What Google and Salesforce’s Shared Data Play Means for Marketers

And what brands are still missing

Salesforce is making a notable push into advertising. Getty Images
Headshot of Lauren Johnson

On Monday, Salesforce and Google announced they are pooling data and cloud resources together, letting marketers view stats from both platforms within Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Google Analytics dashboards.

According to Google, this is the first time Analytics have been deeply integrated into a CRM solution and a deal between the two companies. One strong component hints at Saleforce’s move into advertising: Customers will be able to purchase Google ads based on how consumers respond to email, SMS and push notification campaigns.

“I think this is the strongest indication to date that big data and cloud computing are bringing together advertising and marketing technology into a common data-driven framework with personal identity at its core,” said Andrew Frank, vp and distinguished analyst at Gartner for Marketers.

Up until now, marketers have been using workarounds to see both sets of data at the same time; the partnership will likely ameliorate this issue, particularly for smaller brands that have less resources.

“Marketers have had an ambition for several years to use their customer data to improve media efficiency and effectiveness but the process for making that a reality has been complex and required deep pockets and specialist resources,” said Stephen Pretorius, UK group CEO and global CTO of Wunderman. “Google and Salesforce partnering in this area takes away a lot of the friction in the system, making it easier for marketers of all sizes to adopt these strategies.”

Ric Elert, president of Conversant, said that the combination of Google’s anonymous data about specific actions coupled with Salesforce’s database of profiles will boost personalized marketing, but marketers may struggle with getting quick insights.

“The ability to deliver personalization starts with stable consumer identification and then robust individualized profiles, which looks like what they are trying to achieve with this partnership, but that’s only half the equation,” Elert said. “Brands also need to be able to market and make decisions in real-time to make this data come to life in a way that drives outcomes.”

Will using search data to target email campaigns irritate consumers? Possibly—if marketers aren’t careful, warned Optimove CEO Pini Yakuel.

“It will require intelligent communications created by both people and machines—marketers will need creative content that people actually want to see, and use their instincts and their tools to know when less is actually more,” he said.

Through acquisitions like TubeMogul and Moat, Adobe and Oracle are pushing to build deeper advertising chops in recent years. Teaming with Google suggests that Salesforce is also ramping up its advertising business.

“This turbocharges Salesforce’s entry into the advertising and data categories in mar tech, where Adobe and Oracle have been building assets and presence for some time,” explained Gil Elbaz, CEO and founder of Factual.

However, according to Segment co-founder and CEO Peter Reinhardt, the pitch is missing a key element: event-level, first-party data.

“The campaigns you can run in channels that Salesforce supports are only as good as the data you collect for and send to them,” Reinhardt said. “The absence of granular, event-level behavioral data will still be a blocker to create truly accurate, richly detailed personalization campaigns.”

However, Gartner’s Frank argued that data expertise—not stats—is what’s missing in Google and Salesforce’s tie-up.

“There will always be missing data—at least until all privacy completely disappears—but most marketers can barely deal with the quantities of data they already have,” Frank said. “What’s missing are the skills and strategies to use it effectively in ways that create value for both brands and consumers and empower consumers to feel like they have some control over their personal data.”

In addition, Google and Salesforce are working together on cloud software, with Salesforce using Google’s cloud infrastructure to help expand its services. Salesforce also works with Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a preferred cloud provider and plans to continue working with Amazon’s software, but the move is still a major win for Google, said Dave Bartoletti, vp and principal analyst at Forrester.

“This alliance shows how aggressively Google is aiming right for AWS where it hurts—hosting infrastructure for some of the largest Software as a Service properties,” he said. “The combination of Salesforce and Google is not enough on its own to challenge AWS’s leadership position in cloud computing, especially since Salesforce also hosts part of its infrastructure on AWS, but this is certainly Google’s attempt to slow down the existing AWS and Salesforce partnership.”

Wunderman’s Pretorius added that the partnership is “significant” because “it answers a growing client demand to choose the cloud partners they want to work with,” which reflects how brands are increasingly “more thoughtful and strategic in how they work with Amazon at every level.”

@laurenjohnson lauren.johnson@adweek.com Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.