Salesforce Innovates on Email, Sitecore Heads to Orlando

Salesforce today announced a series of Einstein-driven email innovations in Marketing Cloud Email Studio, including automated content selection, improved insight into performance, interactive email content, and shareable templates to improve productivity. Leah Pope, head of marketing, Salesforce for Marketing, and CMO of Datorama, spoke to me about the significance of the updates. 

First, content. “Einstein Content Selection will automatically recommend visual assets to use through every part of an email, personalized to customers based on preferences and behaviors, placed strategically so we can get customers to take action. It takes guesswork out of the way, allowing marketers to free up their time to focus elsewhere.”

To deliver Copy Insight, Salesforce will use NLP to identify the best words and phrases to include in subject lines and social media copy. Again, it takes the guesswork out: “Marketers will better know which copy is landing with their audiences, and will receive recommendations on how to better optimize these messages. We’re also announcing Einstein Messaging Insight, which will notify marketers when messages are under- or over-performing, and recommend action to improve the effectiveness of the email campaign.”

The Interactive Email offering is based on technology created by Rebel, acquired by Salesforce in October 2018. “Creating interactive email experiences is a top trend. It allows customers to take action directly within the email, versus being sent to a website, or another digital channel. It removes friction from the conversion process.”  Email content will render at time of open, and performance will be reported in real time.

The productivity offering includes Journey Templates as well as updated validation processes. “Journey Templates allows marketers to share templates across their organization in order to quickly build and deploy campaigns. For example, if a company has similar events taking place throughout the country, marketers can take the same journey path and content and apply it to different audiences at different times.”

The Testing and Validating feature troubleshoots for errors in emails, like missing names, before the emails are deployed. 

“The cool thing about all of this to me,” said Pope, “is that we’ll get recommendations on what works, when and why; you can makes changes quickly; you can make changes that matter. “

Interactive email will be in pilot, and Copy and Messaging Insights generally available, early in 2020. Einstein Content Selection, and Journey Templates and Testing and Validating, are generally available now. — Kim Davis

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Sitecore is a perennial strong performer in Gartner and Forrester assessments of the content marketing and web content management spaces. Later this month, it’s bringing its Sitecore Experience Platform customers and representatives of its partner eco-system together in Orlando for the 2019 Sitecore Symposium. I sat down with CMO Paige O’Neill in New York for a preview. 

“We’re trying something new this year,” she said, “where we’ve got not only the main keynotes, but we’re doing these little five to 10 minute vignettes to break up the flow a bit. Various customers will come up and [talk about] how they’re using the technology, and the problems they’re trying to solve.”

The Symposium will feature tracks for end users as well as C-level executives. The crucial role now played by hands-on users in the purchase journey for software investments is reflected in O’Neill’s own experience. “I typically make my buying decisions based on what my people think we should buy. I’m signing the final PO, but often I’ve had very little to do with selecting the vendor. We’ve identified a need, we’ve established a budget, we might have talked about pros and cons, but the people behind the scenes have had weeks and weeks of demos and conversations.”

I asked for O’Neill to give me a sense of where Sitecore, a veteran player in the space, is currently positioned. “I think Adobe is the 500 pound gorilla in the space, and we’re right behind them. Obviously, they’re much larger than us, and have a lot of different parts to their business, but I think we tend to be positioned right there at number two. We pretty much compete with Adobe, and we see other smaller vendors occasionally.”

Interestingly, Adobe and Sitecore are headed in different directions market-wise. Where Sitecore began with midmarket customers, but has expanded its enterprise footprint, Adobe has begun targeting the midmarket and even SMBs. 

Sitecore leads with the “experience” term, of course, and O’Neill told me “experience is the word of the decade.” How does creating digital customer experiences differ from traditional marketing? “I don’t think it does now, she said. Traditional marketing has changed with the rise of digital and all of the channels marketers have at their disposal. Sure, we still have some of the more traditional strategies like TV and print ads, but most businesses recognize that they now have to be leading with digital. That’s where the majority of customers are.”  Kim Davis

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User-generated content sites like Pinterest are key channels for discovery. The question is always, can a platform with a large following offer advertising opportunities that blend seamlessly with the experience?

Snapchat posted its second consecutive positive earnings report this week, and MediaRadar has been watching closely. They use AI and machine learning to develop multi-channel intelligence and insights for marketers.

MediaRadar CEO and co-founder Todd Krizelman explained, “Driving this growth is the fact that the company continues to innovate and provide new products for both its audience and advertisers. On the advertiser’s side, SNAP has launched features like Instant Create or Dynamic Ads, both tools advertisers can use to create Snapchat ads quickly and without any advanced technical capabilities required. We see at MediaRadar a big surge of these ad types.”

Krizelman adds that the new offerings drew big first-time advertisers in Q3, among them Discover Card, FitBit and Philips.

“With advertising on the platform getting easier, SNAP is setting themselves up for success,” he stated.  Chris Wood

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More comprehensive privacy solutions are one good sign, for marketers as well as for consumers, that the OTT ecosystem is maturing. Consolidation is another sign of growing up. This week, OTT service Roku announced it had entered into an agreement to buy a Boston-based demand-side platform (DSP), Dataxu (pronounced “data-zoo”), for $150 million. This move complements Roku’s existing ad platform, providing a software solution for advertisers to plan, buy and optimize their spend.

Local-focused omnichannel platform ZypMedia has been keeping a close eye on the rapidly-changing OTT/CTV space. CEO Aman Sareen told me, “We continue to see a lot of consolidation in the next generation of TV advertising, as major players are lining up total solutions – WarnerMedia with Xandr acquisition, and the Comcast/NBC initiative. We continue to see strong and robust growth and believe that the future for demand-side-platforms is linked to strong integrations and relationships with inventory owners, and strong trusted channels with large national and local advertisers.”   Chris Wood

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