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Reality Check: Adobe maintains the Betamax of Marketing Analytics

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It’s a classic business economics story: in 1975 Sony released the Betamax video tape format, a year ahead of JVC which released the VHS video tape format. Despite the first mover advantage of Betamax, VHS conquered the market from the 80’s onward. Due to network effects, once VHS surpassed Betamax, the growth was exponential: consumers wanted the same device as their neighbours so they could trade tapes and they wanted the device which offered them the largest choice at the nearest Blockbuster.

But what made VHS surpass Betamax in the first place? After all, the rumor is that Betamax offered a far better video quality. It’s the late 70’s, there’s no on-demand television and no commercial internet: the only thing left to not miss the television debut of Ridley Scott’s Alien when you need to be at soccer practice is to record it. The difference between Betamax and VHS? The former offer 60 minutes of recording, while the latter could record for two hours.

Lesson learned: in a market of network effects, customer centricity is a key feature.

Soccer moms and web 2.0

It’s 2019. In the last decade, in the market of marketing analytics tools, a similar story unfolded. In 1996 Omniture was founded. It was a pioneer in web tracking and offered a way for webmasters to track important statistics on their website. In 2009 the company was acquired by Adobe, and ten years later, Omniture, now Adobe Analytics, has become a key component of Adobe’s Experience Cloud.

In 1997, Urchin Software Corp built a tool to process the web server logs of honda.com. A business model was built around it and one year later their product hit the markets. In 2005 it was acquired by Google and the product Urchin On-Demand became the first version of what is now known as Google Analytics.

Despite the first mover advantage of Omniture, Urchin, and later Google Analytics, became the most popular web analytics tool, both for hobbyists and corporations. Historically, Omniture offered a far more complete product, with a lot more features that are especially handy for large organizations. And to this day, Omniture is far more tailored to professional and corporate users. So what helped Google Analytics conquer the market of web analytics? Customer centricity.

In the long-forgotten days of web 2.0, every soccer mom had their own blog. How did they track their web visits? By implementing this one line of code that offered them a out-of-the-box solution. The ease of integration made sure that popular content management systems such as WordPress made it an on/off feature. And even more important: it was free and fairly easy to use.

Omniture largely ignored the consumer market and made money through large corporations looking for robust solutions to integrate across their growing digital ecosystems. Lots of features, but it doesn’t work out-of-the-box: you need specialized knowledge (or expensive consultants) to integrate it into your website. Furthermore, Adobe’s digital marketing ecosystem grew mainly through acquisitions. For example: while Google Tag Manager felt like it was built around Google Analytics, Dynamic Tag Manager (Adobe’s solution) was incomplete and required a lot of custom coding. Constant and abrupt changes to market positioning — from Omniture to Adobe Analytics to Marketing Cloud to Experience Cloud resulted in confusing assessments of the tool. Furthermore, new features and sunsetting others caused constant schooling of staff. Finally, new generations grew up with Google Analytics. Adobe felt like driving a truck, when everybody was used to driving a sedan. And finding truckers is hard or expensive.

Connecting the experience

Until recently, when a company needed alternative attribution models (such as first-click attribution) or a quick data visualization possibility (such as workbench), unsampled reports or data integration, Adobe Analytics would be the way to go. But over time, it should have become clear to every marketer that Google Analytics, as a key part of Google Marketing Platform, is the adequate solution for an omnichannel world.

In 2016 I described Google Analytics 360 as a complete marketing tool and dropped the adjectives online/digital. Last year I claimed that Google Signals could be a definitive game changer and how Google’s focus on attribution is in direct competition with Adobe Analytics.

But it’s far more than that. The integration with Google Cloud Platform, through Google BigQuery, allows marketers to free their data, integrate it with an infinite range of tools, and query it manually or use unsupervised machine learning to segment customers. The deep integration with Google Ads once again confirms that Google Analytics is not a measuring tool: it’s a customer data platform. It’s the go-to-place for creating audiences that can be used across the Google Ads ecosystem and all partner networks..

Google’s ecosystem has become so huge that the synergies within it are simply unattainable by competitor Adobe. To wrap up, here’s some more examples:

  • Google’s Android mobile operating system allows for in-store visit tracking.
  • Google user accounts & the privacy center enable one-click cross-device tracking of users, even without identification — i.e. Google Signals.
  • Google Chrome ensures that cookies & pixels by Google cannot be permanently blocked.
  • Google Search Console is integrated in Google Analytics and allows some SEO KPI’s to be tracked within the same tool.
  • Google Ads and Analytics are so intertwined that metrics and audiences can easily be shared across the different tools.
  • Google Cloud Platform enables the industrialization of analytics data. It can be used for predictive modeling and even to offer customers specific microservices through serverless hosting tools such as App Service & Functions.

If you follow me on LinkedIn, you know I’m not a Google fanboy nor an Adobe hater. In my professional life I offer independent consultancy in both technologies. However, I can no longer ignore that, as long as no serious antitrust issues are raised by the FTC in the US or by the European Commission, Google has synergies that Adobe cannot offer. Adobe knew what was coming and over the past three years, its sales teams have hit the road to broaden their customer base. Excluding consultancy and maintenance, it is half as expensive as Google’s corporate solution. I don’t have a clear view on the macrolevel, but over the past months I have withnessed multiple major organizations reversing their decision, reembracing the comfort of Google Analytics.

The last Betamax device was produced in 2002. The format existed for a little less than 30 years. Maybe it’s time for you to reassess?

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