Hey, Big Spender: Navigating the wild world of marketing technology

Gartner called it as far back as 2016: CMOs would soon be spending more than their IT counterparts on tech they said, and sure enough, such has come to pass. CMOs are having their moment, with a mandate growing from a relatively simple promotional role to a key growth driver across the business. That means greater influence on customer experience, P&L performance and greater tech spending as a means to deliver growth.

According to the 2017-2018 Gartner CMO Spend Survey, 67 percent of CMOs planned to increase their spending in digital advertising in 2018. Futhermore, CMO focus on analytics reflects the need to demonstrate performance and effectiveness to the business, and digital channels are purpose-built to feed digital performance data to CMOs.

Put another way, marketers are now deeply dependent on technology – and the budgets have grown to reflect that. Martech spending now accounts for around 22 percent of a typical marketing budget.

But it’s not all beer, skittles and in-house programmatic trading desks. While 22 percent is still a significant portion of the overall budget, it’s actually down from the 27 percent reported in last year’s spend survey.

“One thing is clear,” says Ewan McIntyre, research director at Gartner for Marketers. “Previous budget increases have come with weighty expectations, some of which have yet to be met.”

Sensible budgets with expanded expectations can make things complicated.

Lindsay Mouat, CEO, Association of New Zealand Advertisers

“The breadth of media alternatives, audience fragmentation, pressure for short-term results, and the growing consumer voice via social platforms all add to the challenge,” says Lindsay Mouat, CEO of the Association of New Zealand Advertisers.

“Tech can be both an enabler and a complication but in neither case does it mean that the marketer’s role is any easier… Some ad and martech platforms have over-promised, so there is now some cynicism with new platforms and what may be delivered.”

As marketers wrestle with the new digital landscape, expect a rethinking of the marketer’s role and a reshuffling of established team structures. In fact, we may just be entering a great period of relearning what we think we already know.

Mike Larmer, Director, Chemistry Interaction

“The CMO function, the CIO/CTO/CDO and their respective teams are all having to overcome corporate demarcation and work far more collaboratively than in the past to ensure that tech investments are fit for purpose,” says Mike Larmer, director at Chemistry Interaction.

“Many businesses are re-evaluating the skills required in their teams with a much deeper requirement for individuals capable of driving the tech solutions the executive level of the business is choosing.”

Tarver Graham, Founder and CEO, Gladeye

“Whether you think AI is upon us or just silly jargon, programmatic media and marketing automation have made big promises to marketers,” says Tarver Graham, founder and CEO of Gladeye. 

“Those promises are real. Today both SMEs and enterprise businesses can buy practical tools that, properly used, can help them speak to their audience as individuals, but the devil’s in the details: right now we see a lot of poorly implemented or underutilised technology.”

Proliferation

The 2018 marketing technology landscape is now populated with over 6800 different platforms, each with its own benefits and limitations. Marketing automation, analytics software, UX enhancements, customer service programmes and in-house programmatic trading desks – where does the average option-overloaded marketer put his money?

Chris Andrew, Director of analytics and insights, Gladeye

“Marketers are starting to spend big on data platforms, or platforms that allow them to actually do something with their data,” says Chris Andrew, director of analytics and insights at Gladeye.

“It used to be your typical website had Google analytics installed, that was it. Now if you look underneath the hood of any major brand website, there’s enough complexity that they need speciality tag management tools just to handle all the third party code that pushes information around the ecosystem.”

And it’s dealing with all that data that is the singular challenge many now face. Improvements in data management tech is helping organisations use greater numbers of existing data sets to pull together customer information to produce single customer views – if they’ve got the skills to do it.

Now entering the picture too is predictive advertising, which, thanks to advances in machine learning, sees us increasingly exploiting more complex and varied data sources to predict future outcomes based on behavioural patterns. It’s a brave new world for marketers.

Joseph Silk, Director, Chemistry Interaction

“There are several ways in which predictive advertising is being applied to traditional digital advertising tactics, including campaign optimisation, media mix modelling, media buying and ad serving,” says Joseph Silk, director of Chemistry Interaction. 

“Instead of relying on rule settings, machine learning models are applied to make decisions – understanding who is likely to pay off a loan, prioritising enquiries most likely to purchase a holiday package and so on.”

“Predictive advertising will increasingly enable marketers to cast a wider net beyond consumers they may have identified otherwise using conventional tools or limited data. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that a bank may one day factor in your purchasing behaviour of alcohol and processed foods in its underwriting of your health insurance.”

VIP (Very Important Prospects)

Whatever tech is being implemented, the focus is increasingly on collecting and collating data in ways that can help understand the would-be customer better – and putting those insights to work.

Tony Mitchell, CEO, Marketing Association 

“Marketing technology has changed the depth of understanding and communication with customers and it continues to evolve at a rapid rate,” says Tony Mitchell, CEO of the Marketing Association. “With this change, marketers are faced with decisions of which technologies they should be using to keep up with their customers.”

That includes marketing automation technologies, Mitchell says, as well as “micro moments” (‘intent-rich’ moments when decisions are made and preferences shaped) and customer experience technologies that enhance the customer journey.

“Overall the technology should make life easier for marketers, but businesses need to start with first understanding their customer and building a strategy around this before jumping into selecting which technologies best support their goals.”

“As an industry, we’re all still trying to define what success actually looks like,” says Chris Andrew, Gladeye’s director of analytics and insights, “but the possibilities are huge for personal, timely messages that return us a little closer to that nostalgic one-to-one relationship between customers and brands.”

“Digitisation used to be pushed as a cost-efficiency thing, but that’s not really what digital is about any more. It’s about delivering experiences that used to be impossible, to an audience that is constantly expecting more from the brands they follow.”

That message, that marketing is now in the business of using digital capabilities to build a customer-first businesses isn’t self-evident.

“I think corporates in New Zealand are probably split one third, one third, one third on this question,” says Mitchell.

“A third of organisations are leading the way, leveraging the opportunity that data and technology have provided for engaging with customers. Organisations that are doing this place the customer at the centre of their business and build their strategy around it – this is what marketing is all about at its core. They have secured continuous investment for technology.

“The next third of corporates are waking up to the fact that something has changed in their market environment and they aren’t connecting as well with consumers as they used to and they are losing sales. This third realised they need to respond quickly and are putting the investment they need to compete in the new world.

“Then there are the other third that have built a successful business over many years and plan to keep on doing what they have always done. I worry about this third as I don’t see the required investment taking place. They are a prime target for digital disruption!”

Shane Evans, General manager of marketing, ASB

Touchpoints

ASB has been a progressive adopter of new tech – especially automation – building its brand alongside the deployment of a large- scale marketing automation capability.

“The main benefits of modern tech- centric marketing are that you can move a lot of lower level tasks into the technology, and let your team focus on delivering great marketing,” says Shane Evans, general manager of marketing at ASB.

No strangers to a slick campaign or two, Evans says it’s all part of the company’s decision to move away from a purely campaign-led approach, to a more customer- centric one with a focus on communication across multiple channels.

“When you can see the results of what you do – and the ‘doing’ bit is automated – the focus can return to the actual challenge of serving your customer,” he says.

Evans says that, as the company’s ability to utilise interactions in owned channels has evolved, so too has its spend profile. But it’s about more than channels, platforms and software.

“It’s not just technology you’re purchasing,” he says. “You need to look at the ability to implement, operate and use it effectively. Skilled partners and agencies are crucial components of this mix.”

“Building the tools and processes to deliver the reporting and insight required is a crucial step, but so is developing a culture that is open to learning and adapting from results. Many marketers are simply too busy delivering the next project to look back at the results.”

The problem with buying tech

All too often, MarTech purchases fall under the umbrella of ‘IT procurement’, something which leads to a focus on short-term outcomes, rather than the best match for the job.
“In New Zealand that marketing is still not involved enough in how the business organises itself with regards to MarTech,” says Larmer.

“Our clients’ organisations are still mainly handling the purchasing of marketing technology lumped in with other enterprise technology purchasing. As a result it is still led by procurement and IT.”

The issue with burying MarTech among these other technology investments, Larmer says, is that the focus tends to be on ‘purchase, build and deliver’ – not which solution will actually be the best long-term fit.

“This focus on short-term IT gain is significantly weighted towards cost, and has considerable impacts on value and quality and fit for purpose.”

“Marketers face huge difficulties galvanizing cautious corporate leadership teams and boards because the level of complexity associated with connecting and delivering customer interactions across touchpoints and devices is pushing organisational capabilities to their limits.”

With corporates hungry for immediate results – and vendors happy to make hay while the sun shines – long-term thinking is too often sacrificed for the demands of the moment.

We have observed the typical sales cycle whenever new tech becomes in vogue,” says Silk. “Remember CRM Technology back in 2000? The same thing is happening all over again, slick companies selling slick-looking tech that promises to be the panacea for marketers.”

“It’s all about triggered, real-time, personalised, one-to-one communications with customers and prospects. The reality is an expensive IT infrastructure sold into businesses with little or no on the ground support – at least in New Zealand anyway – and months and months of distraction while the build takes place.”

“Everyone seems to be at the beginning of this journey and there are very few trained practitioners in New Zealand to show the way.”

People power

But if it’s the human element that’s missing from high-tech marketing mixes, then the solution is clearly at hand. Once again, it’s people using the tech who ultimately determine whether it’s successful.

“For me the most important thing to remember is that technology isn’t a solution,” says Graham. “You’re buying a tool, and these are complex tools that require skilled operators and creative ideas to make them work.”

“Marketers need thoughtful creative technology partners who not only understand what’s possible, but can match what matters for an audience to what their brand stands for. It’s a great time to be doing digital because the creative possibilities are only growing.”

Behavioural analytics may help marketers understand the customer better. Automation can help marketers reach them with the right message at the right time. But there’s no substitute for competent, talented humans…yet.

“It takes more people, not less, to do modern marketing,” says ASB’s Evans.

“But the skills and competencies required are far broader than a traditional marketing organisation. Data and technology literacy are crucial, but so are strong marketing skills.”

“It’s still marketing – just done differently.”

This article was originally published in the New Zealand Marketing magazine Awards Issue 2018

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