Why marketing technology utilisation is taking on new urgency

Disparate data sources, fragmented technology and a lack of funding has left many brands struggling in the battle for online customer attention amid a global pandemic. Now more than ever, brands need to focus on unlocking the value of their marketing technology by focusing attention on the quality of their technology stack, their customer experience strategy and data.  

The proofpoints of digitisation and a ‘new consumer normal’ are upon us. According to PayPal Australia, Aussies have quickly adopted online shopping over the period of the COVID-19 crisis, with sign-ups to its services having almost tripled compared to pre-pandemic levels. Australians have predominantly stocked up on groceries, alcohol, beauty products, meal delivery and subscription services. Beauty brands like Adore Beauty, for example, reported record high increases in sales on certain products like premium hand wash, up 342 per cent.  

Companies like UberEats and Deliveroo — which for some time have faced heavy opposition from bricks-and-mortar businesses for not paying the industry enough of a cut — are now seeing droves of temporarily shut-down restaurants move onto their platform. Deliveroo chief executive, Ed McManus, said in the week after Australia’s lockdown was introduced, an additional 1700 restaurants came onto its platform.  

There’s no doubt the global impact of the coronavirus is driving consumers to be more online, as millions of people look for entertainment, turn kitchens into home offices, or order their weekly shop online rather than go to a physical store. With this sudden change in behaviour, consumer needs are evolving as people start to adapt to this new situation. The challenge for brands is to figure out how to stay ahead of this new reality and give customers what they need.  

Studies of past recessions have shown companies continue marketing, recover faster and with a greater market share than firms that go dark. Research also shows companies that consistently market even during recessions perform better in the long run. A McGraw-Hill Research study looking at 600 companies from 1980 to 1985 found those businesses which chose to maintain or raise their level of marketing expenditures during the 1981 and 1982 recession had significantly higher sales after the economy recovered. Specifically, companies that marketed aggressively during the recession had sales 256 per cent higher than those that did not continue to market themselves.  

The martech opportunity  

And of course, marketing today cannot run without martech, the holistic team used for technology that enables marketing to operate. In 2019, Australian brands invested heavily in marketing technology platforms spending over $2.3 billion on CRM alone, according to IDC.  

Martech is the holistic term used for technology that enables marketing. For example, Hilton used marketing automation to update Honors members about new cleanliness protocols. KFC used marketing resource management to remove people licking their fingers from its offline creative, and Estée Lauder optimised media buying across 45 brands in nine countries using marketing measurement.  

Martech is a strategic investment and has made remarkable strides over the last few years. However, major challenges remain unsolved. It’s these challenges that are now making martech a boardroom imperative as marketers realise the need to accelerate adoption and integration of technologies to deliver on the demands of today’s online customers.  

Investment in marketing technology is a lagging and (mostly) fixed investment, so it’s difficult to reduce spending significantly in the short term. This means CEOs are pushing for marketing departments to make the most with what they have.  

The sheer number of tech platforms available presents another set of challenges within many organisations. Below-par integrations, both across solutions and within suites themselves, and poorly defined architecture making it difficult to connect data sources and maximise platform usage, are common problems plaguing many organisations. In response, brands are reducing the number of vendors they work with and focusing on putting measurement programs in place to track the effectiveness of their investments.  

Yet as the analysts at Forrester make clear, marketers must consider martech from the perspective of value creation rather than tactical execution and focus their investments on capabilities that drive business value, enhance customer experience, and create sustainable competitive advantages.  

CX leading the way  

According to the third State of the Connected Customer report by Salesforce, 71 per cent of customers have used multiple channels to start and complete a transaction. Today’s consumers are rapidly and simultaneously adopting unprecedented new behaviours, flocking to startups like WhatsApp, with its 1 billion users, or Uber, which now operates in more than 60 countries.  

As customers navigate a series of ‘new normals’, personalised, empathetic engagement has never been more important. Delivering messages and offers that resonate with an individual’s unique needs and expectations is fundamental to driving brand trust. Marketers are seeking more channels, touchpoints and devices to support customer engagement strategies as online demand grows.  

Unfortunately, marketers are often forced to cobble together their own tech stack and data to support the customer experience they’ve orchestrated, reducing speed to market and often falling short of their objectives. To succeed, relevance is critical. It drives engagement and goes beyond a single personalised touchpoint to cover the entire customer journey. A brand’s martech solutions must facilitate the delivery of experiences to move customers through the journey from awareness to advocacy.  

The most persistent problem to achieving this is unifying data. As the marketing technology ecosystem expands and new technologies achieve mainstream adoption, customer data management remains one of the biggest challenges for marketers as data underpins a brands ability to personalise, act on data and generate meaningful insights.  

For brands to create a connected experience for their customers and help drive revenue and growth, protecting and leveraging their first-party customer data is critical. Brands are collecting data more than ever before; transactional data, demographic data and infinite amounts of behavioral data. Typically, this data is stored in silos making it difficult to action.  

Enter the world of Customer Data Platforms (CDP). Oracle, Adobe and Salesforce have all released CDP-like offerings in the last two years, highlighting how important this capability is for maximising the utility of marketing clouds. Yet many brands are still at the early stages of their journey and adoption varies across different industries.  

While CEOs are wanting to do more with less, unifying data is like the problem child they just can’t ignore. CDP or not, the challenge for marketers remains the underlying data and how to effectively use it for experiences. Things like data cleansing, data enrichment and making the data actionable are foundational to getting the most out of your marketing technology.  

Brands that reconcile their martech stack to eliminate redundant tech and streamline vendors, focus on improving data quality to drive loyalty, and enable moment-based marketing by prioritising marketing cloud investments will be the ones to accelerate recovery and thrive in the new normal.