Oracle Eloqua Review—A Comparative Assessment
By Chuck Schaeffer
With well over 1,000 customers and 60,000 users among 33 countries, Eloqua is a marketing software market share leader. In fact, Eloqua is regarded by many as having created the category for marketing automation software. The company kicked off operations in 1999, released the first version in 2000 and become an early leader for competitors to catch. After becoming the first marketing automation software publisher to go public, Eloqua was acquired by Oracle. Today the Oracle Eloqua solution is also one of the few marketing software systems to span from small business customers to some of the largest enterprise organizations. The company's customer base allocation consists of approximately 30% enterprise customers, 43% midsize customers and the remaining 27% made up of small and midsize businesses (SMB).
Eloqua can source leads from website landing pages, CRM software systems, other external databases or third party lists.
Creating landing pages, submit forms, emails and campaigns in the Eloqua campaign editor is done with a visual designer using drag and drop placement on an open canvas. Landing pages, forms, target lists and email templates are created separately from campaigns so that they can be shared and reused among campaigns. These assets also make use their own components sharing and assembly by using common headers, footers, content blocks, links and images.
A campaign designer merges the elements of audience, assets, decision rules and actions to define the desired processes. Eloqua offers more precise controls within steps than most marketing software systems. For example, an email distribution step can be further defined to be sent during certain days and hours, instead of being sent automatically and immediately upon a triggering event in a sequence. Other options for email signatures, the breakdown of email distributions into batches and email response handling are examples of many granular controls which experienced marketers seek.
A floating search pane is useful for retrieving previously saved target segments or elements for reuse. When an element is configured, the Eloqua editor will actually change the color to validate the configuration is complete. This color coding intelligence is helpful for new and experienced users alike. The process is intuitive and offers simple palettes and menus to facilitate both straight forward and sophisticated diagrams.
Eloqua uses the same visual editor for emails and landing pages, thereby lessening user learning curves. The visual palette uses simple icons to insert images, text, field merges, signatures, hyperlinks and even dynamic content and global updates. There's also a floating tools panel that permits cosmetic and design configuration such as font choices, colors, and email dimensions. Once an element is dragged to the template canvas, the user simply resizes it to the desired dimension, double clicks on it to add or edit text, or right clicks it to access the controls in the floating text editor panel.
The system includes simple bounce and opt-out management for email campaigns, however, does not force an unsubscribe link to the email. The Email Subscription Manager lets your email recipients select the Email Groups to join. Or businesses with more specific requirements can browse through a library of pre-configured preference management solutions that provide more options.
Eloqua includes a strong suite of email testing tools and claims the industry's highest inbox acceptance scores – to make sure your messages actually reach their intended recipients. To back up this claim, the company publishes its monthly deliverability, scalability and reliability metrics online at its Trust site. At the time of this marketing software review, Eloqua was achieving deliverability in the high 90's, which is quite impressive and critical to getting more messages to more inboxes.
The company partners with deliverability tools provider Return Path, and gives customers email testing and reputation management tools accessible from within the application for functions such as general deliverability (including international mailbox tests), spam content checks, email client preview tests and reputation and blacklist monitoring verification. Customers may also optionally procure dedicated IP addresses, dedicated branded domains and campaign testing for increased email deliverability. Beyond customer tools and services, Eloqua monitors email performance across all of its clients and uses proactive measures to ensure high levels of deliverability.
Developing forms uses a different visual designer, although in a very similar drag and drop fashion. Users drag standard or custom fields from the left margin onto the forms canvas. Eloqua links the form fields with database values so the web forms auto-populate data and increase conversion rates. Form submits can trigger a number of actions such as updating the database, adding the lead record to a campaign, distributing notifications, initiating auto-responders or performing a web page redirect. Once the form is configured in the designer, the system displays the HTML to copy and insert to the live web site page. Landing pages and forms may be hosted directly on customer owned websites by inserting code which links back to Eloqua, however, most customers find it simpler to implement landing pages on the Eloqua network.
If you have multiple websites, you can deposit code snippets on each site, consolidate activity back to the marketing application and track visitor behavior across the extended network. With detailed historical activity trails and automated workflow processes, marketers have a lot of flexibility to deliver highly focused messages to narrowly defined groups.
All lead acquisition systems record anonymous and known lead activity streams, however, it's the display, presentation and automation of that behavioral data that facilitates segmentation, scoring and targeting—and ultimately improved campaigns. Eloqua's maturity shines in this area. The system displays, filters and segments lead data for quick and simple visual analysis, provides the data management tools to keep the database clean and process design tools to route leads based on a variety of conditions.
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