For the past five years, we’ve heard thought leaders boast predictions that the day would come when Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) would be spending more on Technology than Chief Information Officers (CIOs). Well, that day has come.
Not only are CMOs spending more on digital tools and tech than CIOs, they’re spending more on marketing technology than on advertising. That’s a major shift. And that investment in marketing tech is just as major, totalling $127.7 million annually on average.
So, money’s being spent. Investments are being made. But are these technologies really moving the needle when it comes to customer retention and ROI? So far, the answer seems to be yes and no.
Where things stands: The basics, and (almost) nothing but
Analyst firm Gartner recently surveyed 200 U.S. marketers on the technology platforms they’re investing in and how they’re using them for its report, “Marketing Technology Survey 2016: How Marketers Use Tech to Run, Grow and Transform Their Organisations.” According to Gartner’s analysis:
- 80% of marketers have invested in basic marketing technologies—such as web content management and analytics tools, and email marketing platforms
- Less than half of marketers are using intermediate marketing technology—for instance, digital marketing analytics or engagement platforms capable of supporting cross-channel messaging
- Only a minority of marketers have begun leveraging more advanced technology, such as personalization, dynamic content, customer data and mobile marketing analytics, and A/B testing
According to Advertising Week, many marketers are too simply busy to fully explore and master the new tools at their disposal and the use cases they make possible. That means that these tools—expensive as they can be—are often underused, or unused completely. That’s the key here: a platform that marketers can’t get up to speed on easily is a platform that’s going to struggle to live up to its potential.
Okay. So how can marketers avoid that trap?
It’s simple—make sure that the marketing technology platforms you invest in are marketer-friendly. If the people executing on your brand’s customer engagement vision can truly control and make the most of their tools, without ongoing outside assistance or constant handholding from your engineering team, your company is well-positioned to see the full value of your marketing tech investments.
What do marketer-friendly marketing platforms look like?
Ease of use is key, of course: if you can’t run a test or send a message without a crack team of devs at your beck and call, that’s a problem. But too many marketing technologies simplify their capabilities—for instance, limiting messaging targeting to out-of-the-box segments or restricting testing to two competing variants—to the point that it limits brands’ ability to make effective use of their tools.
To respond effectively to the ever-changing customer engagement landscape, marketers have to be in charge of their own destiny. If their uses cases work well with simple segmentation, but need advanced multivariate testing to thrive, they need to be able to adjust how they use their marketing tech tools to meet those needs. But while flexibility is a key aspect of marketer-friendly marketing platforms, there are a couple things that any suite of tools should have:
1. The ability to manage customer data in real time
Modern marketing is built on customer data. Whether you’re looking to personalize messaging campaigns, identify subtle patterns in user behavior, or drive higher customer LTV, understanding who your customers are and how they engage with your brand is an essential part of building strong, sustainable relationships. But that information loses a lot of its power if it’s not current.
Real-time data is actionable data. Too many marketing technologies suffer from delayed data, forcing marketers to make decisions and build campaigns around findings that may well be out of date by the time they receive them. But with the right data, delivered in real time, it’s possible to create brand experiences that aren’t just appealing—they’re transformative. Think message personalization, think dynamic content. These tools and tactics run on in-the-moment data and, used correctly they’ve been shown to increase conversions by 27.5 to 38%.
2. The ability to test and optimize out of the box
It’s not enough anymore to just send messages and hope for the best. From mobile to the web to emerging platforms, the customer engagement landscape is too competitive for brands to rest of their laurels. Long-term success requires experimentation. For lifecycle engagement platforms, that means the ability to test all the elements of a campaign—which can increase conversions by 40%—but the principle applies across technologies. If testing is easy, marketers can take steps to optimize their customer experience from day one; if it requires a lot of handholding and custom work, a lot of brands may never get around to actually using these capabilities.
Some savvy brands are able to hand-pick a whole array of these technologies, making it possible for them to create an experimentation stack. Look at ride-sharing giant Lyft, whose marketing team uses these a best-in-class, experimentation-focused technology stack to improve customer experience at scale, by testing promotional offerings and matching them to tailored customer segments.
There’s no single path to picking the marketing solutions that are right for you.
For brands that haven’t started putting together their marketing technology stack, it’s worthwhile to take the time to think through their specific needs and ensure that the tech they’re investing in is a good fit for their specific uses cases and goals. On the other hand, companies that have made that investment but haven’t seen it pay off are probably better off digging into the different layers of their stack and identifying technologies that are underused or underperforming.
More concerned about your customers’ brand experiences? Check out our 10 keys to a cohesive customer experience—and then fit your tools to your specific brand needs.