A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of listening to ExactTarget Chief of Operations, Scott McCorkle, speak to the evolution of their platform. I've written in the past that I believe Email Service Providers have jumped the shark – and it appears the forward-thinking ESPs have already taken note.
Scott spoke to ExactTarget's goal of being the Marketing Hub for companies. Instead of simply being a send engine for email, ExactTarget is pushing to be the database of record for many of its clients with the following goals:
- Data Aggregation and Accessibility – through a comprehensive API, robust data extensions and secure, robust infrastructure, it's possible now for companies to host and utilize ExactTarget as a secure, compliant source for storing their clients' data.
- Rules for Relevance – because ExactTarget delivers messages via email, voice, SMS and social media, behavioral data can be captured, stored and utilized to improve the relevance of the messaging for those customers.
- Delivery of Communication – ExactTarget has the fastest outbound mail management systems in the industry and their OEM model is exploding because of the system's performance. Added to this is Voice, SMS and, after the purchase of CoTweet, perhaps social media messaging.
- Measurement Over All – ExactTarget is looking to complete the circle by supplying robust measurement over all outbound communication.
Storing data was largely seen as natural for Software as a Service Customer Relationship Management (CRM) services, but other industries are now moving in this direction. Analytics provider, Webtrends, has launched their Visitor Data Mart, allowing for powerful drag and drop segmentation that's built directly in the product. Webtrends has a superior REST API and, coupled with a leading Analytics engine, hosting your customer database with Webtrends provides sophisticated marketers with some powerful tools to target and measure communications.
Database as a Service launched a couple years ago with providers like Amazon and Google offering simple relational databases hosted in the cloud. That's all well and good, but without the applications to leverage that data, the industry really hasn't had the mass adoption like people thought it would. The advantage that companies like ExactTarget and Webtrends have is that they have proven communication and analytics products already in place over the DaaS.
Although all of these providers have strong integrations with one another, it seems more and more they're going to be competing to become the primary source of customer data. Ecommerce, CRM, Email and Analytics providers are all going to be pushing to become the database of record and all will be soon be offering services to store your data, provide robust messaging and analytics for your data. He who owns the data owns the client – so SaaS providers pushing to become Database as a Service providers is going to explode in the next year. This is a great strategy for SaaS providers since migrating or leaving your provider becomes much more difficult once they're hosting your database!