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The Modern Tech Stack: Moving to Platform First, Not Platform Only

Today’s marketers must have an increasingly complicated technology stack in order to deliver their desired customer experience. As companies are speeding up their digital transformation, technology has become a centerpiece that marketers need to understand, control, and manage. The companies that are the most successful at managing their technology purchases and rollouts are receiving market-leading results.

The devastating outbreak of COVID-19 has accelerated many companies’ digital transformation plans, as engagement with customers has depended on digital channels versus traditional brick-and-mortar interactions. In light of this, we saw brands that had a digital presence grow their e-commerce sales by 103 percent in Q2 of 2020. We have also seen companies that lagged in digital transformation go bankrupt, as they were unable to replace their traditional brick-and-mortar sales in this critical time.

Modernizing the Existing Tech Stack

Companies are looking at how technology can help them drive efficiencies and scale their marketing efforts at a lower cost. This is leading to 90 percent of companies looking at purchasing more marketing technology to help fill perceived gaps and to modernize their existing technology stack.

But, marketers are seeing gaps in their ability to deliver these personalized customer experiences fast enough or they are underutilizing the customer data that they have been able to capture during their customer interactions.

The focus on buying tools to accelerate the customer experience is driving a new wave in technology purchases. It’s not so much focused on adding new capabilities that marketers didn’t have before, but instead buying tools that replace existing technology to upgrade their ability to serve the true customer experience.

This modernization of technology has been enhanced by the recent proliferation and excitement around customer data platforms (CDPs) and how they bring a unified customer profile to light for marketing. These tools and platforms allow a marketer to react to changing customer behaviors or profiles in real time. Not surprisingly, this is the same sales message we heard often through the customer relationship management wave, back in the early 2000s, where there was a heavy focus on moving customer relationship management into the cloud as Salesforce came onto the scene. At that time, it was all about the tools and platforms creating a 360-degree view of the customer that could then be used to serve more personal advertising.

Our research found that 90 percent of marketers believe they have all the technology needed to deliver a truly personalized, omni-channel customer experience. Still, most marketers are looking to buy new marketing technology in the next twelve months. This demonstrates that most companies are moving along the digital transformation spectrum and focused on delivering omni-channel personalized customer experiences.

Finding the Gaps

Marketers are seeing gaps in their ability to deliver these personalized customer experiences fast enough. Sometimes they are underutilizing the customer data that they have been able to capture during their customer interactions.

The difference between a CDP and the more traditional CRM is the acknowledgement that customer experiences are happening in real time and that multiple marketing platforms are involved in producing the customer experience. Meaning that out-of-the-box CDPs come with the ability to integrate into hundreds of different activation platforms.

Merkle’s most recent research reflects this change in purchase behaviors with most marketers talking about buying best-of-breed products and considering custom builds versus off-the-shelf technology. As marketers are heading into buying and integrating platforms into their customized marketing technology stack, brands should follow a “platform-first,” not “platform-only” approach.

The platform-first approach starts by defining the use cases a marketer is trying to solve that their current technology is not able to do or does poorly due to timing. It then finds the platform that is best able to solve these immediate use cases.

Brands should develop a plan to select the platform and get the initial use cases working quickly to demonstrate a sizable return on investment within a quarter or two. This is often represented in use cases about connecting marketing to sales, such as connecting leads from a web campaign into a Salesforce Marketing Cloud instance to allow salespeople to follow-up with the customer. This helps with adoption across the overall organization, as everyone can see the value of the purchase and understand the direction in which the marketing team is heading.

Once the initial use cases are stood up, we move into the integration of the platform throughout the organization, from marketing to sales to commerce to service. This step is where companies experience the greatest gains and value from their technology purchases, because the chosen platform starts to work within an organization as part of the overall marketing strategy, instead of being a tool that only the marketing team uses.

In conclusion, today’s marketers are purchasing best-of-breed products and considering custom builds rather than off-the-shelf technology. As companies are speeding up their digital transformation, technology has become a centerpiece that marketers need to understand, control, and manage. Marketers should follow a “platform-first,” not “platform-only” approach by defining the use cases they are trying to solve that their current technology cannot support. From there, a plan can be developed to quickly demonstrate value, making the most of their investment.

Check out Merkle's Q2 2020 Customer Engagement Report for more on the modern platform.

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