Customer Data Platforms Customer Experience Web Content Management

2020 Year in review (Part 1)

Clearly, 2020 has been a year unlike any other (at least in my working lifetime). Interestingly, while the “real world” has been turned upside down by the covid-19 pandemic, much of the marketing technology landscape remains either unchanged, or accelerated. Let’s start by looking back…

2020 predictions revisited

In September 2019, I wrote a post on 2020 predictions. I thought it would be good to score how I did before going forth with predictions for 2021.

Vendor and category blur intensifies

I wrote that WCM is both “getting bigger” (more vendors) and smaller (commoditized single-purpose solutions). This was validated by Gartner announcing they were retiring the WCM MQ in January 2020, for reasons largely related to the latter. (However, I still think that the WCM market is as interesting and hard to navigate as ever – even more reason to need an MQ, in my opinion!).

I also wrote that CDP “now has to contend with being absorbed by marketing cloud platforms, WCM and CRM vendors”. This was validated by a number of M&A and organic investments.

  • Acquia acquired AgilOne CDP in December 2019
  • Twilio acquired Segment in October 2020
  • Benjamin Bloom at Gartner predicted in April 2020 that “by 2023, 70% of independent CDP vendors will be acquired by larger marketing technology vendors or will diversify through M&A of their own to enter adjacent categories”
  • All the major martech vendors (Adobe, SAP, Salesforce, etc.) announced CDP offerings of their own – despite for many years denigrating the category as less useful compared to existing functionality they had in their portfolio, such as CRM and DMP.

I also wrote that the larger marketing clouds such as Salesforce and SAP may start to absorb content management functions. Although Salesforce has been developing a CMS, it is very light on features and functionality and the development effort has not been particularly indicative of a company that wants to go hard into this market (unlike the CDP efforts in comparison).

This last prediction was something of a miss, so I’ll give myself 2 out of 3 here, or 66%.

CMP consolidating or being subsumed into adjacent technologies

I think the CMP type functions of planning and marketing execution are very closely related to WCM (as you may know, I was heavily involved in the creation of the CMP product at Sitecore). As predicted, there was a lot of movement here.

I’m going to give myself full score on this – the need to bring marketing execution closer to the channel distribution is really key here, and the Adobe investment confirms this with a significant dollar amount.

Adtech vs. martech replacing the old IT vs. Marketing battleground

I have been writing and speaking about the need for organizations to focus a bit more on customer experience and larger brand strategy as a way of being a differentiated brand. Covid has certainly underscored the need for a holistic customer experience strategy – but the disruptions to various sectors make it difficult to determine if this trend is true, and if so, how to attribute it. However, I will note that almost all WCM/DXP vendors seem to have experienced an uptick as customers scramble to accelerate their moves online – whereas online advertising (which is more the domain of local retailers) seems to have taken a hit. For score – I’m going to take a pass due to extenuating circumstances. I think I’m correct, and the data seem to bear it out – but Covid overrides any of my logic on the matter.

I will roll over this prediction into 2021, however – I see tools like Shogun, Nacelle and other front-end functions such as Frontastic starting to rise and being more key to revenue success vs. investing in acquisition. Post-covid, the patterns for martech starting to win over adtech should be clearer and attributable. I would be looking to large agency conglomerates such as WPP and Omnicom which had been making adtech investments (with the likes of Xaxis and others). I will assume they will start to do acquisition in the martech space in order to meet their customer needs more directly and internally.

Edit: Literally moments after I published this, Facebook announced they were nearing a deal to acquire Kustomer. As Michael Katz, the CEO of CDP vendor mParticle stated: “This should be a wake up call to everyone in ad tech. The present and the future is about CX, first party data, and commerce, not ad targeting.” – As a result, I think this is enough validation of my thesis to include this prediction and give myself full marks here.

SaaS takes over the WCM mid-market, but not the enterprise

I’m going to give myself full marks on this one. The cadre of SaaS WCM vendors continue to grow aggressively in the mid-market by focusing on front-end developers, but the enterprise DXP-type functions still dominate that end of the market. While some of those accounts may have churned due to overbuying – this is still largely restricted to clients who are able to have fairly mature internal teams (currently only about 15% of the market).

Preston So wrote a wonderful blog post in April 2020 that better articulates this “schism” between WCM categories and the types of buyers for each, called “No persona left behind: The emerging schism in content management systems

Wildcard bonus prediction: Adobe to (maybe) acquire some overlapping products

Well, this was my long shot and it didn’t come to pass. For what it’s worth, Adobe still continues to spend heavily in the space (their acquisition of Workfront for $1.5 billion eclipses any other M&A activity).

Part of my reasoning was simply the architectural age and complexity of Adobe Enterprise Manager (AEM): “I do think that Adobe will have more trouble trying to push AEM down to mid-market (the architecture alone makes this difficult), so they need to do something drastic if they want to succeed in both markets.”

Adobe seems to have addressed this in two ways; introducing AEM as Cloud Service, giving that PaaS approach a bit more upgradability and autoscaling. It’s not SaaS by any means, but gives that old architecture some more runway.

The second approach is introducing Adobe Firefly as a way of providing some lightweight JS-based “middleware” to their enterprise applications (by way of out-of-the-box SDKs)

It is interesting to see vendors such as Adobe and Sitecore trying to blunt some of the Jamstack market success, but in both cases are keeping it running within their walled gardens and infrastructure (Adobe Firefly, Sitecore JavaScript Services). It has yet to be seen how successful those attempts at “self-disruption” will be – ultimately the market seems to demand a faster pace of innovation and less, rather than more walled gardens (Jamstack is as much of a philosophy of purchasing as it is an architectural pattern).


Well, that’s my wrap-up of 2020. Final score 4 / 5 5 out of 6 but no bonus marks given for my Adobe wildcard bet. Stay tuned for my larger analysis of the space (i.e. what did I miss in overall trends?) and 2021 predictions to follow next week.

Part 2 (missed trends) and Part 3 (Predictions for 2021) continue.

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