IBM's acquisition of Unica announced on Friday provides further evidence that the multichannel customer experience and integrated marketing communications are finally getting the attention they deserve.
The tech giant's decision to pay $480 million in cash for Unica is based on its professed determination to help its clients "better understand their customers and transform marketing campaign execution".
The deal follows IBM's acquisition of web analytics company Coremetrics which highlighted the Big Blue's ambitions for making digital measurement and performance an integral part of its business analytics and optimization services.
The purchase of Unica, subject to shareholder approval, will give it more traction in the campaign management space, a growing sector which is the subject of a recent Econsultancy report.
Unica is one of 10 vendors profiled in our Multichannel Campaign Management Buyer's Guide, a report which highlights a growing understanding by businesses that an integrated customer experience is a necessity for companies who want to retain their customers. Both Coremetrics and Unica are also featured in Econsultancy's Web Analytics Buyer's Guide.
On the face of it, Coremetrics is more about the analytics and Unica is more about the execution of marketing campaigns, but the PR messaging shows there is a considerable degree of overlap.
"Unica will expand IBM's ability to help organizations analyse and predict customer preferences and develop more targeted marketing campaigns," according to Unica.
Coremetrics, according to the web analytics vendor's press release, "will expand IBM's business analytics capabilities by enabling organizations to use a cloud-based delivery model to gain real-time insight into consumer interactions internally and through social media networks to develop faster, more targeted marketing campaigns".
Although Unica is far more than a web analytics company, some of the similarities between the two company's propositions will complicate IBM's integration of these companies, as explained by Forrester analysts Joseph Stanhope and Suresh Vittal.
"Clever product positioning and go-to-market strategies may drive some degree of clarity on the topic, but in the long term this will cause friction as IBM expends resources to develop, support, sell, and market overlapping solutions. Current and prospective Coremetrics and Unica NetInsight users need to carefully monitor this situation. We can help but wonder: with Unica in play, why would IBM have acquired Coremetrics?"
But despite this overlap, both acquisitions will undoubtedly help IBM to provide best-of-breed software and services to enable truly integrated marketing.
While many companies claiming to do multichannel have a heritage in a specific area (such as email), Unica can genuinely lay claim to technology built around the concept of integrated marketing from the ground up.
As the IBM press release explains: "Marketing professionals are increasingly investing in technology to automate and manage marketing planning and execution to help them better analyze customer preferences and trends and, in turn predict buying needs and relevant campaigns ...IBM is assembling transformational capabilities to help clients create this consistent and relevant cross-channel brand experience to promote customer loyalty and satisfaction."
It's hard to argue with the rationale, and the IBM vision makes sense. It is good to see that digital-enabled customer-centricity is central to its strategy. Of course, as with any acquisition or merger, the hard bit isn't explaining the "synergies" to the market.
The challenge is to successfully integrate different companies and technologies into something which actually works for its customers and increases shareholder value.
Whatever the outcome, it is great to see that integrated and targeted digital communications are no longer being seen as an add-on or separate to traditional business intelligence and marketing automation activities. The quality of multichannel campaign management can now define the quality of a business.
As multichannel becomes more strategic (and more difficult), it is no surprise to see vendors and agencies across a range of digital marketing sectors - including search marketing, email, mobile web analytics - explicitly positioning themselves so they can address the multichannel business imperative.