Many of our clients ask how they can future proof their marketing technology investments. To understand what needs to be future proofed we need to take a quick look back to see how marketing technology has changed over the years. Thirty years ago, there was direct mail, phones, and print advertising. Marketing had an easier time of creating lists of people to mail to or call. That changed in the nineties with the web and email. Now we have smart phones and apps which have totally changed the marketing landscape.
There is no way to predict the future but you can take steps today to make your marketing technology ready for changes. Some of the areas that you can focus on are enterprise architecture, data, and the integration of technology.
Organizations should have an enterprise architecture that is based upon marketing capabilities and not specific systems. As new technologies are introduced into the marketplace, the organization will update the architecture with those. If a new application comes to market that enhances a few specific capabilities already provided in another system, it will be easy to identify which capabilities to migrate to the new system.
There is a great debate in the marketing technology community right now about whether to go all-in on a marketing platform (Adobe, Salesforce, Oracle) or to get the best of breed for each capability. With an enterprise architecture that focuses on capabilities, it will be easy to know when a platform makes sense and when to use best of breed. It will also inform the organization on when to replace a piece of the platform with a best of breed application.
Data is the backbone of all marketing tech stacks. This backbone of data must be centralized in a location that is accessible to every marketing system. An architectural diagram of a centralized marketing data repository will look like a hub and spoke rather than a spider web of connections from each system to every other system. Having a hub and spoke data backbone ensures an easier replacement of a system in the future by limiting the number of integrations that need to be replaced.
One thing we do know about the future is that the volume of data we need to capture about our customers and their behaviors will increase exponentially year over year. Every organization should be planning how they are going to handle this volume of data. There are a few ways to approach this, but one way that is popular with many organizations are data lakes that allow for the ingestion of large volumes of unstructured data.
While data is the backbone, integrations are the plumbing. Integrations enable the data to be activated in the appropriate customer-facing application. For instance, if a customer calls the customer service center, the agent should be able to see everything the person has purchased in the store and on line and be able to make appropriate recommendations. This is accomplished because of the integrations between the e-commerce site, the store POS system, the call center, CRM, and the central data repository.
If you were to talk to your IT team about integrations, they would start using terms such as enterprise service bus, SOA and REST APIs. They would also mention that setting up a proper integration environment would take time and money which is why this is often skipped. If you want to future proof your marketing technology investments, support the IT team’s integration architecture, which will allow for new systems to be added quicker in the future and enable easy access to the data needed to fully leverage each customer touchpoint.
Additional Action Items
Additional steps to prepare for future marketing technology changes are:
- hire people with emerging skill sets
- perform annual reviews of the technology roadmap and enterprise architecture
- leverage vendors and partners to keep informed of emerging technologies
While there is no way to predict the future, there are many actions that you can take to prepare for the upcoming change. Whatever it is, it will require access to customer data through an easy- to-use configuration that is achieved through enterprise architecture, consolidated data, and well-implemented integrations.