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Digital Transformation Martech

3 steps to get real value from your martech investments

Acxiom

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June 22, 2022 | 6 min read

With nearly a quarter of marketing budgets spent on marketing technology (martech), Acxiom’s David Skinner, chief strategy officer, shares three important steps marketers must take in order to get the most out of their investments

The need to drive business value from marketing technology isn’t exactly a new one but, in the current climate, it’s more significant than ever.

After a couple of years of heavy investment, where your organization has had little choice but to make digital your primary channel and with global e-commerce growing 19% during the pandemic, you might finally have time to pause and catch your breath. Away from the tyranny of the urgent, you’re likely to be assessing what the next couple of years might look like, and how you can make the tools you’ve just invested in live up to their promise. With almost a quarter of marketing budgets already spent on martech, it’s time to make sure you’re getting the business value you expect.

As someone that’s been helping marketers make the most of technology for years, I want to share three steps that will help you realize maximum business value from your martech investments.

1.) Establish baseline executive-level metrics

We all know what we want out of marketing tech. We want business value we can talk to the CEO about – especially now that 77% of CEOs report an increase in speed of digital transformation due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We need real examples of how we’re using these technologies to move the needle, that won’t be dismissed as just marketing talk.

Though return on ad spend or market investment is important, c-level execs care more about growth and margin. Start by defining the opportunity pool. How big is the prize? Can you put a dollar value on sales in the digital channel you’re optimizing?

Next, define your transactional metrics. If you’re a retailer, that might be an increase in average basket size or in share of wallet across your customer base. For a financial services company, it might be an increase in approval rates. For most sectors an improvement in customer acquisition rates or customer lifetime value is pretty compelling.

To show this type of real business value, you need to start with baseline metrics against which to measure and evaluate your program. So, take the time to understand where you are today. What is your current approval rate? Acquisition cost? Customer lifetime value?

This way you can go into your next set of martech planning with a clear set of baseline metrics that will help you prove whether or not you’re getting business value over time.

2.) Focus on connected platforms

One of the biggest actions you can take today to drive real business value from your martech investment is to stop thinking about individual software products or marketing channels and take a connected platform-based approach. A recent study found 67% of consumers start transactions in one channel and finish in another channel.

The martech industry has grown with a focus on built-for-purpose products. Organizations traditionally had individual tools for targeting, optimization, measurement, and real-time execution in very specific channels or domains. But these products all have different data sets, different decisioning, and different optimizations, denying an effective single customer view, and preventing continuity in interactions and experiences.

Channels and engagement points are also fragile, transient, and inevitably will change. Whether it’s social, email, connected TV, display, or video, channel-specific products will come and go as customer behavior evolves. And when you make those changes, you will lose your data, your history, and your segments unless they exist in an underlying platform.

Platforms are persistent, and they’re where you should be looking to make a longer-term, decades-level investment. A platform is abstracted from the execution, and provides a solid foundation, with common data, decisioning, measurement, identity, and governance. It allows individual execution channels to be turned on and off at will and gives you the agility to test out new technology products without a complete overhaul of your tech stack.

Industry leaders are leaning into this platform-centric approach, whether it’s Adobe Experience Platform (AEP), the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, or the Sitecore digital experience platform. By using these centralized, customizable, persistent platforms as your foundation, you can combine a variety of execution channels and products with the benefits of interconnected data, common audience segments, and cross-channel measurement.

3.) Use a customer truth data set

As I’ve hinted above, a foundational platform only really makes sense if you also have a single customer data set, with common segments that can be deployed independent of channel. We all know the brands that lack this single customer data set because we can feel it in the customer experience. They’re the retailers that can’t connect the dots between your in-store and online purchases. They’re the banks that send you offers via email that differ to the ones you can see on their website.

If you don’t have a customer truth set, and instead rely on different views of your customers that sit in various siloed tools and are hard to evaluate together, it’s almost impossible to prove real business value. If, on the other hand, you have a data set of record that exists across all channels within your connected platform, you can plan, execute, and measure for business value based on that single set of customer data.

Why now?

The importance of the single truth data set executed across a foundational platform with integrated products and tools will only increase in the next couple of years. The presence of the third-party cookie made it easier to manage without these elements to a certain extent. But the planned demise of third-party cookies and the increasing maze of consumer data regulation makes it more crucial than ever to have your own customer data set and your own method of managing identity throughout the martech stack.

As the dust begins to settle on a period of intense digitalization and we look ahead to the next phase of change, getting true value out of your martech investment won’t be about individual products. It will be about persistent platforms with connected products operating from a single data layer and consistent measurement against baseline metrics. And it will be about building a sustainable, regulatory-compliant base from which to coordinate seamless, cross-channel customer experiences no matter how the needs of those customers evolve.

Digital Transformation Martech

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