’ can be massively reduced by marketing automation. Reducing the time spent on tasks which don’t directly contribute towards profitability – like administration and database management – means teams work efficiently and productively. It’s no surprise then, that 76% of marketing professionals in the survey that said marketing automation was either a ‘critical’ or ‘important’ element for a marketing suite.
Integrated or non-integrated?
Clearly, marketers value the marketing cloud, but getting it up and running isn’t always a smooth process. Before investing, businesses must first decide whether to use one vendor for an ‘integrated’ suite of marketing tools, or to rely on several different ones. Both have their pros and cons: integrated services offer more functionality and convenience, but tend to come with a higher cost. On the other hand, a ‘modular’ approach – where a business uses only the services they need, but provided by a variety of vendors – is often complex and difficult to manage.
How do marketing professionals see it? According to the report findings, ‘reducing complexity’ was the most important benefit of an integrated approach, with 44% of respondents citing it as an advantage. Integrated services provide a unified user interface, making data easier to access and interpret. They also enable staff in different departments to create campaigns, share information and collaborate more easily.
Ease of use was also ranked highly, with 24% valuing a single vendor point of contact.
Understandably, juggling multiple systems has the potential to become complex – especially when things go wrong. With an integrated marketing suite, the number of possible causes of any given problem are massively reduced. Nonetheless, a ‘modular’ approach, although more difficult to manage, can be appropriate to smaller companies that don’t require the broad functionality that an integrated service might offer.
It remains to be seen what the future holds for the marketing cloud. The market is still young, and it’s not clear what innovations are on the horizon. Only time will tell which vendors and services will win out. But the marketing cloud is certainly a growing force – one which marketers everywhere are beginning to consider.