Last month's news that Oracle Corp. will acquire Eloqua Inc. and blend it into its Customer Experience Cloud array of products marked a milestone in the rapidly evolving world of marketing automation. It also prompted a flurry of questions about the kind of integrated marketing platform Oracle might have in mind as well as the deal's impact on existing Eloqua customers.
“The massive amounts of money that have flowed into the marketing automation space in the last couple of years validate that this is a real space addressing a real need,” said Lori Wizdo, principal analyst at Forrester Research.
Wizdo said if Oracle does a good job of mixing Eloqua's platform with its existing sales and customer relationship solutions, it could prove a significant improvement over the pastiche of applications marketers often employ.
“If Oracle can create a seamless experience across the different systems, that could be a great thing,” said Jeff Perkins, VP-global online marketing at conferencing and collaboration solutions company Premiere Global Services. “We'll have to wait and see if Oracle can truly create connections that will make life easier for marketers.”
However, Perkins said, the common practice of linking different third-party solutions works well. He uses HubSpot for marketing automation and Salesforce.com for CRM, and, he said, “We are satisfied with our solution set.”
Counting Eloqua's cash on hand, which Oracle will gain through the acquisition, the deal is valued at about $810 million.
Eloqua, with more than 1,200 corporate customers worldwide, was founded in 1999 and is often credited with creating the marketing automation industry. It will become the centerpiece of the Oracle Marketing Cloud, where existing products include Oracle Sales Cloud (centered on the company's Fusion CRM platform), Content Cloud, Social Cloud and other similarly named services. These solutions were largely built on such Oracle acquisitions as Collective Intellect and Vitrue Inc. in 2012 and FatWire Software in 2011.
“It's a pretty nice suite that's rounding out their capabilities,” said Scott Liewehr, president and principal analyst at Digital Clarity. “The sad thing, though, is that Oracle has no good history whatsoever of doing anything with any of those solutions, integrationwise.”
Liewehr speculated that the deal might prompt current Eloqua customers to look elsewhere for their marketing automation needs, particularly if they had simply been skimming the surface of Eloqua's powerful feature set.
“That's why Marketo, for example, is fairly well-liked,” he said. “It's nearly as complex as Eloqua but with a better user experience. It's also why HubSpot will continue to gain traction. It's simpler to use.”
Many Eloqua customers use such CRM products as Salesforce and, to a lesser extent, Microsoft Dynamics. It remains to be seen if the promise of a unified sales and marketing suite that includes Oracle's Fusion CRM will be enough to pry away Salesforce customers.
“A lot of people will have to choose in the long term, if not the short term' but I imagine that Salesforce is what they'll stick with,” said David M. Raab, principal at Raab Associates. “The sales force automation implementation is usually bigger than the marketing automation implementation. One is the dog and one is the tail.”
In a nod to the widespread use of Salesforce, Oracle said in a statement that Eloqua will continue to be an open platform and able to be integrated with third-party, non-Oracle systems.
Oracle did not respond to an interview request for this story. Eloqua would only release a statement by CEO Joe Payne, who said Oracle's powerful Big Data and business intelligence solutions are expected to augment the Eloqua platform.
Database management may be among the most potent advantages Oracle itself brings to Eloqua customers. This month for the fourth straight year, Gartner Inc. named Oracle as one of only three leaders in its latest “Magic Quadrant” for data integration tools. (The other leaders cited in the report were IBM Corp. and Informatica Corp.)
“Everyone is talking about one system of record, but when you have separate databases—one in marketing, one in CRM, one in email, etc.—you don't have one system of record,” Wizdo said. “And the fact is, an API between two separate databases is still two separate databases. The Eloqua deal is a step that begins to say, "Yes, we have one integrated platform.' ”
Oracle's acquisition of Eloqua is among the biggest of several recent transactions involving marketing automation and sales enablement companies. This month Goldman Sachs pumped $54 million into Infusionsoft Inc. in one of the largest venture capital investments in the space, and in October email marketing company ExactTarget Inc. acquired Pardot for $95.5 million. Microsoft Corp.'s acquisition of enterprise social software company Yammer Inc. and Salesforce's acquisition of social campaign management company Buddy Media were other significant marketing and sales enablement deals in 2012.