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You Shouldn’t Call SAP Marketing Cloud a “Marketing Automation” Tool

Bill Dunn
Posted 10/24/18

SAP’s core customer engagement platformCommerce Cloud, has had a powerful cousin for a few years now, SAP Marketing Cloud, but most B2B e-commerce professionals have the mistaken impression that it’s just another email blasting tool.  Nothing could be further from the truth and if you don’t take a deeper dive into this powerful platform you will miss the highest ROI it really can bring to your organization.

Entry Level Automation – Sending E-Mails

Sending emails on a scheduled basis, or triggered by some external event like an abandoned cart or completed form is the core foundation of any marketing automation solution. But most marketing platforms focus on this “block and tackling” set of features. More strategic functions like machine learning based customer segmentation, mapping the complete customer journey (including events occurring outside your e-commerce platform), and dynamically presenting offers and content are usually hobbled together using a collection of third party tools which often duplicate each other’s functions.

The Marketing Analytics Tool

A much more accurate description of SAP’s Marketing Cloud is to call it a Marketing Analytics Tool which also has the ability to act on the output of its’ analytics. I say this because the platform is built on top of SAP’s HANA In-Memory database engine which gives it “super powers” on its own.

So – why is it such a game changer to have a marketing tool built on SAP HANA?  It’s because the HANA database engine (or “platform” as SAP likes to call it) has the ability to process data in near real time (web clicks, order history, outside events, etc.) and also can run machine learning and predictive models in database so that customer segmentation and interest scores are updated continuously.  By building their marketing solution on top of HANA SAP was able to add context and business value to their underlying game changing database.

It is not widely understood that when you buy a subscription to SAP Marketing Cloud you also receive licenses to SAP’s Analytics Cloud (SAC) which includes dashboard and data exploration features – plus business user level predictive analytics – as part of the package. Additionally the platform is open to data from third party sources (read: non-SAP!) so you can augment the data you are collecting from your SAP Cloud Commerce (or non-SAP e-commerce platform!) with web site page views, loyalty program data, in-store Point of Sale (POS) data, etc. to create a full 360 degree of your customer.

Dunn Solutions' data science team (or your own in-house data experts) create custom, machine learning based, models to score and segment your customer base – and those scores can easily be kept fresh because the scoring and collecting of the data happen in the same platform. That’s why I think the product should be called a “Marketing Analytics Platform” versus marketing automation!

How To Turn Customer Segmentation into Revenue?

So now that we have our customers scored and segmented. How can we drive additional revenue (or prevent customer churn, or get rid of outdated inventory) using this information? With other solutions you would need to move the data back and forth or create custom integration to make this actionable. The wonderful part of SAP Marketing Cloud is that the actions can be developed and executed right in the same platform!

With SAP Marketing Cloud you can create complex, multi-stage, email drip campaigns which target specific segments of your customer base with messages aligned to their needs and stage of the buyer journey, from research to post-purchase. That is expected from these types of tools.

But – did you know that you can also drive Real Time upsell and cross-sell recommendations to your e-commerce platform using the same platform? Real-time, personalized, recommendations on the product page, category page, or during checkout are the best way to increase size of market basket by offering customers something actually need and want when they are already in purchase mode.


While the SAP Marketing Cloud is often positioned as a marketing automation platform it is clear that using it as the core of your marketing analytics creates the highest value and justifies the investment in the platform as well. Dunn Solutions' SAP Marketing Cloud experts and data scientists can partner with you and your marketing team to get the most value from this powerful tool, contact us to learn more!