SAN JOSENetSuite CEO Zach Nelson is known for his, shall we say, frank assessments of the business decisions of his enterprise resource planning (ERP) software competitors. During his keynote this year though at the annual SuiteWorld user conference, Microsoft was moved from the foes category to the friends.

After all, it would have been awkward had Nelson launched his usual broadside at Microsoft – and then has CEO Satya Nadella pop up on the video screen to greet SuiteWorld attendees. In fact, NetSuite and Microsoft will be working together a lot more closely in the future.

The two vendors announced a new strategic cloud alliance focused around Office 365 and Microsoft Azure. Integration for single sign-on between NetSuite and Azure Active Directory is available now, tighter integration between NetSuite and Office and 365 is on the way to allow access to both solutions from a single interface, and NetSuite itself will leave Amazon Web Services for Azure.

“Tighter integration between Office 365 and NetSuite is going to be great for all of us. We’re getting the best, richest, most secure productivity tool on the planet, and when we look at where you’re taking NetSuite, productivity is what it’s all about,” said Nelson. “The integration we’re doing with Microsoft will yield a lot of benefit for you.”

Living in an omni-channel world

The real focus of SuiteWorld 2015 though is the drive to omni-channel. The goal is one view of the customer, no matter the channel through which they chose to interact with a business. The launch of SuiteCommerce InStore was NetSuite’s attempt to bring the worlds of ecommerce and in-store retail together.

Getting to one view of the customer is also behind NetSuite’s recent acquisition of email and commerce marketing platform Bronto. According to Andy Lloyd, NetSuite’s general manager of ecommerce products, the vendor wants to get to one view of the customer journey on the NetSuite platform, beginning with marketing.

“Commerce marketing automation is the recognition of marketing as the first step in a continuous customer journey that hopefully ends with a transaction,” said Lloyd. “The omni-channel vision recognizes you can only get your customers to come to your web site so often. With permission-based marketing, you can communicate with them more regularly, but the content needs to be compelling and the offering relevant.”

The Bronto acquisition was needed to round out a hole in NetSuite’s marketing platform for external marketing said Mark Rhyman, co-CEO and chief development officer of Big Bang ERP, a Montreal-based NetSuite partner.

“This will put marketing on steroids and people will love it,” said Rhyman.

Once we get to one view of the customer journey on a platform such as NetSuite, that data can also drive more efficient and effective marketing. Steve Hochheiser, vice-president of worldwide business systems at Amobee, a digital marketing vendor and NetSuite customer, said there’s great potential in that data.

“Big data is becoming more predictive analytics. We used to look back at actions, but with predictive analytics we want to look at all these channels in real time to see what people are responding to and measure it,” said Hochheiser.

And adjust campaigns in midstream – all only possible in an omni-channel world.

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