Will 2013 see Marketing Cloud wars break out in earnest now that Oracle has splashed out $871 million to snap up Eloqua and go head to head with Salesforce.com, Marketo et al?
Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff already spent a large part of 2012 declaring that the Marketing Cloud is the next big thing. Now it seems his former boss Larry Ellison has come to the same conclusion with Oracle making an $871 million swoop on Cloud marketing automation firm Eloqua.
"Exceptional customer experience starts with knowing your customer's preferences and delivering a highly personalised buying experience," said Joe Payne, Chairman and CEO, Eloqua. "Together with Oracle, we expect to accelerate the pace of the modern marketing revolution and help our customers transform the way they market, sell, support and serve their customers."
There are wider implications all round, argues Gavin Heaton at Constellation Research who suggests: "The acquisition has revealed a gap in the Salesforce marketing offering. SAP is nowhere to be seen. And Adobe and IBM can no longer afford to sit on their hands. Oracle has thrown down the gauntlet to the other enterprise software vendors. Who will blink first?"
Salesforce.com's next move
There could be some interesting ramifications for Salesforce.com in the Oracle move. Eloqua is part of the wider Salesforce.com ecosystem and shares many customers with the marketing firm. Heaton notes: "Many Eloqua customers will have made companion investments in Salesforce and will be keen for ongoing reassurance that integration will continue to be supported."
The acquisition by Oracle may lead Salesforce.com to look at acquiring its own more traditional marketing automation alternative rather than maintain its focus on social media marketing which has been the case to date through its purchases of Radian6 and Buddy Media.
Inevitably attention will also fall on Marketo, whose CEO Phil Fernandez has previously quipped: "If my phone rings one day and Marc [Benioff] says 'It's time', well who knows?".
To date Marketo has carved its own independent path. But the firm is closely tied into the Salesforce.com universe and there will be speculation about potential closer ties between the two providers, if only as a defensive move against Oracle's ambitions.
The CMO perspective
At the end of the day, the real winner could turn out to be the marketing department, now the focus of so much unaccustomed tussling for attention by vendors.
Constellation Research's Heaton concludes: "Marketers have fallen behind in the technology stakes – suffering under the weight of outmoded marketing models and outflanked by their fast moving, tech savvy, connected customers. This announcement brings yet another level of change and signals a new wave of consolidation and innovation that will challenge marketers in the year ahead.