Just over a month ago, Scott Brinker, editor at ChiefMarTec.com, presented his annual Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic at MarTech 2016 in San Francisco. The graphic is used to approximate the quantity of marketing technology solutions available and where they fit in. When he first presented it in 2011, the graphic included 150 vendors. In 2016, the number was 3,874. Unbelievable, right! Even more unbelievable is that just one year ago, it included 1,876. That’s a nearly 94 percent increase year-to-year. So it’s no surprise, given the number of products available, that marketing organizations are using more technology than ever—it’s not uncommon to see 10-15+ point solutions used by a single team.
“Our understanding of customer behaviors and attributes must be as holistic as possible”
As a CTO, this trend is concerning. As marketers continue to add more solutions to their technology stack, customer data is becoming increasingly fragmented and decentralized. When mobile data isn’t married to web, web data isn’t aligned with email data, and email data isn’t syncing with social and paid, the organization is unable to see the customer as a whole. As a result, marketing—and the overall customer experience—is inefficient. When discussing this topic, I often refer to a conversation I had with a digital marketer about his approach to mobile marketing. He mentioned that nearly half of his website traffic is coming from mobile devices now, but it’s virtually worthless because the sessions rarely result in a conversion. It wasn’t until he connected his customers’ mobile and desktop sessions. He realized most of his desktop customers began their initial research on their mobile devices, and then completed the transaction on desktop. In fact, according to a recent Channel Advisor report, 32 percent of today’s conversions after a mobile click occur on desktop.
Mobile traffic is highly underappreciated by the majority of today’s brands because mobile tends to have relatively high engagement levels and traffic figures but low conversion rates - leading marketers to believe that mobile isn’t as effective as other channels. My friend’s sentiment towards mobile traffic has since changed. He’s begun optimizing his mobile experiences for the delivery of product information and reviews and understands that the introductory activity that happens on mobile is still critical to the final transaction. This is just one example of how cross-channel marketing is made more efficient by unified customer data.
Additionally, the opportunity cost of fragmented data is too significant to leave unaddressed. For example, email is often measured simply on the success of turning opens and clicks into conversions. Email interactions may be inputs to conversion but they are also valuable inputs to an individual’s brand engagement, which can be used to determine retargeting spend against that individual. If they’re opening a lot of my emails, I should consider "retargeting" them with email, not with ad buying. Our understanding of customer behaviors and attributes must be as holistic as possible. This will either happen by pushing all of our customer data everywhere— which is not sustainable—or by managing the understanding of customer data centrally, and pushing the needed information easily into the ecosystem. Today, some advanced CTOs have managed to architect complex systems that do just that, but it should be easier, and should be ultimately managed and controlled by the marketer.
In response, marketing technology vendors should be empowering marketers to manage the flow of customer data into each solution rather than starting at a point of fragmentation. Facebook and Google have emphasized this need by launching Facebook Custom Audiences and Google Customer Match. These features allow marketers to leverage valuable segments of their customers (loyalists, churned, category X buyers, email openers) by targeting advertising to those customers specifically, finding others like them, or choosing not to spend on those segments at all. In launching these capabilities, they've made clear their understanding that when advertisers are able to leverage their customer data to drive ad targeting it’s more effective, and in turn they’re more likely to continue to invest ad dollars.
Now more than ever, each marketing solution must work within an ecosystem of solutions. When looking at new technology as a CTO, I look for things like APIs, marketer-ready integrations, partners and how they view “your customer data.” These are clues to help understand how they currently do, and plan to, play within the ecosystem of marketing. I believe that marketers should be able to quickly turn solutions on and off without friction and connect new solutions without having to depend on IT, so I advocate for technology that helps us realize that vision. There will always be best-of-breed capabilities, new channels of communication and seismic shifts in the landscape. Consequently, solutions that do not embrace the ecosystem are doing a disservice to their customers by stifling innovation in the landscape, productivity of the marketer, and experience for the end customers.