SDL moving into targeted marketing and e-commerce

  • 18-Jan-2010

For those vendors with solid profits, it's a buyer's market. SDL, parent company of such products as Tridion, Trados, Trisoft, and XySoft, announced the acquisition of Dutch e-commerce vendor Fredhopper today.

SDL's streak of acquisitions is something I recently checked up on while writing the Tridion review for the Web CMS Report 2010. Notwithstanding its ever-expanding portfolio of products, you shouldn't forget that in essence, SDL is largely a translation services company (rather than a software company), with the revenue from those services fueling expansion in the software market. After having added translation services companies, and then translation management software companies, the focus the past few years has been on XML and component management companies.

At first glance, adding Fredhopper's "marketing and merchandising optimization software for e-commerce" to that portfolio makes little sense. However, SDL sees it as a logical move, moving from multi-lingual consistency (translation), to brand consistency (XML and component management). And SDL Tridion, which accounts for about a third of SDL's revenue, is now going to be the connection between that side and online marketing plus e-commerce.

In fact, Tridion has already announced "SmartTarget," which will use Fredhopper in combination with Tridion's personalization and statistics. Combinations like that are all the rage now in Europe (Sitecore's Online Marketing Suite and EPiServer's partnership with Mediachase come to mind), perhaps because targeted marketing and e-commerce across several countries and languages is, in fact, very hard to do.

So how good is Fredhopper, anyway? Well, the company (now to become SDL's "eCommerce Technologies" division) certainly has some impressive customers; mail-order companies like Otto and Neckermann are household names here in The Netherlands and Germany (and in fact, Otto Group is "the second largest e-commerce business in the world behind Amazon"). Unfortunately, Fredhopper's results on, say, the otto.nl site are less impressive. For example, I entered "tshirt" as a query; then refined on "men's wear"; and then refined on "suits". I got two results for my faceted, refined query. A hat and a belt.

Of course, a solution is only as good as its implementation. When I asked SDL about my Otto example, they suggested trying the same query on another Dutch site, which renders much more relevant results. And I doubt a U.S. vendor like Endeca (famous for its e-commerce implementations) would be able to do better. In fact, Endeca also lists the Otto Group as a reference, but tellingly -- Endeca's implementations are in English, only. But it illustrates that marketing and e-commerce across multiple languages and countries is still very challenging.

So the acquisition probably makes sense for SDL and Fredhopper. However, make no mistake: SDL still isn't a one-stop-shop with complete off-the-shelf solutions integrating all its technology flawlessly. For you, the customer, it's still going to be a lot of hard work to get it all working together right.

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