Salesforce names Microsoft Azure as public cloud provider for Marketing Cloud

The expanded partnership between Salesforce and Microsoft also includes plans for new integrations to connect its Sales and Service clouds with Microsoft Teams.

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Microsoft and Salesforce have announced plans to expand their strategic partnership through the migration of Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud to Microsoft Azure. The move is anticipated to allow Salesforce to optimize Marketing Cloud performance to meet increasing customer demands.

In order to support their joint customers using Salesforce CRM and Microsoft Teams, Salesforce will also build new integrations for its Sales and Service clouds with Teams. The integrations will allow sales and service users to access Salesforce records directly in Teams, and is expected to go live in late 2020.

Why we should care

Moving Salesforce Marketing Cloud to Azure will allow the company’s customers to benefit from Azure’s infrastructure which will help brands manage data security, privacy and compliance requirements on a global scale.

The integration between the widely-used Salesforce CRM and Microsoft Teams can be expected to drive further collaboration across sales and service teams by increasing accessibility to data directly within the Teams app. Salesforce and Microsoft customers – like Marriott International – will be able to take advantage of improved collaboration and greater efficiency through the strategic partnership.

“Marriott has more than 7,200 properties spanning 134 countries and territories, so driving efficiency and collaboration is critical,” said Brian King, global officer, digital, distribution, revenue strategy and global sales, Marriott International. “The combination of Salesforce and Microsoft enables our teams to work better together to enhance the guest experience at every touchpoint.”

More on the news

  • By bringing its Marketing Cloud to Azure, Salesforce joins over 95% of Fortune 500 companies using the Azure infrastructure, which covers the most global regions of any cloud provider.
  • “In a world where every company is becoming a digital company, we want to enable every customer and partner to build experiences on our leading platform,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. “By bringing together the power of Azure and Microsoft Teams with Salesforce, our aim is to help businesses harness the power of Microsoft Cloud to better serve customers.”

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Merkle report: Personalization gains wide adoption, but marketers can do better

While the right tools may be in place, marketers’ use of individual data sources for personalization is low.

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Performance marketing agency Merkle has released the latest edition of its quarterly report, the Q4 2019 Customer Engagement Report (download required). The report addresses results from a Merkle survey of over 200 marketers from North American brands spanning across industries including retail, high-tech, financial, travel, media and entertainment, health and nonprofit.

The Q4 report explores the various data types marketers use to enable personalization, along with the emerging tools and tactics that drive ongoing marketing improvements. The survey found that while there is broad adoption of personalization across marketing organizations, there is plenty of room for growth.

Why we should care

The survey discovered that 86% of marketers have the budget, solutions and infrastructure in place to drive personalized customer experience across digital channels. Despite having all the right tools, respondents indicated that the use of individual data sources for personalization is low. According to Merkle, 70% of respondents reported that third-party customer demographics are used in email, 40% in digital media, and less than 30% on website.

Source: Merkle’s Q4 2019 Customer Engagement Report

Merkle also analyzed loyalty program tactics used by marketers. The study found that despite respondents indicating an increase in investments in loyalty platforms and emerging technologies, spend on loyalty program management, email marketing and operational resources have stayed the same or decreased. 81% of survey respondents reported they have a defined loyalty program in place.

Additionally, Merkle identified a gap between high-level reporting on data use and available and the use of specific data sources for loyalty programs. 62% of respondents indicated they have loyalty programs that are fully integrated with their CRM data, but are using less of the available data in loyalty efforts compared to wider marketing initiatives; 38% indicate using third-party demographic data to personalize loyalty programs compared to 86% in overall marketing efforts.

More on the news:

  • 60% of respondents reported that a majority of their revenue was driven by data-based triggers but only 28% of messaging is based on one-to-one behavior triggers.
  • Nearly 90% of marketers use personalization on at least one channel, but most have not adopted advanced tactics.

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Lytics launches Salesforce Marketing Cloud integration for customer journeys

With the new integration, users can view customer insights and execute campaigns between Lytics and Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

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Customer data platform (CDP) Lytics announced updates to its platform that will allow users to integrate customer journey execution with Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC). Lytics’ campaign orchestration capabilities can now be used across a number of marketing technologies, including Facebook and SendGrid – in addition to the new SFMC integration.

The integration between Lytics’ CDP and SFMC is expected to allow marketers to import existing campaigns to build new experiences within the Orchestrate Journey canvas. The insights delivered from Lytics can then be used to inform more targeted campaigns and be sent to SFMC for delivery.

Why we should care

Delivering personalized, one-to-one marketing at scale is something we strive for as marketers. Our disparate martech environments tend to complicate this, and customer data platforms seek to address these complications by providing users with a single view of their customer data from the different tools they use. Marrying this data into a single view should help marketers extract new insights to further inform their campaigns.

“The best customer journeys are an open road,” said James McDermott, CEO of Lytics, “and for us, that means giving marketers the freedom to choose multiple paths by integrating with their existing marketing technology stack.”

More on the news

With the new Lytics and Salesforce Marketing Cloud integration, users can:

  • Export audience segments from Lytics into SFMC to continue the customer journey
  • Trigger new experiences in SFMC based on customer events (e.g., opened an email) captured in Lytics
  • Switch between Lytics and SFMC within the same customer journey to deliver a combination of channel and message.

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Survey: Retail brands sharing personalized offers will win over consumers this holiday season

Consumers want to feel better understood by retailers especially during the holiday season, according to research.

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As consumers become increasingly aware of how personal data can be exchanged for value, their expectations from brand interactions are growing — especially for retail brands entering the holiday season.

According to a survey from customer data platform RedPoint Global, 75% of consumers said that they wish retailers understood their personal preferences better and would use those insights to inform future offers.

Why we should care

While the survey specifically focuses on the upcoming holiday shopping season, personalization is not a passing marketing trend. Nearly 60% of survey respondents indicated that they are more likely to purchase from retailers who send them personalized content and offers. With personalization driving conversions and sales, marketers should anticipate that consumer expectations are only going to climb higher when it comes to delivering the right offers.

“It’s clear that consumers have had enough of irrelevant communication from brands that fail to leverage personal preferences and engagement history,” said Redpoint Global chief marketing and strategy officer, John Nash. “Every buyer expects to be treated as a unique individual — and the holiday season is an ideal time for retailers to deliver on these preferences and win customers over.”

But in order for brands to deliver the personalized experience consumers crave, it’s important that marketers consider how consumer data fuels personalized offers. Nash explained, “To achieve long-term loyalty… retailers must build effective relationships with each unique customer across all touchpoints — not just during the holidays, but all year long.”

More on the news

Additional insights from the survey include:

  • 74% of brand loyalty members expect brands to understand their needs and expectations better than other retailers where they are not a member.
  • Over a third of respondents remain loyal to their “go-to” brands for holiday shopping, saying they exclusively purchase from retailers that they have shopped with in the past.
  • Over a third of consumers surveyed said they made a holiday purchase on Amazon Prime Day in July 2019.

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With loss of Yahoo and image search, Google Shopping search partner traffic nosedives

While it is a small fraction of Shopping traffic, the partner network can help advertisers currently excluding this traffic to grow moving forward, particularly in a competitive Q4 holiday season.

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Click traffic from the Google search partner network took two major blows in early 2019. The first was Yahoo’s move to begin showing only Microsoft Ads-powered sponsored listings following a more than a three-year stint in which some of Yahoo’s listings were powered by Google. The second was Google’s update to bring ads featured in image search out from the partner network and into the core Google Search Network.

Here we evaluate a sample of long-standing Tinuiti (my employer) advertisers to assess the effects of these changes to the share of Google Shopping traffic coming from search partners, the relative value and cost of that traffic, and what it all means for advertisers.

Search partner click share falls dramatically across device types

As you can see from the chart below, search partner traffic once accounted for a significant share of Google Shopping clicks, and in August 2017 was at 16% for desktop. In August 2019, that figure was just 3%, with share on tablets and phones at 2% and 1%, respectively.

The timing of the dip seems a bit delayed from what we might have expected given the details of the two announcements ostensibly driving this trend.

In the case of Yahoo, it announced in January that it would only serve Microsoft Ads, but the change was said to have rolled out through March. For image search, Google announced that it would be integrated into the core Search Network in late March. As such, April would have presumably been when much of the decrease occurred.

However, our numbers show that traffic share really took the biggest month-to-month dip from June to July. It’s not entirely clear why there seems to have been a delay, but the decline is certainly what we expected in light of these two changes, and it’s possible Google’s change to image search took longer than expected to roll out. There may have also been other less publicized updates to the partner network affecting these trends.

Some advertisers choose not to allow Shopping ads to show on the search partner network, owing to the lack of controls available in terms of bidding and where ads are shown. However, our research shows that the Google Search Partner Network is usually an efficient way to extend the reach of Shopping campaigns.

Search partner clicks convert at a lower rate than core search, but cost less too

Looking at the conversion rate of search partner traffic relative to core search, partners clearly convert at a significantly lower rate.

In July and August, search partner conversion rate improved relative to core search across device types. This makes sense if the image search change really did take a few months to roll out, since the transition of image search clicks from the partner network to core search would likely put downward pressure on core search conversion rate.

Regardless, the disparity in conversion rate might be enough to send some advertisers running to Shopping campaign settings to shut down the partner network. However, looking at relative CPC, search partner traffic also consistently tracks well below core search in the price paid for clicks as well.

All told, the median advertiser saw no difference in the cost per conversion of search partners versus core search network in August 2019. As such, opting Shopping campaigns into the partner network garners incremental traffic without harming ROI for many advertisers.


These updates meaningfully reduced the importance of the partner network to Google Shopping campaigns, and it seems unlikely that we should ever expect partner click share to regain its former heights. There just aren’t many properties out there for Google to partner with that can produce the kind of click volume that Yahoo and Google image search provide.

Still, it remains the case that the partner network is typically a worthwhile investment for retailers looking to maximize the reach of their Google Shopping campaigns. While it may only be a small fraction of Shopping traffic, it can certainly help advertisers that are currently excluding this traffic to grow moving forward. Particularly in the competitive Q4 holiday season, it would be a shame for brands to leave this opportunity on the table.

Of course, Google didn’t actually lose image search ad traffic, and those impressions and clicks are now just a part of its core Search Network. Advertisers that were already targeting the Search Partner Network shouldn’t have seen much of a change to overall Shopping traffic as a result of this update specifically, though the change may have forced competitors that were formerly excluding partners into competing for these image search placements.

Yahoo’s move did give Microsoft Ads traffic a boost, and while Google will likely continue to account for the vast majority of paid search traffic in the U.S., Microsoft Ads is still a crucial part of reaching searchers who might not turn to Google with their queries.

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Better data vs. big data: The importance of taking a lean data approach

Brands should take a minimum viable data approach to collecting data, and then be clear about their intention with customers.

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Every year companies invest billions of dollars collecting customer data to apply to marketing analytics. According to a recent CMO survey, reliance on marketing analytics to make decisions has increased from 30% to 42% in the past five years, with B2C companies using analytics the majority of the time.

At the same time, identifying the right data continues to be a challenge for brands. As my business partner and Wharton School Professor Eric Bradlow has highlighted many times before, CMOs and their teams need to focus on “better data, not big data.” And yet, we continue to see companies cast a wide net, collecting any and all available data, rather than taking a more targeted approach.

This is a discussion that’s happening with increasing regularity at the CMO and board level. To be successful, marketers must not only identify, but hyper-focus on applying the right first-party and third-party data to anticipate and meet the needs of their target customers.

To discuss this topic in greater detail, I recently chatted with Gartner Senior Director Charles Golvin. Our conversation, coupled with my own experience, solidified three areas companies need to focus on to identify, collect and apply better data… while maintaining transparency with customers.

1. Find the right balance

Over the years, I’ve worked at many organizations which take a data-driven approach to marketing. These include T-Mobile and Microsoft, and while they each have their own particular strengths, there are some common missteps that even very large, well-funded enterprises make when identifying what first and thirdparty data to focus on, to guide their brand and marketing strategy.

One common challenge is that companies tend to rely too heavily on data alone when crafting their marketing and product strategies. In some cases, companies seek out more and more data – in effect creating an ever-expanding “data lake” for the organization to draw from. The collection of data sometimes becomes a goal itself, losing site of the rationale and practical use for these data. 

As Golvin notes, “We continue to see a ‘more is better’ attitude  inside many organizations, collecting data for data’s sake, without fully considering the risks and do we really need it.”

In addition to the downside risks, collecting terabtyes or petabytes of data to consolidate and apply to business or marketing strategy is both expensive and sometimes impractical.

Companies can get stuck in analysis paralysis, or become overly focused on backwardfacing data, or vanity metrics, rather than getting into the actual signal of what’s happening with customers. In other cases, I’ve seen companies disregard customer data because they think it’s incomplete.

In both instances, it comes down to balancing the firstparty data you have available with direct customer feedback, as well as feedback from employees and business partners. At the end of the day, data needs a human filter and you need to strike the right balance to stay abreast of your target customers’ – and competitors’ – evolving behaviors.

2. Only collect data you can deliver value with

To adopt a leaner data strategy, brands need to hyper-focus on the needs of your target customers, and that starts with asking the right questions:

  • What data is essential to improving CX and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) over time? 
  • When customers provide you with their personal data, what value are you offering in exchange?
  • What sources should we use for th data?
  • How can we minimize the amount of data our company collects (“minimum viable data”)? 

By asking these questions and sourcing the right data, firms are to better understand their target customers, their purchasing behavior, habits and preferences, and in turn deliver better products, experiences and marketing offers.

By creating focus, CMOs can also vastly improve ROI for their marketing analytics investment (another topic Eric and I recently explored with Charles).

3. Build trust and transparency with customers

Another key area that is paramount for brands today is being 100% transparent with customers in how they collect and use their data. The past two years have been absolutely littered with examples of brands that have not been transparent about how they collected or used customer data.

“Companies need to be more transparent about what data they use, while also understanding the pros, cons and risks,” shares Golvin. “More data doesn’t necessarily lead to greater business intelligence, and can expose your brand in ways that impact customer trust.”

Most consumers today are willing to share at least some of their personal data in exchange for a product, service or better experience from a brand they trust. At the same time, consumers have become far more leery of brands having access to their personal information, even when shared in aggregate or anonymously.

One Fortune 100 CIO, for example, told me that he has seven different email addresses he uses to try to manage unwanted email communications from vendors, a perfect example of the scattergun approach taken by some marketers, with seemingly no clue.

Collecting data, without making consumers leery of your brand, requires marketers to take the right approach. Brands should take a “minimum viable data” approach to collecting data, and then need to be clear about their intention and tell customers what data they are collecting and why.

When the right data are collected in the right way, brands can not only build trust but also improve CLV, brand equity and loyalty over time by delivering more personalized and relevant experiences.

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Soapbox: We need to be more skeptical about the insights we’re getting

In today’s Soapbox, we must understand where our insights come from because we really don’t want to be making major decisions based on faulty data.

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Think about the last statistic someone threw at you, whether that’s on the Captivate monitor in the elevator or the latest medical study you read about. Was your first thought: “I need to know more about how the research was conducted before I take this as truth?” Unless you’re in academia or social science, the answer is probably not. And that’s an issue.

Every organization wants to better use data to make decisions. Research and surveys are increasingly important as new regulations limit the type of data organizations can collect. But if we’re making decisions based on research, it’s increasingly important to be skeptical of the science behind the numbers. Everyone should have a basic knowledge of social science so they can better identify biased research.

Some questions to consider when looking at research:

  • Where did the research originate, and what are the incentives of that organization? What about other research that’s cited? Don’t forget to look at the footnotes.
  • Are the questions written in a way that’s understandable? Are they leading?
  • Are there too many questions, leading the respondent to go on auto-pilot and give random answers?
  • Is the topic something sensitive that respondents might lie about? Are we asking them to rely entirely on memory?

No one is expecting a marketer to be an expert in social science – that’s why there are specialists handling research. But if marketers don’t dig under the hood of where the insights come from, they could make major decisions based on faulty intel.

Soapbox is a special feature for marketers in our community to share their observations and opinions about our industry. You can submit your own here.

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