Oracle has agreed to acquire Eloqua for about $871 million, in a bid to build out a set of marketing automation software.

Eloqua's board has approved the deal and it is expected to close in the first half of next year, Oracle said today.

Earlier this year, Oracle announced a new product initiative centred on "customer experience." A relatively new term in the CRM (customer relationship management) software arena, customer experience refers to the notion of providing a much more personalised approach to marketing and support, particularly through the use of social media.

The Eloqua deal builds upon Oracle's previous acquisitions of Vitrue and RightNow. Oracle is closely competing with cloud CRM vendor Salesforce.com, which has made similar acquisitions of social media marketing technologies.

Modern marketing practices are "a critical area of investment for companies today," said Thomas Kurian, executive vice president of Oracle Development. "Eloqua's leading marketing automation cloud will become the centerpiece of the Oracle Marketing Cloud."

Using Eloqua's technology, "customers are better able to track, capture and analyze a potential buyer's Digital Body Language, including their preferences, behavior and decision-making processes, to more accurately score and qualify leads and identify high quality prospects," Oracle said.

After the deal's close, Eloqua's platform will remain open to third-party applications, although Oracle "also expects to augment Eloqua with Oracle applications and technologies to engineer more complete customer solutions," according to the FAQ.