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Salesforce’s Acquisition of Datorama Raises Questions

Two years ago, in July 2016, I sat down with Ran Sarig, CEO and co-founder of the New York-based marketing intelligence platform Datorama, to talk about saving brands from “Excel hell” by pulling together internal and external data streams to form a single source of truth.

It was a clear-cut focus for the 2012-founded start-up, especially given the difficulties brands were facing when it came to executing disparate and siloed sales, marketing, and service data. Over 3,000 brands, including PepsiCo and Unilever, saw the appeal of the Datorama proffer.

In 2017, enhancements to the platform came fast. In May, there was Datorama Genius, an AI engine at the insights level of the offering. In simple terms, Genius was designed not only to identify problems or anomalies in the integrated data, but provide recommendations for fixes.  In July, I spoke to Leah Pope (Datorama’s CMO, and an inductee in the 2018 DMN Marketing Hall of Femme) about a major enhancement to the company’s offering, SmartLenses. This meant Datorama customers had the option of selecting pre-configured “instant dashboards” rather than customizing a dashboard within the solution. SmartLenses came pre-loaded, I wrote, “with KPIs, performance metrics, trends, and campaign analytics for commonly used platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google AdWords and Analytics, MailChimp, MediaMath, Moat, and so on.”

Fast-forward to July 2018, and we learn this week that Datorama is set to follow in the footsteps of ExactTarget, Krux, Mulesoft, and so many other independent software companies, and vanish into the belly of the Benioff beast. Salesforce will acquire Datorama for an unconfirmed sum, reported as in excess of $800 million.

Salesforce said that the purchase “strengthens Salesforce’s ability to empower brands worldwide to deliver smarter, more personalized and connected customer experiences,” which is a bit like saying Christmas is fun for children. Somewhat more specifically, the announcement went on to say that the acquisition would “enhance the power of Marketing Cloud with expanded data integration and intelligence, enabling marketers to unlock insights across all of their marketing channels and data sources. With one unified view of data and insights, companies can make smarter decisions across the entire customer journey and optimize engagement at scale.”

In a blog for Datorama, Ran Sarig said that Datorama provides “the leading cloud-based, AI-powered marketing intelligence and analytics platform for enterprises, agencies and publishers,” before repeating the same “enhance the power” language which appeared in the Salesforce announcement.

Some obvious questions arise:

  • Didn’t Salesforce Marketing Cloud already provide a single source of truth when it came to brands’ marketing data?
  • Isn’t Salesforce Einstein a genius? Why would you need to two geniuses in the room?
  • It’s hard to see the benefit in a Datorama app running on the Salesforce platform alongside the Marketing Cloud. Will Datorama’s functionality be integrated invisibly with the Marketing Cloud, and if so, are their weaknesses in what Marketing Cloud was already doing which Datorama will serve to patch?
  • Or is Salesforce just acquiring some smart tech and smart people; a sort of asset strip?

It looks like a nice landing for Sarig and his estimable team. What it actually means for Salesforce and Datorama customers isn’t quite yet clear, but it’s early days. Hopefully we’ll have answers to some of those questions soon.

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