The CX applications market is increasingly becoming polarised around the two sexiest and fastest-growing leading protagonists: Salesforce and Adobe. These two companies represent the “yin and yang” of the CX market. Salesforce is the king of CRM data, while Adobe is the king of content marketing. However, their continued 20%+ quarterly European revenue growth rate will depend on their ability to extend their capabilities into the domains of each other.
On paper, this is an unfair battle. Salesforce has nearly 50% more global revenue ($13.3 billion vs $9 billion) and resources and has a dominant European market share across marketing, sales and services applications. Salesforce also has a massive catalogue of third-party customer-centric applications through its Apps Store. Adobe is a “marketing only” proprietary applications play with no market share in sales and services. So, CX game over? Well, not exactly.
First, both companies reported identical EMEA revenues for 2018 of $2.55 billion. For sure, both are excellent at marketing and operational execution. So, both are winners, but like Nadal (clay) vs Federer (grass and hard court), the surface they play on (data versus content) makes the difference. In the future, however, the quality of their coaches (strategic alliances) and hitting partners (distribution channel synergies and diversity) will shape their ultimate success.
Adobe and Salesforce Partnerships
In fact, Adobe’s alliances and partnerships even up the stakes quite a bit. Firstly, Adobe has a strong strategic relationship with the behemoth Microsoft (said to be based on the relationship of the two CEOs, who were college chums). The combined European CRM market shares of Adobe (3%) and Microsoft (5%) move this alliance into third place in market share, just behind SAP and Salesforce. But hang on, Adobe also has a strong relationship with SAP. Adobe, Microsoft and SAP all came together to form the Open Data Initiative (ODI) in summer 2018, promising data interoperability between the three vendors. And we haven’t even mentioned the content management market yet — Microsoft (34%) and Adobe (14%) own nearly half of a European market where Salesforce does not even operate.
Last week Adobe announced a new partnership with ServiceNow, one of the coolest enterprise applications brands around (outgrowing even Adobe and Salesforce), as ServiceNow launches into the field services market, in direct competition with Salesforce. Adobe also has strong long-standing relationships with agencies such as Publicis Sapient and WPP, and IT services companies such as Infosys, HCL and EY. “The friends of Adobe” make a formidable bunch.
But Salesforce has not exactly been idle on the partnerships front. It has recently formed relationships with Thunderhead (for CX) and Adobe’s arch rival in content marketing, Sitecore. In addition, Salesforce announced new or extended relationships with the tech giants Google (advertising and analytics), AWS (cloud), IBM (Watson) and Apple (iOS integrations). Large systems integrators such as Deloitte, Accenture and Capgemini are “sitting in the middle” and covering both bases, having strong relationships with both Salesforce and Adobe.
So, the battle lines are drawn. The players and partners are taking their positions. Time to stand back and enjoy the show. For sure, just like John McEnroe and Mats Wilander commentating on Sky Sport Tennis, IDC will be analysing, measuring and commenting on every outstanding play in the CX final.