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Can marketing tech track the entire customer lifecycle?

Sharon Goldman | Feb. 18, 2016
The capability to follow a customer through all phases of the buying process has long been considered the holy grail of enterprise marketing. Has technology finally evolved to deliver on that process?

It’s old news that technology is the beating heart of today’s marketing. In fact, deep within the desktops, laptops and mobile devices of any enterprise marketing department you’ll find a complex technology stack of solutions. As Scott Brinker’s graphic on ChiefMartec shows, there’s an exploding landscape of thousands of companies vying for the CMO’s attention, in dozens of Martech categories from mobile and display to email, analytics, audience data and testing. 

What is news is how these technologies have helped shift marketing at its very core, to address today’s demanding, device-savvy customers who expect brands to follow them seamlessly from search engine to shopping cart to loyalty program and back. The practice of marketing has moved from a primary focus on brand awareness and lead generation to the convergence of acquisition and retention capabilities across the entire customer lifecycle, from the moment a potential shopper searches online to years after they swiped their credit card. 

No longer is an enterprise’s digital marketing efforts about the top of the funnel, to be passed post-purchase to customer care for upsell, cross-sell and retention efforts. Instead, marketing is now at the confluence of action/conversion strategies pre-purchase and marketing/CRM strategies post-purchase, says Rusty Warner, a Forrester analyst who specializes in marketing technologies. 

To accomplish this kind of long-term customer relationship from a technology perspective, companies find themselves squarely focused on identity resolution across channels and devices, he says. “Companies need to match anonymous with known customer profiles and make sure they are consistent across various touch points,” he says. “There is far more effort put into ensuring those technologies integrate and play well together.” 

The problem? Integration between inbound and outbound as well as digital and offline turns out to be a seriously difficult puzzle that companies are valiantly trying to solve. “While digital does provide tremendous opportunities for brands, the resulting technology infrastructure is extremely complex and marketers are struggling to fully integrate,” he says. 

The fact is, the transformation of martech to fully cover the entire customer lifecycle is still in its infancy for most organizations. And in this highly complex martech era, the CIO and the CMO need to work together to develop a “business technology agenda” focused on applications that are focused on customer interactions. That is where organizations will be able to differentiate themselves in a competitive landscape moving forward, says Warner. 

An increasingly complex martech stack 

“We sometimes talk about how marketing technology investments blend both art and science,” Warner says. The CIO, he adds, needs to ensure a meeting of the minds between the business and the technology, so the company develops a plan to execute against a well-thought-out customer-focused strategy — one that addresses the full length and breadth of the customer lifecycle. That means marketing departments planning for the future also need to take a hard look at what they have today in terms of technology. For example, many marketers have made their own purchase decisions about cloud-based technology using operating budgets. “That means there are now often multiple vendor agreements, resulting in infrastructure and spending bloat,” Warner says. 

 

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