When seeking to understand their customers, companies are increasingly taking to cloud-based technology.

They are looking for insights that will aid them in establishing long-term relationships that incorporate their customers' needs and expectations. The cloud promises an integrated, streamlined and on-demand approach that's designed to be delivered in a scalable, cost-effective fashion.

These developments have placed both IT and marketing departments with a greater need to collaboratively approach their cloud-based investments. To better understand the new environment, we spoke with Paige O'Neill, CMO at SDL, a global customer experience management provider.

TechRadar Pro: Why is the marketing and CRM industry moving towards cloud-based solutions?

Paige O'Neill: Both the cloud and the marketing industry are all about speed. There is no other technology that can provide the computing power and agility to get campaigns moving not only quickly but cost-effectively as well.

During the first few years of cloud adoption, these solutions became increasingly easier for marketers to use and understand.

We're now in a place where cloud solutions are not only accepted, but other solutions are thought of as "plan B." It's the obvious direction for the industry – and at SDL, we're very committed to moving our products to the cloud—many are there already.

TRP: Is this industry ahead or behind of others when it comes to cloud adoption?

PO: I think marketing is often one of the last departments to "automate" -- we've been managing the department by spreadsheet really until the last few years as Marketing Automation has finally taken hold.

However, when it comes to accessing software via the cloud, the ease of use and implementation has really gotten marketing's attention and I also think the marketing department tends to be less risk averse.

It seems like cloud first gained a foothold at small and mid-sized companies who initially had less internal process barriers to overcome, and now marketing departments of all sizes are looking at cloud first.

TRP: Why has the marketing tech space been so volatile lately, in terms of M&A?

PO: Marketing has received not only a positive shift in budget, but in power within organizations as well. As a result, recent moves from the big-name players validate the increased demand for a more relevant customer experience.

Given the number of cloud offerings in play, these acquisitions also reiterate the increasing demand for a cloud-based marketing software platform that spans all phases of the customer's buying journey—from pre- to post- purchase.

Customers require relevancy, and the ability to provide engaging, timely and contextually aware content to consumers. The market is moving to fill that need.

TRP: What are the biggest benefits the cloud can bring to a marketer?

PO: Cloud is easy to deploy, easy to use, and easy to buy, which enables marketing departments to be extremely agile and speed time to market.

The ability to turn on campaigns in real time, to get up and running in minutes, rather than months—this can significantly impact productivity and revenue. Marketers also like the ability to reduce their up-front expenses and flexibly navigate their ever-changing budgets with technology that turns on and off.

TRP: How can IT best work to implement and manage these solutions?

PO: Many believe that the cloud takes IT completely out of the picture, but that's simply not true. As long as technology is at the forefront of a business's operations, there will always be a need for those who deeply understand technology to improve.

Especially with customer data residing in silos – both organizationally and technologically – it's especially important to have the technological capability necessary to integrate data effectively for more informed campaigns.

  • Paige O'Neill is Chief Marketing Officer at SDL