With “freemium” Watson Analytics, IBM undercuts the marketing cloud competition

IBM has jumped back into the marketing cloud wars with new analytics tool that it’s practically giving away to customers.

Yesterday, Big Blue announced that it was releasing a new cloud based analytics platform, titled Watson Analytics. Not only is IBM cashing in on the well known “Watson” brand (it was the name of the computer that won Jeopardy! in TK,) it’s severely undercutting its competitors by offering the tool through a “freemium” model.

Watson Analytics will allow users to collect all the disparate data from multiple channels and synthesize it into a single source where it can be accessed for multiple operations. Data sources can include the web, point-of-sales information, mobile and CRM. Using Watson Analytics, users can discover insights, predict outcomes, visualize results, create reports or dashboards, and collaborate with other teams. 

“Watson Analytics is designed to help all business people – from sales reps on the road to company CEOs – see patterns, pursue ideas and improve all types of decisions,” says Bob Picciano, senior vice president, information and analytics group, IBM. “We have eliminated the barrier between the answers they seek, the analytics they want and the data in the form they need.”

Picciano added, “The combination of Watson-fueled analytics to magnify human cognition, the vast potential of big data, and cloud-scale delivery to PCs, smart phones and other devices is transformational.”

One of the better features of Watson Analytics is its “natural language” processing capability. This means users can type in queries to the platform in normal language, such as “What is the breakdown of sales by region and brand” or “Give me a list of sales contacts living in San Francisco.” In this way, the platform is highly intuitive, allowing marketers with low technical skills to get quickly access the information they want.

A free analytics tool with that many capabilities sounds too good to be true, and in some ways, it is. Watson Analytics is available for free, until users reach a certain limit of data storage, after which it comes at varying prices. That means large, enterprise companies with vast streams of data coming in through multiple channels will probably overshoot their limit pretty quickly. And smaller companies probably don’t have a need for something as complex as a multi-channel predictive analytics platform if they’re using simple web analytics or CRM systems. However, the key is that they can try out the platform, and once they get a look at what it can do, it becomes easier to adopt it. That’s an arguably more effective strategy for a big data tool than the usual yearly subscription based models currently being offered by other platforms.

IBM may not have the integrated solutions of Adobe, or the big name marketing automation tools of Salesforce and Oracle, but its formidable strength in data and analytics solutions makes it the sleeper in the marketing clouds contest. 

Adobe has Adobe Analytics, but that is geared mostly towards web analytics, while Oracle’s BlueKai is a powerful data resource that has yet to be fully integrated into its offerings. Salesforce’s ExactTarget Marketing Cloud is currently without a unified big data solution, but it was rumored to be unveiling a new Analytics Cloud at Dreamforce this year. If that’s the case IBM has really pulled the rug out from under it by announcing a competing product a full month before, (and for free no less)

Here’s a video from IBM on the new platform:

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