Discussion Point Wholl Win the Digital Marketing Arms Race

Sitecore CEO Michael Seifert caught our attention last month when he claimed the "arms race" among 1,000-plus digital marketing vendors is hurting the industry.

"Frankly, I think it's getting absurd," he told the crowd at his company's annual symposium in Las Vegas. "Marketing technology is starting to fail the marketer."

His argument was that the smaller players only operate on the channel they serve. Seifert believes Sitecore's comprehensive approach puts it among the marketing cloud superpowers -- like Oracle and Adobe -- that will thrive while smaller players fade away.

It wasn't the first time we heard that theory. In July, Kevin Akeroyd, general manager of the Oracle Marketing Cloud, predicted there's "going to be a shakeout in the marketplace ... and the real players that have investments, have best-of-breed, have real solutions instead of pretty PowerPoints [will succeed]."

Of course, you'd expect the big players to be frustrated with the plethora of smaller, cheaper, more targeted competitors. Truth be told, there are many good, albeit narrower, marketing solutions available to businesses at price points that start at free. Relatively few CMOs buy the full cloud suites. Most build their own crazy quilt of marketing tools.

So who's going to win? Will we really see a sweeping industry shakeout? Will the 800-pound gorillas end up with most all the marbles? Or will the smaller players continue to serve the bulk of the market?

We decided to ask some of the attendees at the Las Vegas show what they thought of Seifert's claim, knowing that many do business with Sitecore. 

The Question

Who will win the arms race in digital marketing? 

The Answers

Don Costello, Web Product Manager, Uponor

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Costello is the web product manager for Uponor North America, a global manufacturer of plumbing, sprinkler systems, radiant heating and cooling systems for commercial and residential use. Costello manages multiple web platforms, including two consumer sites and two business sites. He has a bachelor's degree in Marketing and Computer Science from the University of Minnesota, Duluth. Contact Don Costello on LinkedIn.

As a manufacturer not in the technology industry, I think it's going to be the company that can put everything into one package for us so we're not having to buy bolt-ons and all these different systems and spend the money to integrate them.  It's going to be whoever puts the most into one package that makes our lives easier and makes our experience better for our customers that is going to win. 

I'm not going to say that price doesn't matter, but we will pay for something that really increases our productivity. So price isn't the bottom line issue, but having to work with five different things and put them together, and bolt on this and bolt on that, takes too much time and resource. I'd rather pay for a complete package that allows us to do everything and has all our things in one place.

Robert Balmaseda, Senior Vice President, SolutionSet

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Balmaseda is a general manager in SolutionSet's Technology/Energy Portfolio, including Apple, eBay, The California Lottery and Pacific Union. Before joining SolutionSet, he held key management positions with Carat, iGeneration, HardCloud, USWeb/CKS, and Digital Planet. Balmaseda earned a BA in history from the UCLA, participated in the doctorate program for European cultural and intellectual history at UC Berkeley and attended West Point. Tweet to Robert Balmaseda.

I think it really depends on the scale of the company. The big to large companies really have to [buy a single system], because as we get into the environment where the ability to interact with data, and analytics, and customer data -- not only that involving your customers but how it fits into the larger industry trends -- you're going to have to go to those few services agencies who can do that for you and deliver that kind of experience, from the back end of understanding the data to the front end with the customer. 

If you're $100 million or more, you're really going to have to think about it. If you're under that, maybe a brochureware website is OK for you. But as customer gets more savvy, and as your ability to target and personalize becomes more acute, you're going to need vendors and partners to do that for you because you can't do that. Building a website internally, you can do that. But leveraging all the personalization and all the data to do that is a harder challenge from strategy, implementation and a data perspective.

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Yoon-Sung Lee, Corporate Vice President, Avanade

Lee has global responsibilities for the Application Development Service Line at Avanade. His contributes to the overall strategic direction of the business, including sales and the development of assets and solutions. He previously was the Americas CTO for Avanade. He holds a BS in Computer Science from the Oregon State University.

"I think the interesting point is what's changing in the marketplace. If you just look at it from the perspective of marketing automation software, then I don't see how a Sitecore could take on all those vendors and all these really huge companies and still have a solution that [CEO] Michael [Seifert] talked about. But where I do think there's a chance for them, and we're a strategic partner with them, is really around how you used to do marketing to now, when everyone is focused on having a digital life that is outside their normal life.

It used to be anyone who actually had a computer and was tech-savvy could look at information, though not my parents. I tried to get them to use a computer, but they never would. Now they have their phones and iPads and now they are consumers who are actually looking at the information like they never did before. If I look at the kids -- I have a teenage son -- he knows more about what is happening in social media, all the different apps that come out, he even has a completely different persona. I asked him about it because he was always on the phone and iPad. He said  "When I'm on the phone, I'm just talking to one or two friends. But when I'm on Instagram, I'm talking to hundreds of people all at the same time. So I really need to pay attention to my digital persona more because it's more influential in my everyday life." I thought, wow, that's really interesting. 

The key point is if we're really moving more towards that digital space, then you do want to have all of the connections so you know what's happening in social, what's happening here or there. It's a very different thing than traditional marketing automation or CMS that we usually think of, which is what the majority of vendors are focused on. 

Trevor Olson, President and CEO, Aware Web Solutions

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Olson is co-founder, president and CEO of Aware Web Solutions, a 16-year-old firm in Minneapolis that has deployed more than 100 solutions for its clients who use Sitecore. His diverse background includes market research, online marketing, design, human resources and public relations which includes a stint at one of the world’s largest public relations firms. Tweet to Trevor Olson.

I think what's going to  happen in the next five to 10 years is that customers are looking for that one-stop shop, that one package. However, the leaders in the industry are going to be moving so fast that they are not going to be able to develop that themselves. So I think they're going to acquire best-of-breed solutions and incorporate those into their one solution. 

The one company that is able to do that the most efficiently, the fastest, and while maintaining the customer experience throughout is going to win. I'm biased, I think it's going to be Sitecore. I think the other vendors out there will just become irrelevant and go away because what they're offering will be included in other packages from a bigger and better outfit. So they'll just go away, or be acquired if they have the best solution in that niche.