The Dismal CX of MarTech: 50 First Dates and Counting
One might assume an enterprise’s IT department spends the most on technology (there’s a logic there, after all). But marketing departments are close to matching IT in spending; a recent Gartner survey suggests that CMO tech spending will surpass that of CIOs by the end of 2017.
So, what’s going on here? The way I see it, two separate forces are at work. First, modern IT departments are actually demonstrating an ability to do more with less. With the growth of cloud-based IaaS, PaaS and SaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service and Software-as-a-Service), IT leads have learned how to reduce overhead and render nearly every type of technology more affordable. Simultaneously, marketing technology solutions have multiplied and evolved into niche services to a degree where they offer unprecedented capabilities with a self-service promise. This has emboldened marketers to purchase and operate new marketing tech without relying on IT department assistance.
What we have now is an environment where marketing departments are flush with tools for handling Web deployment, media management, CRM, analytics, distributed content and other key marketing concerns. CMOs are now starting to pour budgets into the pursuit of even newer technologies that promise optimal customer experiences across channels. But unless you're starting from scratch — and nobody is — the idea that marketers can log into a single solution to orchestrate cross-channel CX is a total pipedream.
We marketers have proven ourselves to be pretty big tech spenders. Unfortunately, while marketers are certainly capable of filling their toolboxes with great technical products, fitting all of those puzzle pieces into a cohesive solution that delivers a single view of the customer remains a challenge not so easily solved. Even for the world's largest brands, the marketing technology patchwork problem is as much a challenge for the enterprise as it is for the midmarket. In many ways, larger brands are less capable of stitching together their marketing stacks than smaller companies.
At the core of this issue is the fact that most of the marketing solutions brands have adopted during the past five years serve narrow, targeted purposes. And few were designed to play nice with others. Today’s enterprise likely has a robust content management system (CMS) for its website, community management and listening solutions for customer engagement on social media, automation platforms to handle email marketing and campaign landing pages, tools for managing outbound advertising efforts, a CRM platform and more. But most of these tools silo their own data, while approaching the customer from angles that aren’t easily (or mutually) compatible. Even when these solutions are best-of-breed, a marketing department may often find that it’s assembled an all-star team that doesn’t know how to play together and complement each other’s strengths. Unfortunately, this disjointed marketing technology stack usually results in disjointed customer experiences, where a customer’s brand interactions aren’t consistent from one channel to the next.
At a time when brands like Zappos and Amazon are raising the bar for customer experience, most brands are starring in their own versions of the tragicomedy “50 First Dates” (in which Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore meet for the first time over and over again because of the latter's anterograde amnesia. Modern brand experiences are increasingly falling into two camps: those that "have customer memory" and those that don’t. The have-nots will not survive.
Where can marketers look for the antidote to the customer amnesia? In-house IT departments are certainly the logical first step, but asking IT departments to stitch applications together, or to create a shared data layer for marketing applications, can be a stretch. Most IT departments are limited in this regard, because their skills tend to be focused on more traditional IT duties: provisioning and securing hardware, managing access to data and services, installing updates and putting out fires when the day-to-day tools fall down. Facilitating a single view of customers for the marketing department is simply not on the typical IT punch-list.
A new class of integrated marketing technology vendors presents another possible remedy for customer amnesia. Companies like Adobe and HubSpot are reaching across digital touchpoints with solutions designed from the ground-up. Adobe rebranded its entire digital marketing toolsuite in 2017 to the "Adobe Experience Cloud" and launched an audacious "experience data model," with the suggestion that it could become a new "CX language" driving toward an open standard.
So if you're starting a new company this year, go check out Adobe. And bring your checkbook. For the rest of the world's brands, it’s back to the same difficult question: How do you make the most of your current technology investments without re-platforming the entire marketing department? Even the choice to abandon your current platforms results in a similar set of requirements to migrate and/or integrate data between tools.
All-in-one vendor solutions also face an uphill battle, given the increasing preference for heterogeneity in the tech stack — which is a fancy way of saying IT departments are more often choosing to spread their technical eggs across several baskets to avoid vendor lock-in, and to distribute the attack surface against security threats.
Marketers may decide to reach outside of their organizations to technical experts, which some marketing agencies now house. The rise of CX led many agencies to grow their strategy resources, and the rise of cross-channel strategy planning is producing a rush toward implementation capabilities.
With marketing departments large and small struggling to coordinate information from the many powerful technologies in their stacks, they will need to decide the best way to deliver a unified customer experience without stepping backward in time.
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