Acxiom is a customer intelligence company helping brands understand the customers they love and those they’d love to have. A leader in customer data management, identity, and ethical data use, we serve clients in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, & Asia.

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Founded: 1969


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Is cloud reluctance holding back your marketing efforts?

July 20, 2022

While it may seem conversations around data management, marketing infrastructure and the power of cloud computing should be left to an organization’s CTO, Acxiom’s Chad Engelgau, CEO, shares why understanding and embracing the cloud means better marketing for brands and better experiences for people.

The public cloud platform providers have changed how we approach data management and therefore marketing solutions. They’ve made data management available to everyone and ultimately changed the way we think about creating and connecting marketing solutions to the broader ecosystem. Cloud platform providers have made it possible for marketers to understand, reach, and react to their customers with speed and agility we’ve not seen before.

Whether it’s analytics, cross-channel marketing, personalization, or customer experience solutions, chances are the marketing tools you’re using are built and deployed in the cloud. In fact, cloud technology adoption has been increasing for years. Gartner estimates over 95% of new digital workloads will be deployed in cloud native platforms by 2025, up from just 30% in 2021.

So, it’s surprising how often I come across reluctance to put a brand’s first-party data in the public cloud. Cloud discomfort doesn’t necessarily span whole organizations. Brands are often using a variety of cloud-based systems for day-to-day operations, like inventory management, billing, and product development. But when it comes to their customer information, there’s still a belief or strategy that an owned data center is the way to go.

This attitude means brands are missing out on the agility and innovation the cloud can enable. As this ultimately impacts customer experience, it’s worth considering the root cause of cloud reluctance and how it can impact your marketing effectiveness.

What’s behind cloud reluctance?

When I talk to brands about why they don’t want to put their customer data in the cloud, the main reason seems to be a fear of increasing risk.

In a world where data privacy and security are fundamental, it’s understandable and admirable that brands don’t want to take risks with customer data. But the reality is putting data in the cloud really isn’t increasing risk; for many brands, processing in the cloud can lower their risk.

Cloud providers use the latest technologies to ensure strong security. And – as long as cloud environments are correctly configured – brands can layer in additional security and privacy capabilities. For instance, they can add a specific privacy layer unique to their brand and industry that makes it possible to share data in a way that fully respects the choices of customers and complies with all relevant regulations.

What’s more, by putting data in a cloud environment, brands can reduce the necessity for data replication, enabling data to be used effectively and permissibly by a variety of marketing platforms while staying safely in one place, rather than being moved around or copied. When brands use their first-party data to market or measure campaign performance, they can ensure it does not leave their cloud instance by taking advantage of clean room technologies or new identity standards like UID 2.0.

If brands need more reassurance around security and privacy, they need only look to the sectors already innovating in the cloud. Both financial services companies and healthcare providers are among those leading the charge. Of course, “because everyone else is doing it” isn’t usually a good reason for doing anything. But when organizations in these tightly regulated sectors are putting their highly sensitive data in the public cloud, there seems little reason for concern from brands in less regulated industries.

Why does it matter?

So, why shouldn’t brands keep their customer information in an owned data center rather than utilizing the public cloud? If it’s they’re most comfortable with, what’s the harm?

The simple answer is customer expectations for personalized, relevant experiences are growing. The cloud delivers a unique opportunity to meet these evolving expectations, and, without it, brands are missing out.

The first thing brands miss out on is access to the innovative and rapidly improving tools native to the public cloud. In addition to security and data sharing tools, these tools include machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities that would be incredibly complex for brands to recreate. Economies of scale mean public cloud providers can make the latest iterations of technologies accessible for a fraction of what brands would need to spend to develop and update tools themselves.

The flexibility of the cloud also allows brands to test a variety of different capabilities, mixing and matching to find out which are the best fit for solving their marketing challenges. They can point their data at different tools and analyze the outcomes to see what works best for them with minimal investment.

The second thing reluctant brands miss out on is the connectivity that allows them to do so much more with their data – from lookalike audience modeling to in-flight campaign measurement and optimization. The ability to connect data sets and tools in the cloud can enable them to make data usable faster, generate actionable insights, and improve the customer experience in real time, all while complying with privacy regulations.

Advanced connectivity, speed of innovation, and access to cloud-native capabilities are already enabling far more relevant and personalized customer experiences.

Cloud as a competitive advantage

Very few businesses have the in-house resources to keep pace with the rapid innovation taking place in the cloud. Even those that do tend to lack the necessary knowledge and expertise.

After all, when we think about who is best placed to solve tough marketing and customer data management problems, it’s probably not your internal resources that spring to mind. According to research by the Cloud Security Alliance, 47% of organizations cite a lack of cloud expertise among their top concerns when it comes to cloud.

By using advanced tools that are developed by experts and are readily available in the cloud, brands can see value in a matter of weeks versus spending months and years in development for the most basic capabilities. A winning strategy to accelerate your marketing solution stack is to leverage partners who are certified on these cloud platforms, have integrated their technology, data, and services, and have a history of building complex marketing solutions.

Even if a brand does have the resources and expertise to build infrastructure from scratch, run its own data center, and continually develop its own capabilities and practices, is that really money well spent? As long as data is adequately protected, customers generally don’t care where it’s stored, so having an owned data center doesn’t deliver a competitive advantage. It makes far more sense for brands to leave data management to trusted partners with cloud expertise, and in turn spend their dollars on areas where they can truly add value.

When brands work with trusted and experienced partners, the public cloud provides everything they need to make the most of their data. It allows them to deliver the relevant, personalized experiences customers want in a way that is not only secure and privacy compliant, but also engaging.


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