The CRM market will continue to consolidate in the year ahead as
customers keep on delaying buying decisions in the midst of a difficult
economic climate, according to Bob Barker, E.piphany’s European
marketing director. But, he claims, the CRM applications provider is
well placed to survive and, dare one say it, prosper, because of its
“strong financial position” and because its small size means it is
“fleet of foot”.
“The business is out there, but there are not the huge multimillion
dollar sign-ups that there used to be, which is why the big boys are
suffering. But we’re used to being operationally fleet of foot and
integrating into their applications," Barker says. "As a result, we had
12 customers go live in Europe in the fourth quarter including Volvo,
Firstchoice Swiss and Barclaycard,” he adds.
This means that he is not concerned by the suggestions of many analysts
that customers would be well advised to go for offerings from the
larger firms such as Oracle or SAP because their size and financial
muscle guarantees they will still be around in a few years’ time.
Barker retorts: “While we’re not a big boy, we’re a reputable, stable
vendor to go for. We also have a lot of cash in the bank – a $300
million cushion, which gives us and our customers a comfort factor, and
we’re also soundly financially managed, unlike our smaller rivals.”
For its fiscal year, which ended on 31 December, 2002, E.piphany’s
sales fell to $83.8 million from $128.8 million in the year ago period.
Its net loss under the GAAP accounting standard dropped to $71.7
million or a loss of $1.0 per share from $2.6 billion or a loss per
share of $38.25 in the firm’s fiscal year 2001.
“We exceeded expectations with our figures in a very difficult market,
and we’ll be making each of our quarters as we go through the year
because we have a momentum in new customer names, a solid technology
base and good partners and staff,” Barker says.
To strengthen his case, however, he also attests that E.piphany now has
a more balanced product portfolio than was formerly the case. Although
about 50 per cent of its revenues are still generated from
marketing-related applications, the rest come from sales of call
centre-related and sales force automation –type packages.
“Although historically we focused on CRM analytics, we’re now a full
suite player, and are building a market for ourselves in operational
CRM in the sales and service space. This is because most customers
start with the marketing side of things first, before integrating their
contact centre and sales force,” Barker claims.
E.piphany also intends to make its offerings more attractive to
individual vertical markets, in particular financial services, telcos
and the travel industry, by coming out with specifically tailored
packaged suites this year.
Giga Information Group, meanwhile, in a report dubbed Market Overview
2003: European Customer Relationship Management, states: “Recognition
of [E.piphany’s] CRM suite flags in Europe, and growth is much lower
than initially expected.”
While Barker acknowledges that there is still work to be done in the
region, he says: “Although we’ve had an office in the UK for about two
and a half years, Frank Baker, the head of EMEA [Europe, the Middle
East and Africa], has only been here for 18 months, and he’s been
steadily building up a management team to sort out marketing and get
the right PR structure in place.”
As a result, Barker was poached from Oracle about a year ago to handle
marketing “and it needed sorting out”, he admitted.
There are now six direct country operations in place in Europe,
including France, Spain and the Netherlands, each with their own
country manager and professional services personnel. The European
headcount now totals about 100 of E.piphany’s 500-600 staff worldwide.
While Barker recognises that “we have much better brand recognition in
the US,” he explains that the firm’s hopes to raise its European
profile by focused marketing activities.
“We’ve got to do some clever things to raise our profile in European
countries – we can’t just take out Financial Times’ ads because it will
just burn money. At the corporate level, we’re doing integrated
marketing, for example by using our own system internally and ensuring
that sales force automation is linked to marketing is linked to
support,” he says.
Barker concludes: “We signed up Centrica and Hoffman-LaRoche in
December, and we’re optimistic that we can keep that going into 2003.”