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Removing The Fog From The Marketing Cloud
Consider this: just 20 years ago, a retailer having a website was a huge novelty. Back then, the main purpose was to connect customers to service reps or find a store, and it took years before you could effectively showcase and optimize products like you can today with a marketing cloud.
Websites and e-commerce have evolved in the past 20 years largely due to third-party technologies. These technologies have helped optimize the overall brand experience, build customer bases, streamline online purchasing and, of course, helped marketers analyze strategies and success rates.
You can’t be in e-commerce without third-party technologies, but a lot of retailers aren’t even sure who’s behind these technologies or how they work. In fact, according to Observe Point, the majority of retail sites have more than 70 types of marketing technologies from third parties.
Who Are These Third-Party Marketing Tech Vendors?
Some of the most common third-party technologies are the biggies like social media sharing widgets or Google Analytics. While these vendors are all about making marketing better and optimizing the user experience, they can also slow down or even impact the security of a website. So what does this have to do with the cloud?
Forget a website — what you have now is a marketing cloud, or your marketing technology stack. This is a collection of various technologies that are used on websites, servers, and mobile platforms. According to Scott Brinker at ChiefMartec, there are over 1,000 of these Marketing Technologies.
The sheer number of third party vendors you likely have in your own “marketing cloud” is ever-growing, spreading just as quickly as e-commerce itself did. Considering that e-commerce in the U.S. alone was $263 billion in 2013, which was an increase of 17 percent from the previous year, it’s clear that e-commerce and the concept of a digital marketing cloud are here to stay.
Large monolithic companies such as Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce, and IBM have been acquiring pieces of the marketing technology stack and building one proprietary “Cloud” of their own. Many times, the software components don’t speak to each other very well, and competing technologies are excluded from their system.
Marketing Clouds Built Via Acquisitions
The Frankenstein Marketing Clouds
According to Josh Goodwin, CTO of Ensighten:
Marketing clouds have a way of growing in an ad-hoc manner.
The Adobes of the world took us great leaps forward by attempting to create a well integrated set of tools, but because of the opportunistic nature of the acquisition game the result is a Frankenstein marketing cloud. The beast is alive but barely stitched together.
What I think we’re seeing in the market today is a number of vendors like Ensighten that are focused on creating the next generation marketing cloud and data management platform based on the lessons learned by pioneers like Adobe, IBM, and Salesforce.
Marketing Technology Problems To Address
When these third-party vendors first began to gain in popularity, it was difficult for traditional marketing departments to fully understand how to build brand loyalty, up ROI campaigns, target demographics and really “get” customer acquisition in this new digital realm. There was little tech expertise, which meant the departments weren’t equipped with the knowledge or staff to work with (and manage) their “partners.”
Best practices weren’t developed, and it wasn’t fully understood what third parties might be able to bring to the table. While the potential benefits weren’t fully understood, neither were the downfalls — such as site security, customer privacy and site performance. Then, third parties started putting big data analytics into the mix, which exacerbated the issue and also demanded brand new skills and processes.
Another problem is the issue of deploying all of these marketing technologies across every one of the website pages. Some sites have thousands and thousands of pages, and doing this manually would be a nightmare. This is where a marketing middleware technology, like a tag management system (TMS) or a Google Tag Manager, comes in. If you have a large enterprise site with lots of pages, going solo without a TMS is a bad idea.
We worked with a third-party vendor to deploy all of our marketing technologies at Norton/Symantec, where I was a marketing strategist. I’ve seen the 9 figures of the financial impact that tag management had on Norton’s online e-commerce sales firsthand.
Marketing Technology Lessons Learned
The savviest companies now know that online tech partners demand new staff, skills and processes across all tech and marketing departments. The biggest (and/or smartest) companies have already started to adopt guidelines for marketing management, which has led to improved campaign results and site performance.
While these processes can and will vary with each company, the foundation includes:
- Leadership within the company to manage vendors and liaise between departments, (perhaps a CMTO, Chief Marketing Technology Officer)
- Web and marketing strategies which span departments and encourage collaboration (especially with marketing, security, tech and legal)
- Monitoring vendors and having a solid alert service in place
With an updated process/structure, this can help position companies to capitalize on the newest solutions. The marketing cloud is a great tool, but only if you know how to use it. Otherwise, it can become a bit foggy.
If the fog remains, or if you want further education on marketing technologies… Join us at MarTechConf in Boston on August 19-20, 2014.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.