As my earlier post explored, the marketing function within organisations has had to adjust radically in response to emerging technology trends. Here I’ll look in more detail at how this might translate to a change in bottom-line tactics; focusing on how and where marketing departments may look to target their technology investments.
Before examining specific platforms and solutions, let’s address one of the most obvious and influential trends of all: the fact that marketers are simply spending more on technology than ever before. In addition to reports that marketing departments are increasing their tech spend up to three times faster than IT overall (something that’s been mentioned elsewhere on this blog), it’s been estimated that investment in technology outside the IT department is adding 40% to an organisation’s total IT budget. The reasons behind this spending spree aren’t hard to fathom; technology is at the forefront of driving a change in how organisations connect to, communicate with and convert customers, and most marketers have recognised the potential it offers not just to maintain their current strategies, but to revolutionise what is possible for the marketing function to achieve.
This investment is further supported by an on-going extension of technology’s reach across the organisation; with finance, customer support and numerous other departments looking to digitally innovate in order to drive business gains, opportunities for collaboration on projects continue to emerge. The IT function is even being encouraged to actively support these efforts to free technology from its traditional definitions and limitations, with a CEB report recommending that CIOs “act as coaches and mentors to help other business leaders understand how to use digital technology to grow their organisation”.
So, it’s clear that technology is a central pillar of investment not only for marketers, but across organisations in general. Where exactly might this investment be directed for best results?
No matter the size of your organisation, the industry you operate in, whether you’re B2B or B2C… effective customer touchpoints are fundamental to the success of any marketing strategy. As more of these touchpoints are found online and increasingly relied upon by users as a primary communication channel, they are an obvious target for technological investment. Indeed, the importance of these touchpoints is being advocated at the very highest level, with CEOs reporting that front-office capabilities will be one of the key technology investments they make in the coming five years.
But of course, optimising your organisation’s interactions with users isn’t as easy as it might appear, especially with more ways of reaching out to the user than ever before, and further means emerging all the time. Today half of online American adults are considered to be “always addressable”, meaning that they use at least three internet-connected devices and go online several times a day from multiple locations; a figure that rises even further in higher value audiences including earners over $100,000 and younger generations. As such the mobile experience has become a priority for many organisations, with trends such as omni-channel marketing and mobile-first design reflecting this interest.
However, even if organisations manage to optimise their brand across every conceivable touchpoint (a virtually impossible challenge, for reasons discussed below), there are still a huge number of digital spaces where they don’t have complete control over how they appear. Social networks are a prime example of this, as they provide users with easy, instant access to peer reviews and opinion, and enable them to curate their own unique feeds that can filter out marketing messages. Search engine results too can also prove to be a barrier to engaging with users, as increasingly sophisticated algorithms leverage implicit and explicit user data to personalise results.
This makes the implementation of solutions that help organisations overcome these obstacles another pressing technological concern. For example, social listening software can enable you to monitor conversations around your brand, your competitors and your services wherever they’re taking place and respond with relevant and timely information, while analytical tools highlight users’ true interests and pain points to guide future communications, content and campaigns.
While the long-standing questions of mobile, social and search remain critically important, in recent years they have been joined by a range of additional concerns and opportunities brought about in large part by the continual evolution and advancement of technology. One source of debate is the Internet of Things (IoT), a term that encompasses the more than 50 billion connected devices expected by 2020, creating a market worth an estimated $19 trillion. What’s of particular significance is that a large proportion of these new devices won’t be traditional PCs, tablets and smartphones, but could instead be anything from an intelligent car dashboard to an internet-enabled fridge (very much the cause célèbre of the IoT).
Therefore, although marketers will likely have to invest in advanced content delivery systems in order to cater to a much wider variety of displays and contexts, the internet of things also opens up a wealth of opportunities to apply technology in radically new ways. With a vastly increased data set, for example, organisations can tailor their messages at a micro level and in response to real-time needs, such as informing drivers of nearby service stations when their car’s low on petrol, or automatically creating shopping lists based on what’s in our famous fridge.
In particular, healthcare, retail, transport, energy and manufacturing verticals have been singled out as those set to greatly benefit from the IoT, suggesting that organisations in these sectors could benefit significantly from exploring this area. The potential to achieve competitive advantage by starting to look into the internet of things now is very real, too, as a Spiceworks report revealed that while 71% of IT professionals recognise that it will affect both consumers and organisations, just 41% are currently working on projects in preparation for it.
By now you can probably see that, in terms of technology, there’s a lot for marketing teams to consider. In the rush to cater to all possible scenarios, though, it’s important not to lose sight of the bigger picture, and attention should be paid to technologies that help provide a holistic view of the customer and their journey. Data should be at the heart of these systems, leveraging integrated stacks and applications that speak to each other via APIs to join up both digital and physical touchpoints and support the delivery of consistent, relevant messages exactly when and where they’re required.
Of course, you’ll want to know what impact your efforts are having and, crucially, be able to demonstrate results to senior stakeholders, so measurement and reporting capabilities should therefore be another central element of your back-office technology suite. Finally, consider too how technology can help improve your internal communications; intranets, instant messaging systems, alerts and more can all help improve knowledge-sharing to uncover relevant and valuable insights that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
Marketers looking to use technology to achieve business goals and support the growth of their organisation clearly face many questions regarding the best use of their budget, from the devices and platforms they invest in to what systems will underpin the wider marketing strategy. Ultimately, however, technology is an enabler, providing stability, scalability and security while helping teams act in a more agile and flexible way.
For more information on budgeting for digital transformation, and the hazards that can trip you up along the way, download our white paper on the subject.