Convergence: The Need for an Integrated Marketing Tech Ecosystem
There are more marketing and advertising technology companies than ever. As technology usage and channel adoption grows across the enterprise and consumer world, so does the fragmentation of data and the customer experience. With the ever-increasing scrutiny of measurable ROI across communications and marketing leaders, marketers are experiencing pressure to integrate their sales, marketing and communications operations and to measure across all channels and technologies.
A recent joint Google and Econsultancy report reveals that the most successful brands are aggressive in their approach to integrated data and see it as the key to better decision making, customer journey analysis and, ultimately, higher growth 1 . This attitude is driving investment in technology that can connect disparate data sources by integrating marketing and advertising technology stacks. But technology is just one part of the solution. Cross-functional alignment, combined with leveraging the right technologies, is critical to measuring attributable impact and ROI and is the key to achieving a single view of the customer.
This growing need is fueling a fundamental shift in the marketing technology ecosystem, a trend we refer to as convergence. Convergence is both the rise of technologies focused on data integration and the growing consolidation of enterprise integrated marketing technologies. Convergence will aim to synchronize the fragmented data ecosystems that have been plaguing marketers for years. Google’s report says that “nearly 70% of those with fully integrated solutions cite a clear understanding of the path from research to retention across channels and devices 2 .” Often, we see clients have only partially implemented technologies and integrations, creating organizational and technical disarray. This creates a fractured customer experience and gaps in a single view of the customer. In the end, the lack of holistic marketing technology stacks and centralized stakeholders leads to higher costs of ownership. The need for integration has never been more urgent.
Integration is not achieved by merely having a cross-discipline team. It’s partners and divergent datasets speaking to one another to establish an outcome that brings actionable insights to the forefront – all with the emphasis of better data to help drive the business forward and to drive the optimal customer experience. This includes both business intelligence, which aligns with performance measurement, and customer intelligence, which drills deeper into customer analytics and integrations of the customer journey across channels and technologies. We see the two main paths to integration as being either to consolidate with the technology partners who are trending toward convergence or to find a third-party technology that can stitch together existing systems, data and customer experience.
Let’s dive into each of these two options:
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Companies are betting that businesses will begin to consolidate their enterprise communications and marketing capabilities and are trying to reduce the friction by offering expansive integration options. As a result, acquisitions in 2018 have been notably data integration-centric and driven by enterprise technologies’ efforts to streamline multiple data sets and technologies into a unified stack. Examples include: Adobe acquiring Marketo and Magento; Salesforce acquiring MuleSoft and Datorama; and Oracle acquiring DataScience, Grapeshot and DataFox. Each of these acquisitions brought new customer engagement capabilities, unique data, and pre-built data integrations across the ecosystem.
We encourage clients to take advantage of this trend. If you have an investment in one or more of these platforms, be sure to remain up to date on any new integration capabilities before you consider purchasing additional technology. Understanding the full features of the technology investments you’ve already made, as well as the product roadmaps of these investments, can simplify your own integration plans and reduce complexity, cost and risk.
Consolidation is theoretically a more turnkey option and a good choice if you are focused on expansion of capabilities rather than replacing functionality. Some important questions to keep in mind: Are your core marketing platforms already focused on data integration and the customer experience? Do they have the relevant replacements or integrations for the other core marketing technologies you’re leveraging? Remember, even if a platform seems to check all the boxes, technology alone won’t solve all your problems. We’ve all likely learned the hard way that they are just part of the solution and the sales pitch doesn’t always match the reality.
Increasingly, marketing executives are finding they will be held accountable for the technology decisions they influence, which impacts the experience of their end customers and consumers. Do your due diligence on the specific platform use cases and your readiness. Organizational alignment, implementation, planning and strategy are all critical factors for successful integration.
When consolidation is not the most effective option, depending on your needs, we advise clients to investigate stitching platforms together. When doing this, there are two areas to focus on: business intelligence and customer intelligence.
Business intelligence platforms are designed to unify data. We’ve investigated over 100 business intelligence (BI) platforms and found that there are platforms out there for every need. While major platforms such as Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Salesforce have their own BI solutions, all of those technologies can be leveraged even if you are not consolidated with those companies. There are options like Datorama (recently acquired by Salesforce) or Domo, which went public in 2018 and has over 500 data connections. BI technologies are great for stitching together data for analysis, but they typically don’t support synchronizing this data across ecosystems to be leveraged for the customer experience.
Customer intelligence efforts focus on optimizing the customer journey. Enter customer data platforms (CDPs), a new label for a set of technologies that have been around for several years in a fast-growing ecosystem. CDPs are marketing automation tools that connect and integrate into other services. These platforms stitch together data between services, creating the opportunity to enable more massive datasets to be actionable or intelligent. The ability to stitch customer interactions among a fragmented tech stack is truly amazing and includes: your advertising pixels (DMPs), CRM, email marketing, SMS/text message and even offline interactions with mobile apps, beacons and/or loyalty rewards programs. Decision intelligence is the fast-growing functionality to automate customer journey orchestration. It enables a single view of the customer and a seamless, always-optimizing customer experience.
As with the first option, the integration of technology alone is not a magic solution. Companies that have implemented this approach have built entire teams and departments around their CDP and customer experience platforms. The efficiency and revenue potential have been validated by the major players in this space, but digital and business transformation is critical to the success.
Looking toward 2019, continued market consolidation pressure will drive more acquisitions of BI and CDPs or drive other companies to build and foster their integrations and integrated functionality. As our partners at Kaleido Insights have shown with their research, brands can push innovation further by involving the larger ecosystem. In other words, by embracing integration, a business can not only reduce risk and costs but also maximize the value of their investments and move their business to the forefront.
With integrations across functions and channels comes the need to integrate your team with a focus on the customer journey. Innovations in marketing technologies have led to an increase in accountability, as brands continue to push innovation further by integrating the larger ecosystem. Technology will not solve all problems. Goals must still be aligned, and data integration must be made a business priority.
Whether focusing on consolidation or stitching the data in between systems, the value goes beyond just a better view of ROI and attribution and goes beyond a seamless customer experience across channels. Our technology consulting team understands how these technologies allow for decreased cost to advertise, increased customer satisfaction and higher sales conversion rates driving enhanced ROI, the ultimate fiscal accountability.
1,2 “The Customer Experience is Written in Data” Econsultancy in Association with Google. June 2017. Source: https://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/report-econsultancy-google-the-customer-experience-is-written-in-data.pdf
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