Brands are working hard to deliver frictionless, connected experiences to nurture loyalty among customers and prospects. Clear, timely, and transparent communication is unquestionably a key component. Behind the scenes, integrated technologies build on top of each other’s capabilities, multiplying value and enabling new experiences that offer brands the opportunity to differentiate themselves and capitalize on efficiencies.
Digital messaging platforms continue to evolve, offering sophisticated customer engagement management solutions with growing automation capabilities to support an increasing number of activation channels. Leveraging advanced segmentation, predictive models, artificial intelligence (AI), and robust personalization capabilities, marketers can support complex cross-channel customer journeys to nurture prospects into customers, and customers into loyal customers. Finding the right tool can be challenging in today’s extremely competitive and rapidly evolving landscape.
Digital messaging platforms, multi-channel marketing hubs, cross-channel messaging platforms, customer engagement platforms, and marketing automations platforms. Where does one end and the other start?! Are we talking about the same thing?
We like to define digital messaging platforms as platforms designed to deliver contextually relevant messages on complex customer journeys across channels. With customer data platform (CDP)-like capabilities they shape unified customer profiles and leverage predictive intelligence to support the orchestration and personalization of multi-channel customer journeys.
We group these platforms based on the number of channels supported:
Single-Channel - Point solutions focused on 1-2 closely related channels supporting segmentation/targeting, basic automation, and in-channel reporting.
Multi-Channel – Distinguished by cross-channel activation capabilities powering multi-touch journeys and campaigns with advanced automation, audience management, and targeting.
Customer Engagement Platforms - Multi-channel platform powering digital messaging and experiences across channels and properties (website, app).
When it comes to features, these platforms have developed over time capabilities that can support basic identity resolution, enable unified customer profiles, advanced segmentation, marketing automation, journey orchestration and visioning, decisioning (personalization and recommendations), and insights. This list can quickly start overlapping with capabilities proper of a CDP, raising questions on architecture, data flows, and integrations.
Navigating the Highly Competitive Landscape
When looking to select a digital messaging platform, there is no universal answer. Every company has unique tech stacks, desired use cases, and challenges. When assessing and evaluating solutions, the true best-in-class solution is the one that fits your stack and best empowers your team. We believe the key to navigating today’s complex landscape is to focus on capabilities over features.
Making a Future-Proof Selection
The best solution is indeed the one that best fits your stack integrating with the key technologies in play while also empowering your teams today. Top-of-mind integrations you need to be thinking about are:
- Order management system (OMS) and ecommerce platform
- Loyalty and reviews platforms
- Customer data platform (CDP), and customer relationship management (CRM)
To future-proof your selection, it is important to not only look at your stack today, but position yourself for the future, keeping in mind these three key enablers:
- Will you be able to appropriately ingest, transform and leverage data (people, product, events) to trigger messages?
- Will you have control over your data, including data modeling, governance, and portability?
- Does this messaging platform integrate with your stack? OMS, ecommerce, loyalty, etc. Are we talking native integrations or custom API integrations?
- Will all relevant event, conversion, and engagement data easily flow or trigger messages?
- Do the APIs, out-of-the-box integrations, documentation, and partner ecosystem provide appropriate support?
- Do you have the partners and/or resources to successfully implement your new platform?
- Does your team have the skills and resources to enable full adoption?
Point-Solution vs. Suite
We are often asked to weigh in and help decide between a multi-channel messaging platform or customer engagement platform vs. a CDP or Reverse ETL feeding point solutions for in-channel execution. While there is no way to provide a one-size-fits-all answer, below are some key considerations to guide you in your selection:
Final Tips for Those Currently Evaluating Solutions
If you are currently in the market for a digital messaging platform, follow this advice:
- Define your business requirements first (capabilities, data sources, integrations). These will be your compass.
- Be realistic about what your organization (from marketing operations to IT) can and cannot support when deciding on point-solution vs. suite.
- Focus on capabilities over features. Understand the overlap in capabilities with your existing stack and think through how this will affect your processes. Don’t wait until after the implementation!
- Think through the systems you will need to integrate and make sure you understand the scope of the native integrations offered as well as the level of effort involved in developing custom integrations. “We can integrate through API” is not an answer. Dig deeper!
- Be forward-thinking, keeping your future needs in mind, not just current requirements.
Want to learn more? Check out our other marketing technology blog posts here.