There has been a lot of Internet and industry buzz about Salesforce.com’s announcement to buy ExactTarget, but this is only the latest in a steady stream of changes in the industry for digital marketers – especially in Email and Marketing Automation.  

Teradata acquired eCircle in May 2012, then merged them together with the Aprimo marketing automation brand in March 2013 with a roadmap of how the technology will be integrated into 2014. Oracle also acquired a leading Marketing Automation provider in Eloqua, and Adobe earlier created their Marketing Cloud from acquisitions of (among others) Omniture and Efficient Frontier and are still in the process of refining that proposition.

So the question is, is this good for customers?

Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com, said in the press release of the acquisition of ExactTarget that “The CMO is expected to spend more on technology than the CIO by 2017…The addition of ExactTarget makes Salesforce the starting place for every company and puts salesforce.com in the pole position to capture this opportunity.”

That’s great for Salesforce.com to be able to position themselves to a new, increasingly influential audience – but what if the customer just wants Marketing Automation and not a whole vision of how to revolutionise their CRM systems?

Earlier in the year, Rolf Anweiler, VP Marketing at Teradata eCircle said: “As one brand and one unified organisation, Teradata eCircle’s solutions portfolio is offered as ‘Best in class’ standalone products, with continued investment into each individual area (Marketing Operations, Campaign Management and Email Marketing), or as the industry-leading platform for Integrated Marketing Management (IMM), enabling marketers to truly integrate operations, multi-channel campaign management, campaign execution and analytics, resulting in greater effectiveness and efficiency and increased ROMI.”

It took them five lines to describe what they are aiming to do as a business. That’s not to say they’re not good at what they do, it’s just that finding out what they do is getting more and more complex.

But is the ‘one company for everything you will ever need’ approach what marketers are looking for?

IBM, Microsoft, SAP and Oracle have traditionally been those types of businesses.

But SaaS based companies like Salesforce.com were the ‘disruptive’ companies that tried to challenge this paradigm and offer more flexible, more fluid solutions to business challenges and processes.

There is an old industry joke that running SAP was like pouring concrete into a company (Economist Article). But that’s simply because businesses like this have such a broad offering, that touches so many different technologies and processes, that there needs to be clearly-defined processes for these companies to be able to function and actually implement their solutions.

There seems to be a definite shift in the supplier side of the marketplace towards consolidation of technologies.

There, a few huge corporate enterprises are putting together their vision for what companies need for every part of their business, – which could be a fantastic thing, but what if you vision isn’t quite the same as theirs?

The digital world is changing at a frightening pace for some customers – smartphone and tablet usage is exploding, payment methods are changing, exiting new channels are emerging all the time (Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, in-App messaging). Can these increasingly large enterprises keep ahead of this pace?

Generally speaking, the larger the company, the more rigid the processes that keep them together – because with 1000’s of employees across hundreds of business units you need those processes in place to make sure things actually work.

So the question is, are the changes in the market good for innovation?

We’re proud to invest more than 35% of our revenue into research and development, but it’s hard to see too many NYSE and NASDAQ institutional shareholders feeling the same way. But it’s something we need to do because both the market and the needs of our customers are evolving so quickly.

My own take on this is quite simple: I think it’s a very interesting and exciting time to be in our industry and I can’t wait to see what kind of innovations and new technologies come out as a result of these acquisitions. More importantly, I think that the opportunity for disruptive businesses like Emarsys just got a little bigger.