The Analytics Platform Wars & What They Mean To A CMO

“Should I move to Google Analytics Premium or keep my current vendor? Or both?”

It’s a question I get asked all the time and clearly one many CMOs are struggling with. But too often it’s the wrong question, and often asked for the wrong reasons. It’s as if a single feature, processing limit, or interface element could credibly drive such a big decision. The question they should be asking is, “How can I integrate my data?”

In most cases, feature sets should not be driving the decisions — integration capability should. And increasingly, the market is reflecting this as all of the major analytics platforms have relatively similar feature sets; yet, Adobe and Google are clearly dominating new activations.

Designing an analytics architecture is a serious undertaking that will have ramifications throughout your organization. And, as data and analytics plays an increasingly greater role in your business, the significance of these architecture decisions will only increase.

As the world’s #1 reseller of Google Analytics Premium, there’s no doubt we find a lot of cases where it is, in fact, a good fit — but usually not simply because of the feature set.

It’s All Coming Together

Some food for thought:

  • DoubleClick holds a dominant position as the ad-serving/tracking platform of choice, and a significant portion of publishers use DFP as well.  Google’s AdSense and DoubleClick are estimated to be on 17.6% of the Web. This is an astounding 29 times higher than the nearest competitor.
  • AdWords is the defacto paid search platform, used by nearly three-quarters of the market and more than 10 times the nearest competitor.
  • Google Analytics has the widest installed base of any measurement platform by orders and orders of magnitude.
  • Small businesses rely heavily on Google Maps and the various integrations with Google Plus Local.

At the heart of the platform play is Metcalfe’s Law, which says the value of a network is the square of the number of connected entities. It’s the reason why Facebook, eBay, and even Craigslist seem like they’d be easy for competitors to replicate, but in reality, present huge barriers to entry.

For instance, even if buyers and sellers alike don’t prefer eBay, it’s where the buyers and sellers are; so, they both have little choice. WebOS was a great Mobile OS, but with no ecosystem behind it, consumers didn’t adopt the phone. BlackBerry users are flocking to phones that provide a better end-to-end platform, including a full stable of apps. Similarly, Google Plus is an amazing bit of technology, but there’s no point in posting something your friends won’t see.

But, in the case of the marketing and analytics platforms, the nodes aren’t just users, but pieces of the functionality puzzle where each new feature enhances those before it.

Another reason why platforms are so attractive is that getting clean data is a monumental challenge for any analyst. And, for those spending millions on the Google Platform, employing systems that share those same backend databases and have native support makes the cost of Google Analytics Premium a no-brainer — even if you are simply layering in on top of another analytics tool. Based on the research done by Stephane Hamel, we see that this double-tagging is extremely common among the world’s top websites.

analytics marketshare

A Platform On The Prowl

The importance of the platform is far from lost on Adobe, which recently combined its products into a cohesive “Cloud” platform of its own. Because of the large installed base of Adobe CQ, Test & Target, Adobe Social, etc., clients are finding the seamless integration with the Analytics Cloud to be nearly irresistible.

As further evidence of how fundamental this shift is at Adobe, it dropped its à la carte pricing, which was the bedrock of its contracts (much to the ire of clients), in favor of a platform-wide, all-you-can eat model to encourage clients to take advantage of the entire integrated platform.

And while Adobe doesn’t have the native advertising platform that Google has, it has frantically rushed to integrate with Facebook, Twitter and the other major networks –  which have their own reasons to be skeptical of the Google juggernaut.

Adobe has successfully leveraged and integrated its acquisitions, particularly Omniture, Efficient Frontier, Day Software (CQ) and Scene 7. Finally, Adobe has long extended its platform beyond its own footprint by connecting email/marketing automation providers, CRM systems and other critical marketing infrastructure through its Genesis connector.

Platforms Get You There Faster & Time Is Of Essence

It’s now a well worn truism that CMOs and CIOs jobs are merging, or at least lines are badly blurring. But, another interesting trend taking shape is that the tenure of a CMO is getting longer. According to Spencer Stuart, the leading, privately-held, global executive search firm, the average tenure of a CMO has risen from a low of 23.2 months in 2006 to 45 months in 2012.

I believe this trend is part of the recognition that the job of a CMO in the data-driven world has simply become much more complex. In the old days, a new CMO of a brand-driven company could come in and shake things up fairly quickly — hire a new creative agency to inject some fresh ideas into the TV spots and create some buzz.

But now, even Super Bowl commercials have extensively coordinated digital tie-ins that require sophisticated measurement infrastructure to truly measure and optimize impact.

The reality is that unlike switching creative agencies, ripping out and replacing these analytics infrastructures is not done easily or quickly (much less, cheaply). A new CMO instituting a data-driven, iterative media mix model needs 18 months just to get to the point where benefits and deep insights begin to materialize.

Then, as they exhaust the quick-wins and low-hanging fruit that were so abundant in the early years of analytics and optimization, the future becomes about long-term value — understanding more than just what promotion drove the most recent sale, and instead moving into a deeper understanding of which customers deliver the highest lifetime value.

With those insights in hand, it becomes about taking that data and reinventing the marketing (and in some cases, the entire company) around pursuing those customers that provide the greatest long-term payoff.

The first step in beginning this process is obtaining line-of-sight and visibility into the impact of your marketing spend. This is especially important across digital channels where measurement and automation are most accessible and easily activated.

The challenge is to have everything brought together seamlessly in one place so it can be assessed and cross-referenced. This includes click-stream analytics, ad spend data, touch points, attribution models, customer segmentation and outcomes (conversions).

See why the large platforms are becoming so powerful and attractive to savvy marketers? Much of that work is done for you.

Don’t Try To Cobble Together Services To Replicate A Platform

What you need to look for in a platform is the ability to do three things: obtain visibility into the data from each source or channel, integrate the data sets and extract useful information.

While no vendor has the full combination yet, Adobe has done this better than anyone else for years. At the most basic level, they offer Genesis to integrate the various data silos, Discover to cross-reference and Data Warehouse to extract.

Google I/O 2013Still, Google’s recent BigQuery announcement at Google I/O could be a game changer as it follows Google’s playbook of making data-crunching horsepower that used to be accessible only to huge corporations available to the masses. Most are already using Google Analytics and DoubleClick to collect the data; now, they have a way to get the data back out of the system.

It’s not free and requires a relatively sophisticated audience, but it’s priced such that savvy startups can (and no doubt will) build interesting offerings around it without having to make the large investments in data warehouse hardware and licensing.

For CMOs, the large marketing platforms such as those offered by Google and Adobe are highly compelling and are becoming very difficult to ignore. Each decision they make has to be thought through for how it will affect all aspects of spend — marketing, advertising and creative.

There are so many advantages to having so many of the CMO’s needs combined into one login that each additional component brought online enhances the value of the other pieces and likewise. The result is that the entire platform is much more compelling than the simple sum of its parts.

It’s very hard to overcome the power of a comprehensive platform. Luckily, marketers don’t have to beat ‘em, they can just join ‘em.  At which point it becomes a question of how well can you maximize the value of the tool, because odds are, it’s the same toolset your competitors are deploying as well.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Analytics & Marketing Column | Channel: Analytics


About The Author: is a founding partner at Cardinal Path, focused on helping companies utilize big data to optimize their digital assets. He is the author of Display Advertising: An Hour A Day and well-known speaker, having keynoted and led sessions on advertising, analytics, and optimization at conferences and events across the globe.

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