Adobe and Salesforce Up Their Mar-Tech Arms Race With Their Recent Product Launches

The former debuts Data Explorer while the latter kicks off its annual bazaar, Dreamforce

Competition in the $100 billion mar-tech sector is heating up with Adobe and Salesforce increasingly rivaling each other. Getty Images
Headshot of Ronan Shields

A week after it confirmed its $4.75 billion Marketo purchase, Adobe is ratcheting up competition in the mar-tech sector even further with the launch of Data Explorer, a set of features it claims will make its data management platform (DMP) eclipse rival offerings.

The announcement comes the same day Adobe announced a partnership with Microsoft and SAP in a venture known as the Open Data Initiative, which they claim will better provide interoperability between their respective marketing cloud services through the use of a “common data model.”

The timing of such launches, its second and third this week alone, is significant given that it announced these products as mar-tech rival Salesforce plans to kick off its annual Dreamforce extravaganza where it typically makes its flagship announcements.

Data Explorer is a suite of self-service tools currently being rolled out in Adobe’s DMP Audience Manager that let marketers build audience segments using otherwise unused raw data signals. This helps customers “save time with an improved workflow from data signal insights to action in just one click” and also provides them with “unmatched flexibility in the organization,” according to a statement.

Matt Skinner, a product marketer for Adobe Audience Manager, said the new features are unique in the sector as they act as an “insurance” for marketers that could otherwise “risk accidentally not capturing all relevant data.”

He told Adweek, “There are certain cases where you can’t necessarily anticipate that some particular behavior on your website that is going to be critical downstream to build a very highly targeted audience. What this feature allows customers to do is to have the assurance that behavior will be captured and will be able to be utilized by them in the future.”

For instance, a marketer at an ecommerce site with an unexpectedly popular product can retarget any user that has historically expressed an interest in said product—but not purchased it—by retrospectively optimizing its audience insights with unused data signals.

“What this feature allows you to do is go back and retroactively populate your audience based on those behaviors that you may have already missed, so that you could build a campaign right now to go out and target those users,” he added.

No other DMP on the market can offer this retrospective insurance according to Adobe.

The Marketo purchase, the largest in Adobe’s history, brings it toe-to-toe with Salesforce and comes hot on the heels of buying ecommerce specialist Magento earlier in the year for $1.7 billion with both entities soon to be integrated into the Adobe Experience Cloud.

Gartner analyst said Andrew Frank said both acquisitions were indicative of a land grab in the space, adding that marketers are increasingly turning to individual marketing cloud providers for an end-to-end offering.

Jeff Ratner, chief media officer at iCrossing, also said the purchases could be read as a defensive move against a host of rivals including Google, Oracle and Salesforce. “The purchasing of Marketo by Adobe is adding a practical data set and CRM to Adobe’s ad stack. … Offensively, it furthers Adobe as an end-to-end solution,” he added.

Salesforce is priming its own assault on marketers’ budgets

The timing of the purchase announcement, and subsequent product launch, is interesting given the close proximity to the star-studded annual Dreamforce event hosted in San Francisco, Calif., where the leader of the business-to-business mar-tech sector sets out its stall for the year ahead.

On Monday, Salesforce underlined the scale of its ambition this year when it preluded its Dreamforce bazaar with a joint-announcement with Apple detailing how they would pair up to deliver business-to-business mobile apps.

This also comes months after it announced a partnership with Google whereby they will pool data and cloud resources together plus launch a service with functions similar to Adobe Data Explorer.

The beta trial, which began earlier this quarter, lets marketers create audience segments—such as category buyers, loyalty members and abandoned browsers—in Google’s Analytics 360 before connecting with those audiences within Marketing Cloud. According to Salesforce, marketers using the dashboard will then be able to pick up on signals about products that consumers saw, but didn’t purchase.

The marketer can then create a new audience based on that information in Analytics 360 and publish it to Marketing Cloud. For instance, brands can then attempt to win over such audience members with a “re-engagement journey” with offers of additional information or discounts, etc.

Warc claimed that brands in the U.K. and North America alone increased their mar-tech budgets by 44 percent over the past 12 months to hit $52 billion. The survey, based on the responses from representatives of more than 800 brands and agencies, found that nearly a quarter of all marketing budgets (23 percent) are now spent on such software.

@ronan_shields Ronan Shields is a programmatic reporter at Adweek, focusing on ad-tech.