Key Findings

  1. New social and digital marketing methods, such as multi-channel marketing, omni-channel marketing, and consumer decision journeys, require high degrees of automation to be effective at scale.
  2. The concept of the marketing stack is misguided, presenting an image of a silo approach to marketing. Instead, the social and digital marketing landscape is a web of interrelated products that work in different combinations, depending on the needs of the marketing organizations.
  3. Social and digital marketing solutions are available as point products, integrated but focused solutions, and comprehensive suites that cover all aspects of digital and social marketing.
  4. Overall, the social and digital engagement strategy should drive the choice and breadth of software solutions.
  5. Cost is also a factor, forcing some marketing organizations into less comprehensive solutions than they would prefer. Strategy should still drive the solution selection process, and even large suites allow for gradual deployment.

The heart of the social and digital marketing strategy, especially for large, multi-brand companies, is data. Analytics software should be the driver for all other marketing automation.


The most popular term for a complete set of marketing automation software is the Marketing Stack. The metaphor is off-base, since it assumes a static hierarchy of tools. It also suggests the need for all of these tools to be available for effective social and digital marketing. None of this is true.

Instead, individual social and digital marketing software products create an interlocking series of tools that can help a marketer to address a series of needs. This is the Marketing Automation Web. At the center of the web is marketing analytics, especially personas and product information management, but also social media analytics and even cognitive computing. It is surrounded by other software tools that help to plan and execute on different aspects of digital and social marketing. Each of these product categories has value by themselves, but increasing power when joined together.

Social and Digital Marketing Solutions

Analytics provides the base for social and digital marketing but execution relies on a variety of software tools that help to manage consumer interactions.

The complete spectrum of digital and social marketing solutions would encompass Campaign Planning and Management, Web Marketing, Email Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Mobile Marketing, Digital Asset Management, and Team Collaboration. Not all suites are arranged in this manner. For example, some suites spread campaign planning across different products such that email, web, and social media campaign planning and automation are in different products within the suite.


Campaign Planning and Management

Campaign Planning and Management solutions include targeting and segmentation planning, as well as workflows that help to plan content placement and delivery across social and digital media channels. Solutions will often include the ability to automate delivery of personalized content depending on signals detected by analytics software. This level of sophistication tends to be a characteristic of the larger suites, such as Adobe Marketing Cloud, and Oracle Social Cloud and Oracle Marketing Cloud.

Several vendors have specific options for planning and executing consumer decision journeys.’s Journey Builder is an example, but similar features are common in some of the larger suites as well.


Web marketing is one of the more mature digital marketing automation segments. Traditionally, web marketing has included eCommerce sites that entice as well as fulfill, search engine optimization to increase traffic to a site, and various tracking technologies that detect and report on consumer visits to web sites.

One area that has seen more innovation is Web Content Management. Many vendors have added social management features to WCM software in an attempt to build more community around products and brands. Most WCM packages can help create private social communities, blurring the lines between social media and web marketing.

Social Media

Social media marketing encompasses a wide range of software tools that help marketing professionals leverage social media outlets. The most common types of social media tools are:

  • Publishing – which includes posting to social media sites such as Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Some publishing suites also contain tools for managing social communities more effectively, including private social communities. Publishing to the organization’s own blogs is usually a feature of web content management.
  • Amplification – software that helps marketing organizations to use specific constituencies to more easily repost or reference posts. GaggleAmp is an excellent example of this type of software. It helps social media marketing managers to leverage the social media networks of members of their organizations, thereby amplifying the organization’s reach.
  • Listening – Listening software makes it easy to view posts across social media sites. It alleviates the need to open up dozens of web pages. Most social media listening software includes features that allow the user to perform keyword searches and develop specialized listening groups.
  • Offers And Coupons – Tools that make it easy to push offers and discounts out to social media sites and track when they are accessed or used.
  • Social Application Builders – These features allow social marketing professionals to easily build interactive pages for Facebook and similar social applications. Social application builders are used to both create further engagement and create tracking mechanisms for consumer interest in brands and products.

Email Marketing

Email marketing has evolved from simple email list management to include the ability to create engaging interactive emails and track responses, even when those responses originate in a different channel. Typically, email marketing will interact or integrate with web, mobile, and social marketing tools to direct readers to other touch points that reinforce the message in the email. By pivoting the consumer to more capable channels, the software provides the consumer a way to take action if they find the message compelling.


Mobile devices are quickly becoming a critical marketing channel. Mobile automation software provides marketing professionals the ability to create location-based engagement such as offers triggered by proximity to a retail store. Most mobile marketing software provides one or more of three services:

  • The ability to create mobile marketing applications quickly and easily.
  • Services that push content, including offers, coupons, and ads to mobile devices.
  • The ability to detect location-based signals or events.

Digital Asset Management

Managing digital content effectively so that it can be properly deployed across channels is difficult enough. Add personalization for millions of consumers, and digital asset management software becomes a necessity. With modern marketing methods, both the amount and complexity of content types coupled with programmatic elements needed to personalize them requires that digital asset management be tightly coupled with campaign management and content creation software.

Digital asset management is especially useful when it creates the bridge between creative tools and social and digital marketing automation. An example of this is the shared DAM tools between Adobe Marketing Cloud and Adobe Creative Cloud. DAM can facilitate workflows between content creation and content marketing.

Team Collaboration

Marketing is about people. It may be an internal team, an agency, or a hybrid of the two, but marketing is never about people working by themselves. Given the complexity of new marketing methodologies, many companies have found it useful to use enterprise social networks and content sharing applications to facilitate interactions between teammates. In some cases, tools to share content and help teams collaborate are part of integrated suites, for example Oracle Social Cloud’s social network or the Adobe Marketing Cloud Exchange, which facilitates third party collaboration. It’s also possible to leverage other vendors’ collaboration products through integration with common enterprise social networks or online file-sharing systems. Integration with Microsoft SharePoint is also a common way of adding collaboration capabilities to social and digital marketing automation products.


Social and digital marketing solutions are available as point solutions, as integrated solutions that address a range of functions, or as complete suites. In some cases, the complete solution is broken up between multiple suites that cover other aspects of marketing. An example of this is Oracle’s solution set, which splits the digital and social functionality between Oracle Marketing Cloud and Oracle Social Cloud. Adobe Marketing Cloud, in contrast, is one integrated suite that covers all aspects of social and digital marketing. Even the integrated solutions and suites are sets of independent products instead of monolithic software systems.

Offering integrated collections of products instead of one giant, all-encompassing software system provides a variety of advantages:

  • Companies can choose which products fit their most critical needs first, then acquire more products as need, budget, or time allows.
  • Purchasing within a product line simplifies support and increases the chances that products will work together.
  • Weaker products in a line can be bypassed in favor of another vendor’s solutions. This comes with the caveat that integration may be more difficult.
  • Diverse arrangements of products can be created to address different kinds of companies and budgets.


The way software vendors sell social and digital marketing automation solutions reflects the philosophy of interdependence. Many solutions try to accomplish at least several social and digital marketing functions.

In general, point solutions fit simpler needs, smaller companies, and specialized niches that the large suites have yet to address. There are a number of excellent point products from smaller vendors, such as GaggleAmp (social message amplification) and Colabo (lead mining), that address specialized requirements or the needs of smaller companies.

The large suites tend to be deployed by large, multi-national, multi-brand companies, often in the retail and consumer products space. These companies have millions of consumers, and trying to enact multi-channel marketing, omni-channel marketing, and consumer decision journeys at this scale requires that every aspect of marketing operations be automated.

For these companies, the full range of social and digital marketing capabilities is a necessity for promoting their products. It is possible to pull together different products, using a best-of-breed approach. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that an assortment of products from different vendors will work seamlessly together. Lack of tight integration creates bottlenecks, generates the need for manual processes, and may lead to difficult and expensive IT integration projects.

In response to the need for comprehensive solutions, suites of independent but interlocking products are becoming increasingly common. Large software vendors such as Oracle (Oracle Social Cloud and Oracle Marketing Cloud), IBM (IBM Experience One), (Marketing Cloud), and Adobe (Adobe Marketing Cloud) provide an entire spectrum of products. Each product in these suites of products covers a range of tactical and strategic marketing needs.

More limited, integrated solutions that cover two or more social and digital marketing function provide resources for mid-market companies without the need to purchase expensive suites. These solutions also tend to be favored by B2B companies whose customer base is smaller relative to multi-brand retail and consumer products companies. B2B companies don’t have to worry about automating every marketing function given the number of companies they service. Some companies in this space, such as NextPrinciple (social listening, analytics, and lead identification and scoring) and TIBCO Engage (loyalty programs, predictive analytics segmentation, and campaign management), cover marketing functions common to mid-size and B2B enterprises.


Buying social and digital marketing automation solutions can be difficult given the range of products. With so many vendors and solutions, it’s daunting.

Many marketing professionals usually start by trying to plug an obvious hole in their marketing operations. They purchase a solution for social publishing or email management to address a specific inefficiency in their operations. While initially satisfying, it is not strategic. Instead, it is better to decide on the overall social and digital marketing strategy and determine what types of tools best enable execution of that strategy. If possible, it is best to start with an analytics solution, since analytics will drive all other activities.

The greater the range of needs, the bigger the tool set. If needs are simple and specific, point solutions may still offer the best cost-benefit ratio. Where the range of social and digital marketing needs are more extensive then integrated solution sets begin to make more sense and comprehensive needs call for comprehensive suites. When it is anticipated that a comprehensive solution will be deployed eventually, choosing products from within the larger suites is attractive. That approach will allow a marketing team to start small and grow with the assurance that products will integrate well into the future. In all cases, the strategic plan, not tactical needs, should drive purchase.

There are two exceptions to this approach. First, if cost is a factor – many social and digital solutions are very expensive compared to productivity or even CRM solutions – then social and digital marketing teams with more limited budgets will likely need to start with point products and replace them with integrated solutions later. Second, there are niches that can only be fulfilled by specific point products. Where a specialized need exists, there is little choice but to purchase a point solution and hopefully find ways to integrate it with other social and digital marketing solution sets. In this case, evaluation of integration options, especially pre-built integrations and APIs, is critical.


New marketing methods require new software tools to be effective. Executing on a wide-ranging social and digital marketing strategy, especially multi-channel marketing, omni-channel marketing, and consumer decision journeys, requires analytics that drive automation. Otherwise, it will be impossible to provide the type of personalization and engagement that consumers have come to expect at scale.

While the number and type of software solutions is great, these solutions are coalescing into integrated suites that facilitate the interactions between products and, with the data, drive social and digital marketing products.

Related Research

Social and Digital Media Channel Mix Affects Engagement

Social and Digital Media Analysis of SAP SAPPHIRE Now 2014

BlabPredicts: Find Future Patterns in Social Media Data

Big Data Taxonomy: The Value in Big Data

Big Storage for Big Data


Neuralytix wants to thanks the following academics and vendors for providing information for this report.

Amy MacMillin, the L. Lee Stryker Assistant Professor of Business Management at Kalamazoo College. Professor MacMillin provided important insights into the state of the art of marketing, especially consumer marketing.


The following vendors provided briefings for this paper helping us develop an expansive view of the market.

  • Adobe – Adobe Marketing Cloud
  • Oracle – Oracle Social Cloud, Oracle Marketing Cloud, Oracle Database In-Memory
  • Blab – BladPredicts
  • GaggleAmp – GaggleAMP Amplify, GaggleAMP Distribute
  • TIBCO – TIBCO Engage
  • NextPrinciples – Social Marketing Automation


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