The term ?marketing cloud? has gained significant traction in the last few years as major software companies have sought to monetise the growing importance of technology for marketing teams.
But what exactly does this sometimes fuzzy term mean, and are companies actually benefiting from the type of all-singing and all-dancing solutions increasingly being developed by the likes of Adobe, IBM, Oracle and Salesforce?
ClickZ Intelligence has published a new piece of research entitled ?What the Hell is a Marketing Cloud, Anyway???which, as the name suggests, seeks answers to these questions.
The report is based on interviews with senior client-side executives across a range of brands and a survey of almost 200 marketing professionals about the extent to which their businesses are capitalising on this technology.
For the purposes of the survey, carried out in September 2016, we defined a marketing cloud as ?an integrated suite of marketing tools which are available to marketers as web-based services?.
Read on for a summary of the key takeaways from the report.
The marketing cloud is having a positive impact
There is good news for vendors and their clients in that the majority of responding organisations (52%) claimed to be using marketing cloud technology, and a further 27% of companies said they were considering this.
Furthermore, the research found that responding organisations are generally very positive about the marketing cloud, with 82% of respondents saying that marketing cloud technology has had a positive impact on their organisation?s marketing.
The overwhelming majority of respondents (84%) also agreed that an integrated suite of marketing tools has a positive impact on customer experience compared to only 5% who disagree. Similarly, 88% agreed that an integrated suite of marketing tools has a positive effect on business performance compared to only 3% who disagreed.
As the chart below shows, the reasons most commonly cited for using marketing cloud software are ?reduced complexity? (44%), a ?single data source? (40%), ?better customer experience? (38%), a ?unified user interface? (36%), ?better visibility of return on investment? (32%) and ?improved ROI? (30%).
Methodology note: respondents could check up to three options
Analytics are the bedrock of an effective marketing technology suite
Within the marketing cloud, a number of capabilities were considered by respondents to be critical, including CRM (59%), marketing automation (49%) and personalisation/targeting tools (46%).
However, the largest percentage (68%) felt that customer and digital analytics were the most critical core product within a unified suite of marketing tools, underscoring the importance of consistent and insightful data for?underpinning?the best marketing cloud offerings in the market.
Is there a downside to a marketing cloud?
The research also sought to understand whether there were disadvantages of using a single technology supplier.
While aiming to solve many of the current challenges marketers face, marketing clouds aren?t always the answer to everything. Few would expect a single, largely generic (though modifiable to varying degrees) technology solution to solve every single individual problem specific to each brand. As a result, executives felt its biggest failing was not to be ‘best of breed’ in all areas (36%).
You can download the report now to read in more detail about the essence of the marketing cloud, and also which vendors are most commonly being deployed.
The research also found that many marketers believe that vendors were not as transparent as they could be, despite educational efforts by vendors purporting to shed some light on the chaotic world of marketing technology. Over a third (35%) ?somewhat? disagreed that vendors were open about the pros and cons of the marketing cloud, and a further 5% ?strongly? disagreed.
Despite some suspicion of the way software companies are marketing their cloud offerings, giant strides have undoubtedly been taken by vendors to create more joined-up platforms following a string of acquisitions – some of which have taken longer than others to be truly integrated.
Senior executives interviewed for this research were keen to stress that marketing technology is not a panacea, although it can certainly make businesses more efficient.
Pete Markey, Brand Communications & Marketing Director at Aviva said he welcomed the ongoing use of automation in marketing, but warned against marketers hitting autopilot as the technologists take over.
?We?re all thinking about future-proofing. It?s not bad having a single provider as long as you have a sense of how technology is going to develop into the future. You don?t want to outsource your intellectual property. You don?t want technology to do the thinking for you to the point where you?re not keeping up with how you do what you do. Technology is a tool. It?s down to the marketer to protect the strength of their organisation.?