The first marketing technology stacks were created to organize, analyze and improve performance.
Such stacks are technology groupings. They surfaced in the early 2000s when adventurous marketers invested in new tools for superior management of their campaigns and audiences.
These integrated systems induced order, unlocked targeted campaigns and personalized messages for improved results for a variety for retailers.
In 2011, there were about 150 firms offering marketing technology. Now, there are more than 6,800 technology-based tools including digital advertising, data analytics, content marketing, marketing automation, social media and much more.
At some point, marketers became stack managers: shadow IT masters spending more time on implementing technology than on creative development, customer research and messaging.
As for budgets, marketing technology generally surpasses IT budgets now and spending on marketing software is forecasted to exceed $32 billion in this year alone.
For some, the job now is “nothing but the stack.”
Today’s marketers are facing remarkable pressure to build and manage stacks. Software and technology firms are desperate to control as much of the stack as possible, and in-house technology teams are desperate to retain their seat at the table. As a result, customers are left with the burden too often.
This is partially due to intense competition between major software companies striving for ultimate control over the marketing stack. Firms picture a walled garden of coordinated platforms (theirs). There’s a lack of incentive to build in ways that enables sharing and communicating with competitive or ancillary products.
With collection and distribution of customer communications consent and preferences – likes, dislikes topics of interest, channels of choice, etc. – the problem is clear.
Most retail marketing technology systems and frameworks that make up the powerful stack collect and store preferences. However, their functionality is limited. Only a few of them are made to communicate with other technologies or contribute to a holistic customer record.
This means customer consent and preferences stored in a sales customer-relationship-management system don’t transfer to customer support, marketing or third-party providers.
For example, explicit permission to contact a cell phone – crucial for compliance purposes – remains within an ESP, unable to link with the marketing automation solution.
Retailers using Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics or SAP, want to track their customers from a “sales” perspective – the classic CRM solution. These platforms are tailored to give sales organizations the information necessary to do their job of understanding the customer across the life cycle and achieving insight into what the customer has bought.
Preference and compliance requires maintaining history, the ability to look back over time as the customer changes preferences. With the forward-looking bias of these platforms, use of a CRM-oriented system can leave an incomplete image of the customer, lacking the information needed to answer a compliance inquiry.
Retail organizations implementing an outbound email service provider such as IBM Watson Marketing (formally Silverpop) and Oracle Eloqua have the primary goal to send communications to the customer to move them further along in the buyer journey based on scoring, behavior or company objectives.
These systems have email covered as the main form of communication, however, it's likely the customer is engaging across multiple channels. These systems are not designed to interconnect all points and systems encountered by each customer.
When providing a preference to one channel, clients expect the preference is integrated across the organization. Frustrations arise when the customer feels unheard. Preferences shared with one systems should easily be shared across all related platforms for outbound communication with a clear understanding of the source of change.
A thorough picture of customers requires seamless access to update their preferences and profile data as their situation evolves. It is not a one-point-in-time collection. It is a combination of a technology approach with a built-in process that considers customer ability to participate in the preference conversation in an ongoing fashion. (Wards Industry Voices contributor Eric Holtzclaw, below)
What is the largest issue retail marketers face today with these technological systems?
None of them are built with direct customer interaction in mind for the management, maintenance and collection of preference data or to provide compliance support across the enterprise.
Enterprises always hope for one system capable of solving all the needs of the marketing stack, but often forget it is called a stack for a reason. Each part resolves a specific marketing issue. It’s important to acknowledge the background of any system a business may be considering.
Eric V. Holtzclaw is Chief Strategist of PossibleNOW. He’s a researcher, entrepreneur and author of the book on consumer behavior “Laddering: Unlocking the Potential of Consumer Behavior.”