As published in Ad Age 3/4/2019: After nearly a decade of digital disruption, you’d think things might have started to settle down. Not a chance. The next big tech battle is brewing, and it’s all about market dominance when it comes to owning the “customer journey.”
Let’s scope out the battle lines of where it’s being fought.
CRM: This category is the largest and most active in trying to stretch beyond their core sales enablement capability into advertising enablement. Just recently, for instance, Salesforce acquired Datorama to give, “…marketers … insights into what motivated a customer to take an action.” This means CRM platforms will be “assessing” the ROI of complex marketing interactions that is not their core competency. The only way CRM vendors can pull this off is through acquisition. ‘Nuf said.
Web metric platforms: This segment remains crucial to understanding the customer “brand to demand” journey and defining content requirements, personalized content experiences, marketing attribution and much more. In principle, web platforms have a clear advantage but have been outgunned by more dynamic automation platforms.
Digital (or marketing) automation: This category gets a lot of attention because it’s been promising the sacred “unified customer journey” all along. Initially, everyone thought this segment was going to walk away victorious but so far the results have not lived up to the hype. Part of the problem is that these platforms have lots of moving parts that overlap with other platforms—i.e. email marketing—making the true “owner” of both digital and real-world journeys a confusing question.
Digital data: The leaders in this segment are the largest data players like Axciom, Experian or Blue Kai. Their play is to knit together all different types of interactions and inject themselves into every targeting requirement a brand has. They may not be the biggest segment, but their data credentials give them the expertise to deliver a unified ID architecture that they hope will drive every well-executed customer journey.
No matter how these battles shape up, they bode ill for front-line marketers who have to adapt in an ad tech environment already beset with fraud and accountability issues.
Here are five tactics that marketers can use to minimize the collateral damage as the battle wages on:
1: In the process of evaluating platforms, especially when multiple departments are part of the decision, it is imperative to clearly map how this platform will perform in an actual campaign within your existing ad tech stack. Importantly, resist the urge to add “performance” modules because often these modules are lower performing versus what is available on the market.
2: Future proof your platform choices by ensuring they have clear integration tools and processes for data exchanges for every platform you use. At a minimum, get a sense of the product roadmap to ensure any gaps will be quickly filled.
3: Every team member should have a clear understanding of data flows between the different platforms and understand how to knit together different stats for management reports. This one oversight can cause hours or days of manual metrics reporting. Be sure all data visualization requirements are articulated upfront.
4: Getting acclimated to a new platform is time consuming. There are no shortcuts. Take the time to take all the training—it will pay off. Also, if something is not working, be sure to give feedback to the CIO or ad ops team. This is critical so that the right configuration of a platform is properly deployed.
5: Ensure that data can be mined to understand aberrant spikes of behaviors. Too many platforms simply aggregate data from multiple sources yet do not allow a user to dig deeper into the data. This gap is easily avoided thus saving hours trying to figure out anomalies.
The next five years of marketing transformation to “own the customer journey” is being shaped along battle lines centered on data, AI and automation. No one player is likely to ever win it all. The future will lie with advertisers that configure multiple platforms to more precisely suit their needs. Until then—helmets up.