E.piphany has a history that shares the trials and tribulations of both the marketing automation and CRM software industries. The company was originally founded as E.piphany Marketing Software in 1996. It later broadened its application to include a CRM suite and by 2001 acquired over 400 companies in the retail, financial services, communications, technology, and travel industries, including over 35 percent of the Fortune 100. Despite a successful IPO in 1999 and a follow-on stock appreciation that amazed the industry, the company then jumped the shark when in March 2000 it acquired Octane Software—a company with $3 million in revenues for the year prior—for $3.2 billion in stock. Epiphany’s fate then became dire as the CRM industry hit a soft spot in 2001. Losses mounted, and the stock price sunk. The company continued to deliver new application software versions, however, company performance languished and in 2005 Epiphany was acquired by SSA Global, who was then acquired by Infor in 2006. For the next few years E.piphany roamed as a nomad, more known for its former executives that seeded the next generation of marketing automation software companies than continuing its innovation or offering a plan to return to greatness.
But despite a management shuffle, unclear direction and relaxed R&D investment, customers continued their non-stop use and embrace of the product—and Infor finally responded in kind—putting new resources, investments and vigor into the solution. Now the company aims to return to its roots and maybe its glory days. Under the Infor banner, E.piphany—now called Infor10 CRM Marketing—can put the prior company baggage behind it and focus on the marketing and analytics that made it the first de facto standard in the space.
Infor brands its CRM Marketing into a suite of products which include Infor10 CRM Enterprise (Epiphany) Marketing, Infor CRM Enterprise (Epiphany) Interaction Advisor and Infor CRM Epiphany E-Mail Advisor. Additionally, the company offers Infor Enterprise Sales (SFA) and Service (Contact Centers) as well as a separate Inforce (Salesforce.com) product suite.
Infor CRM Marketing—More of a Work Horse Than a Show Pony
Infor’s Marketing (previously called Outbound Marketing) is the tool to create multi-channel campaign profiles, segment customers and perform planned and event-based campaigns. Based on an Epiphany strength, CRM Marketing provides a flexible yet really easy to use interface to create precise customer targeting to deliver the best offers to each customer segment based on explicit data (such as demographics) and implicit data (such as behaviors and history). Different customer segments can be targeted with different treatments, such as one-time flights, multi-wave nurture campaigns and event-triggered responses. Segments may also include multiple champion/challenger control groups for A/B or multivariate testing.
Marketing email distributions offer the standard visibility of bounces, opens, click-throughs, reads, etc. And based on another Epiphany strength, campaign based analysis, closed loop reporting and ad hoc queries deliver the most salient metrics required by most marketers.
One potential weakness though, as with most marketing automation software applications, calculating campaign profitability and ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment) remains elusive as both cost and revenue figures remain separate from the application. As a potential work-around, Infor Marketing does integrate with MRM partner Orbis Global, a company itself named a Leader in the Gartner MRM Magic Quadrant, and a solution offering slightly more marketing cost data for financial analysis.
Infor CRM Enterprise—Interaction Advisor
Infor CRM Interaction Advisor is an inbound, real-time offer optimization and delivery tool which is particularly effective in facilitating cross-sell/up-sell revenue objectives and improving customer retention goals.
This is not a typical marketing automation solution and is precisely aimed at atypical response rates. For example, while marketing campaigns typically produce 1-2% acceptance, and event-driven campaigns do 5X better, Infor indicates that real-time, inbound campaigns raise acceptance to a 10X improvement.
Interaction Advisor creates a dynamic profile for prospects and customers (anonymous visitors or known contacts) from contextual data as they interact with your company over an inbound connection or channel (website, contact center, point-of-sale system, SMS, email, mobile devices). The profile is created in-memory in order to permit real-time learning and deliver sub-second response.
From the dynamically generated profile, business rules are applied to determine eligibility. For example, if a visitor less than 18 years of age is interacting with a financial services website, that visitor may be eligible for a student loan offer but is not eligible for a home loan offer. Business rules will also consider customer privacy decisions, opt-in/opt-out elections and prevent over-marketing to customers.
Then the solution implements an arbitration process whereby it applies organizational objectives and response probabilities to all eligible offers in order to prioritize their order. It’s similar to a constraint-based optimization method whereby the offers are ranked and the top offer is made to the consumer. Each consumer’s response to the calculated offer is then fed back to the predictive modeling system for continuous learning and application toward the next comparable contact profile.
By analyzing volumes of contextual data and prior offer-acceptance responses, the application becomes a learning system capable of predicting the optimal offer and expected response with forecast probability and the highest expected value. Interaction Advisor uses offer and response history to determine which offer characteristics are most predictive of customer acceptance and then adjusts offers on subsequent interactions. This of course then directly contributes to offers that increase acceptance rates and grow cross-sell revenues. The application’s self-learning engine can also be integrated with contact center applications, interactive voice response systems, point of sale software, or other internal systems.
Interaction Advisor can be used to grow customer share or reduce customer churn by balancing the cost of a retention offer with the predicted value a customer’s contribution. These types of calculated offers can be very helpful during an online transaction (i.e. before the e-commerce cart is either completed or abandoned) or for more longer term loyalty programs. Infor Interaction Advisor is a truly best-in-class CRM application in terms of applying customer data in order to deliver optimal, personalized offers with predictable responses.
Infor CRM Epiphany Email Advisor
This solution is an extremely scalable email engine that can stand alone or integrate with third party email providers to apply historical, personal and contextual customer data with business rules in order to deliver optimized offers and achieve maximum response rates.
About half of all Infor customers use their email engine for email marketing, while the other half use third party systems such as ExactTarget or Silverpop. The email marketing allocation may change slightly as the email engine will be made available as a service for the upcoming Inforce Marketing software solution.
The one drawback of an otherwise impressive email solution is the lack of email testing and deliverability forecasting. Email testing impacts email deliverability rates. Rendering the display of campaign emails, identifying which ISPs, email clients and spam protection services will find objectionable content (and block the emails from being received) and suggesting resolutions for such content before the emails are actually sent would be a helpful improvement
Infor CRM Marketing Strengths:
Interaction Advisor—The Infor CRM Enterprise (Epiphany) Interaction Advisor is a uniquely powerful tool for achieving customer cross-sell/up-sell campaigns and retention programs. This application analyzes customer intent and uses historical, personal, and contextual data to create real-time customer profiles, and then applies business rules and real-time predictive analytics to deliver the highest-impact or optimal offer to inbound customers at the moment of interaction. To achieve continuous learning, the system uses closed-loop response tracking to measure each customer response result and adapt the analytics engine for improved effectiveness for the next comparable interaction. With Interaction Advisor many companies have doubled (or better) their offer-acceptance rates and cross-sell revenue goals.
Analytics—Business intelligence and learning around offers and acceptance are very strong. In addition to dashboards, Interaction Advisor offers two analytics tools, the real-time miner for viewing cross-sell data and determining best offers, and a recommendation engine which includes more data elements such as customer profile and cross channel data and is often used in retail scenarios; for example, customers who bought this product have also bought this other product. The data visualization tool is effective in understanding trend analysis, highs and lows of outlier detection, customer segmentation, data clustering and regression. Beyond standard columnar reports, Infor CRM marketing delivers a data mart (using the relational database’s analytical services) in order to support multi-dimensional analysis, drill-down and on-the-fly manipulation of measures and dimensions.
Scalability—Inform CRM is designed for high volume marketing interactions, and is extremely scalable. For example, Wells Fargo uses the Interaction Advisor to make 110 million website offers per day while Microsoft uses the Infor CRM email engine to send 2 billion emails per month.
Ease of Use—While Infor CRM can scale quite high, it can also scale low as a simple tool to configure and learn. With an easy to use interface (UI), you can efficiently design cross-channel campaigns and offers, create business rules, and position the right constraints for each offer. One caution though, the UI has yet to make the transition toward a look and feel that takes advantage of consumer technologies and a more rewarding user experience. The UI remains reminiscent of a desktop client. However, despite needing a facelift, the UI delivers a very easy to understand and easy to navigate presentation layer which requires only a minimal learning curve.
Open Technology—Business software applications which migrate among companies tend to incur technical debt when rationalized among the new company’s existing portfolio. This typical hazard has been minimized with E.piphany, as the Infor CRM solution offers an open technology foundation, including a services-oriented architecture (SOA), Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) development platform, database independence (SQL Server, Oracle or DB2) and ubiquitous support among operating systems (Windows, IBM AIX, Solaris, HP-UX, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.) Further, the marketing application provides near-linear scalability on symmetric multiprocessor systems, and can be deployed across multiple, distributed servers for maximum scalability and reliability.
Infor CRM Marketing Weaknesses:
Lengthy implementations—Compared to many Marketing Automation Software (MAS) and Marketing Resource Management (MRM) applications, Infor CRM Marketing is typically a longer implementation period. The deployment period will of course depend upon the project scope and depth of configuration. For example, Interaction Advisor offers packaged arbitration routines but permits custom routines as well. Similarly, offer models are typically created using few variables to predict very narrow outcomes. In these examples, if your deployment leverages packaged routines and maintains this type of offer model specificity, it will certainly go faster. Another alternative option to accelerate deployment is to procure Infor CRM in a hosted model.
High TCO—A higher than average acquisition cost coupled with longer deployments and the need for internal IT or system administration resources increases the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
Limited Target Market—While the business benefits are near universal, the application itself is not as applicable for B2B and SMB organizations.
Limited Cloud—While Infor CRM Marketing can be delivered as a hosted or managed service, it’s not a cloud solution. The application does not offer a multi-tenant database architecture, PaaS type customization tools or online ecosystem of integrated third party products for immediate purchase and deployment. Interestingly though, some of these typical cloud services and benefits may be forthcoming as part of Infor’s Salesforce.com partnership and expansion of marketing cloud solutions. Also while customization tools are light, Infor does offer several strong integration options such as APIs or integration using Java, COM, MQSeries, HTTP/XML or SOAP services.
For Infor CRM—What’s Old is New Again
Infor CRM Marketing is well suited for consumer-oriented industries such as financial services, telco, media, retail, hospitality, consumer high tech and consumer automotive among other B2C markets. Despite some company transitions, customers have not wavered from the marketing software solution and Infor is now aggressively pushing the next chapter; albeit in a much more competitive marketplace than earlier days.
The first E.piphany was clearly visionary. The company delivered scalable 1 to 1 marketing, marketing automation, big data analytics and more before those terms even existed. Since incurring its idle period, the company has regrouped and is again showing vision and thus far, some early execution. This is a marketing solution to watch, and I’ll be monitoring and reporting on the upcoming events, company progress and product penetration as Infor CRM Marketing advances and competes in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
This is not a typical marketing automation software solution and is precisely aimed at atypical response rates. For example, while marketing campaigns typically produce 1-2% acceptance, and event-driven campaigns do 5X better, Infor indicates that real-time, inbound campaigns raise acceptance to a 10X improvement.