Salesforce integration of AI platform Datorama hints at broader play

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Credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Salesforce Marketing Cloud is integrating Datorama, a cloud-based AI outfit that the company acquired for a reported $800 million in July, into its platform.

The news, released at DMEXCO on Wednesday, is no surprise, but it highlights where cloud-based platforms such as Salesforce, Adobe, Oracle and others are heading – that is making sense of a tsunami of data and then providing brands the ability to automatically take action whenever consumers engage with them through channels such as search, social, email, video.

As it stands today, marketers cobble together this sort of data using a Frankenstein's monster of software from different vendors. Bob Stutz, CEO of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, says there are roughly 7,000 companies offering to measure campaign performance. Attempting to stitch this sort of information into a single data source from disparate providers is cumbersome at best and, worse, often not very accurate.

"[Advertisers] struggle to get a holistic view of their marketing efforts," Stutz says. "Other marketers have given up consolidating campaign information from various applications altogether."

Too soon?

Datorama's sales pitch is it has the platform where marketers can capture insights across all of their marketing in one place, allowing them to take control and improve campaign performance. When integrated with Salesforce advertisers can eventually take the "correct" action – automatically – when consumers engage with their brand, the thinking goes.

Although such a scenario sounds ideal, the reality is it's early days.

"We are swimming in data," says Joanna O'Connell, VP and principal analyst at Forrester. "So if you have a platform that can extract value and tell you something you didn't know, there is huge value in that. But to imagine that there is a silver bullet for the collection and normalization of all data and insights is, well, a silver bullet – and those are about as rare as unicorns."

In other words, companies promise they can solve every data need, but as it turns out, marketers will likely need more than one solution, O'Connell says. "We have to be careful because this is where the rubber meets the road," she says. "Any time a human being interacts with a brand – whether it's a paid ad, email or website – how do they know what to do and how can they find out what the consumer did last time? Salesforce can help marketers push segments into a DSP, but it's totally not connected."

That means marketers will still have to use other tools to work with Salesforce, and cobbling pieces together will more than likely remain the status quo.

For now, Salesforce will have its customers pay extra for access to Datorama, although it's likely to be included as part of Marketing Cloud in the future. Ultimately, though, cloud-based marketing platforms such as Salesforce want -- and will need -- to provide all the tools marketers need to take action when consumers engage with their brand.

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