In early 2023, Salesforce and Braze were named as two category leaders in cross-channel marketing hubs by Forrester Wave — each offering a wide range of capabilities ranging from managing customer data and automating marketing campaigns to analyzing customer behavior.
Both have unique ways in which they shine and have rightfully earned their leader titles. Deciding which one is the best fit for your business can be challenging when there is such an extensive overlap on many of their features, while both also have their own unique capabilities. It is also not uncommon for businesses to leverage the best strengths of both.
As a team of former Salesforce consultants with collective decades of experience in the Salesforce ecosystem turned Braze consultants, we're going to share our insights into how to make the best decision for your business and what to consider when evaluating Braze versus Salesforce Marketing Cloud — or if you're considering using both.
For the modern marketer, having the ability to communicate with customers across multiple channels is non-negotiable. It's essential to find a platform that seamlessly orchestrates cross-channel journeys and offers the ability to personalize each of the messages and create a cohesive brand experience.
Both platforms offer strong capabilities to connect with customers across various channels — including email, SMS, and web.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) started as ExactTarget, a premier email marketing tool, and they've since expanded into new channels through a mix of internal product development and acquisitions. Their Personalization (formerly Interaction Studio) tool offers strong web personalization capabilities, and they offer Mobile Studio — which allows for basic SMS and push notifications.
Braze started as a mobile marketing platform (formerly named AppBoy) — coming out of the gates with solid offerings across SMS, push, and in-app notifications. Since then, they've continued to develop their product to offer robust and user-friendly email marketing capabilities and continued to expand their channels to include Content Cards and Feature Flags.
Because Salesforce has about a decade of lead time ahead of Braze, their email marketing capabilities offer slightly more advanced features, including more robust reply mail management capabilities. Salesforce may be a little more flexible from a development standpoint if your business requires particularly customized email capabilities.
However, Braze's email marketing capabilities are highly competitive with Salesforce — offering similar capabilities for personalization and even edging out Salesforce when it comes to UI and templates. Braze also has significantly more mature capabilities regarding mobile channels and in-app messaging.
Due to the maturity, cohesiveness, and variety of channels natively offered within the platform, Braze wins this category outright.
Salesforce has long-positioned itself as the all-in-one solution for connecting brands to their customers — from marketing to sales to service. They position their multiple products as a single, integrated suite. However, anyone who knows Salesforce knows that is simply positioning — and much easier said than done to make a reality.
However, this positioning has worked for them — and many of the world's largest brands today have invested in large Salesforce footprints that touch every part of their business.
But recently, we've seen what's been dubbed as the 'great unbundling' of martech — with many brands shucking what has come the traditional 'integrated' marketing suite to a focus on more modern, best-in-breed platforms, stitched together to foster innovation and allow for greater scalability as new tools and channels get introduced (often for a lesser investment, driving higher ROI).
Both Braze and Salesforce offer solid integrations and are comparable regarding scalability — which is really dependent on how your company wants to approach its tech stack. The idea of having a single vendor sounds nice in terms of fewer relationships and contracts to manage, but it could possibly hinder innovation and advancements as new tools become available — and could potentially affect your ability to negotiate with your vendors.
There are some critical differences in product architecture that are also important to note.
Both Braze and Salesforce are built on a multi-tenant architecture, meaning multiple customers share the same infrastructure and resources. This approach allows them both to offer a highly scalable solution.
Because SFMC’s architecture is closely modeled after Salesforce CRM, they do offer open API — but there are some gaps and undocumented APIs within Marketing Cloud. However, enterprise-level organizations may prefer SFMC for developing custom integrations and applications on top of the platform. This customization does ultimately mean that it requires more intensive management of the platform.
Braze's architecture includes a real-time data streaming engine, which enables personalized messaging and recommendations in real time. Braze's platform also has a variety of out-of-the-box integrations with popular marketing and data analytics tools.
Another critical difference between Salesforce and Braze is their approach to data management. Salesforce uses a relational database management system (RDBMS), which is highly structured and ideal for managing large datasets. Braze event data flows in an unstructured format, meaning it is highly flexible and allows for more rapid iteration and experimentation with data. Where non-customer data is required for Braze campaigns, they do offer Catalogs — which allow you to access data from imported CSV files and API endpoints to enrich your messages with product or offer specific data.
Braze is considerably more marketer-friendly when it comes to managing these data integrations and architecture, offering more turnkey solutions that require less technical resources to manage.
Determining which solution is better for your business regarding scalability and architecture ultimately requires a solid understanding of your goals and how you want to manage your tech stack moving forward. If real-time data processing is important to you, Braze is the better solution. If leveraging highly complex data models or operating on the same system across an enterprise is important to your business, Salesforce might be the better fit.
Regarding the ability to integrate with other platforms, both tools are strong — but Braze was purposefully built to easily stitch together with other marketing tools outside the platform, including tools like CDPs, data warehouses, and marketing analytics tools. This enables marketers to select the best-in-breed platforms that offer the best solutions for their business rather than relying on what their current platform offers.
So, who wins this category? This one is a toss-up — and ultimately depends on what's important to you as a business.
One of the ways in which Salesforce has built such an incredibly strong brand over the last two decades is through its dedication to creating a community around the specialized talent that is often required to manage Salesforce across its various tools — with examples such as Trailhead, Salesforce+, Dreamforce, and more. They also built a robust partner ecosystem, with boutique consultancies and global system integrators (GSIs) alike, making it easier to access the specialized talent that companies may lack internally.
Part of Salesforce's allure is its ability to be customized, which also requires specialized talent to execute effectively. Many of SFMC's advanced capabilities, especially when it comes to personalization, require technical expertise in SQL and AMPScript as well.
Braze, on the other hand, wins outright when it comes to being a user-friendly platform for marketers. Whether it's in-message reporting, the ability to build audiences quickly within the platform, or its simple UI for building and deploying messages, Braze was built for the modern marketer — enabling them to move quickly to build and deploy new campaigns, manage their customer engagement in a single platform, and optimize their campaigns in real time.
This is not to say that Braze requires no technical expertise. Any platform that will be so deeply ingrained in orchestrating the customer experience should be approached thoughtfully, where leveraging platform experts like Stitch can help ensure you're correctly using the platform, maximizing its capabilities, and setting up integrations and data management processes to be scalable and effective. But, for day-to-day use of the platform, Braze is a sophisticated yet accessible solution for marketers.
We've also seen many examples where brands use the best of both platforms. Often, the brands who opt to go this route already have large Salesforce footprints — including an existing contract with SFMC — and are deeply ingrained across the Salesforce platform as a business. Often, there is a lot of technical debt that's been incurred over the years, or the idea of migrating all of your campaigns and assets sounds too daunting (although, shameless plug: Stitch does offer an automated migration service called 'Switch' to achieve just this — reach out to learn more).
If this is the case, adding Braze in addition to SFMC can be a great option to quickly add new channels and round out your customer engagement tech stack. The tools can work well together in a few ways — where either Braze is leveraged as the orchestration, mobile & web platform with SFMC as the email platform, using a Braze Campaign or Canvas Flow webhook to trigger a message or journey in SFMC, or SFMC is leveraged as the orchestration & email platform with Braze being leveraged for mobile & web, using an SFMC Journey Builder Custom Activity to trigger campaigns or Canvas Flows in Braze.
The good news is that both platforms are powerful solutions that offer marketers robust customer engagement capabilities.
Deciding which one is right for you likely ultimately comes to your business goals and what type of marketing organization you have.
Braze was built for the modern marketer — particularly for brands with a large volume of online interactions with their customers. This might be financial services companies that enable their customers to manage a lot of their banking or financial transactions online, retailers that heavily rely on e-commerce, and businesses that use apps to engage with their customers — like QSRs, airlines, travel and hospitality companies, media companies, or subscription services — or businesses that are app-based entirely, like dating or wellness apps.
Because Braze is so strong in cross-channel messaging — especially mobile, it is the better solution for modern companies and thus, modern marketers. It is a powerful platform that offers strong messaging capabilities in addition to a user-friendly UI, real-time data processing, journey orchestration, and more.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud was built for more traditional marketers, who often work hand-in-hand with sales. SFMC is a powerful platform that allows you to go deep with email and web personalization and gives you basic capabilities across other channels — while also giving the impression of being more connected to the rest of the organization.
Because SFMC stems from a CRM organization, it is a popular choice marketers who need to interface closely with sales teams.
Because of our deep experience within both platforms, Stitch is uniquely positioned to help companies determine whether Braze or Salesforce is a better solution for their business, or more so, can offer solutions for companies who are interested in using both platforms together. If you are interested in exploring how investing in Braze can impact your business, drop us a line.