“Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Kerry Morris, senior vice president of advanced digital solutions at Epsilon.
Big technology providers made a splash in the marketing industry in the past year or so, as the likes of Adobe and Oracle aggressively built marketing “stacks” of complementary technologies. A typical marketing stack might include a cross-channel toolset with a data-management platform (DMP), analytics, reporting, segmentation, media execution, campaign management and other functions.
Marketing leaders, caught between demanding consumers, tough financial constraints and a mind-bogglingly complex vendor landscape, are bombarded with pitches about tidy technology solutions to their marketing challenges. But, in their quest for an easy answer, marketers risk making a big technology investment that generates no return.
The marketing technology industry undermines its credibility and does clients a disservice by not addressing marketer problems holistically. More than a few marketers have made large technology investments, only to find a year or two later that they are not seeing sufficient ROI.
Marketing is about influencing consumer behavior, so marketing technology must ultimately impact consumer experience. But translating one-to-one intelligence into one-to-one experiences is more than just a technology problem. Technology is critical, but marketers must view it as part of a larger ecosystem of interconnected components that also includes people, data, content and connectivity.
Brands often lack people with the skills required to bring new technology to bear on the customer experience. For instance, front-line media buyers may not understand how to use the DMP technology a brand has licensed. Or, the team managing the CRM database may not understand how any changes they make can impact a digital campaign team that uses the data downstream.
Another common problem: misaligned personal objectives. The technology may work across organizations but each group is still focused on siloed objectives. For example, technology may make it possible to measure the impact of digital media on in-store sales, but too often digital media owners are still evaluated using just online conversions or click-through rates.
Every consumer interaction is a potential opportunity to either capture or use data. Technology promises to make this integration of data and experience seamless. When marketers commit to powerful new marketing technology, however, they also need to commit to address a new range of data-related issues.
This starts with ensuring data governance and privacy protections are in place to safeguard the consumer relationship. Marketers must also define rules for how to choose between multiple sources with competing values, determine what level of granularity is needed for each use case and rationalize data providers to manage costs.
Marketing technology often offers a step function increase in intelligence, but translating that intelligence into a more productive consumer experience requires great content. It is all too common for a brand to have a system that identifies dozens of consumer segments, but with only a handful of different creative treatments. Even if the brand has a variety of content, marketers still need a good strategy for how to use it.
The marketing universe is continually expanding and becoming more complex, driven by changing consumer behavior, rapid advances in technology and the proliferation of new providers.
To take advantage of this innovation and future-proof the solution, marketing technology needs to play well with others. For instance, consider whether your stack has the ability to syndicate and receive data from specialized external partners in mobile, social and addressable TV. Or examine whether you have the ability to extract data from your stack to inform omnichannel analytics. Marketers who ignore integration issues risk being tied to a technology stack that actually creates a strategic disadvantage as the market evolves.
Marketing technology stacks are enormously valuable and offer great promise. But they often offer a delightfully simplistic way of viewing how marketing works. Generating ROI from marketing technology requires a leader who views their technology stack in the context of a broader ecosystem, one that is messier than what they see in a vendor’s PowerPoint presentation.
In the real world, technology must work together with people, data, content and connectivity to drive great consumer experiences.