Today, no brand is immune from being disrupted by digital start-ups. Some question this logic, but when you consider the ways that every imaginable business category is being re-engineered by Internet-based disruptors, most marketers are waking up to the need to use digital tools to improve their targeting and servicing of customers.
However, turning strategic intent into practical reality is harder than the digital experts like to admit. A recent report by the CMO Council validated the experience of many marketers – its survey of found that marketers recognise the need to put personalisation and real-time engagement at the core of the customer experience strategy, but that their ability to deliver this is severely hampered by disconnected systems that fail to live up to the hype. Specifically, only 5% of marketers said their organisations can deliver hyper-personalised experiences across all channels and customer touchpoints.
This has also been made more difficult by the challenges of using third-party data. Facebook and Google, due to concerns raised by the GDPR regulations, have made big changes to restrict the data that brands can access. The CMO Council survey illustrated the ways in which these changes have impacted marketers, stating that 41% of the marketers surveyed agreed that the roadblock to successful execution of the customer experience strategy is fragmented platforms and systems that fail to connect or deliver a uniﬁed view of the customer experience across all touchpoints.
This state of affairs is the new reality, and it is not going to change in the near future. Successfully delivering an increase in business performance and supporting the customer experience requires a dynamic data architecture, a single view of the customer and a best in class stack that can incorporate and connect all existing technologies and engagement platforms.
No technology will give brands a sustainable advantage without careful configuration and adaptation of the tools and the processes in the company. The people who sell adtech with the promise that their solution will do this as an automated process are doing everyone a disservice – for example, the case studies that these vendors publish are, more often than not, one-off deployments that cannot be easily replicated, and often use one metric to validate a complex project.
The objective of adtech should be viewed as an on-going improvement programme to give highly trained people the tools to implement a differentiated strategy using data and insights, not for tools to achieve some kind of instant, automated, AI-driven marketing utopia.
So a first principle in this process – increasingly widely advocated and accepted in the marketing community – is that brands need to build in-house data capabilities.
By this, few people are advocating that brands should not collaborate with agencies and consultancy partners as specialists in their field. External experts can bring much added value – for instance, to help a brand identify the use cases and set up the tools to automate the exchange of data. It is often not practical for brands to hire experts for the engineering functions to build pipelines for the necessary data, understand different technologies and tools, and deploy the data into your activation channels.
But as a brand team gets closer to using data to deliver a 1-to-1 communications strategy – which is implicit in the requirements of the new data privacy laws – then the deployment of these tools becomes more akin to CRM (where you know exactly what you want to say to an identified customer or prospect) than advertising (where you are sending aggregated messages to aggregated audiences).
As this logic takes hold, it becomes more obvious why brands must make sure that their people can use the tools to monitor the campaigns and extract insights to create in-house analyses of the effectiveness of their marketing communications. In this way, partners will no longer be the mystical holders of the knowledge about their own work to the detriment of your team’s ability to challenge their work and audit what’s being delivered.
It is a critical step for any marketer building a capability that can match the digital disruptors in their marketplace to decide precisely which skills are required in-house to implement the digital strategy. Key skill-sets can be brought in by data scientists and data analysts – for whom it is critical for them to be able to use the tools to obtain data for their own performance analyses.
And over time, brands can bring in-house core sales driving digital skills that might require in-house trading data to quickly adapt marketing tactics to their brands’ needs and optimise the performance of the tools. This might include search, social, affiliate marketing and programmatic display.
To be in control of your own destiny, brands must build a marketing team that’s fit for the future. And with the right adtech stack, your digital initiatives will be more like CRM than old school advertising, with all of the changes that entails for your planning, budgeting and in-house performance management. But in this version of relationship management, the “C” in CRM may stand for “consumer” instead of “customer”, because the targeting potential these tools is not limited to tailoring your messaging your existing customers…
Richard Wheaton is managing director of 55 London