"Connecting forward thinking marketers with the technology, tools, and techniques they need to stay ahead in the ever-changing world of digital marketing”.
Therefore, I will simply share some of the key - and, in my opinion, most interesting - highlights and observations that attracted my attention at the event. Not surprisingly, most of these also represent those topics that increasingly pop up in our discussions with our customers and colleagues.
For me, the event kicked off with Scott Brinker's presentation on exploring the critical roles that marketing technology and operations play in executing successful marketing programmes and delivering a unique customer experience. Best-in-class marketing teams embrace the new rules of marketing technology and operations: Centralise everything you can, automate everything you can, decentralise everything you can, humanise everything you can, and embrace continuous change.
Contradictory? Maybe. However, today's marketers are being asked to effectively balance these opposing forces and simultaneously be successful at both ends of the spectrum. For example, more automation and more humanisation when automation, artificial intelligence, and other emergent technologies augment human creativity.
One more example: better centralisation and better decentralisation. In the world of applying marketing technology, this point is not really anything new. Let's use one of the hottest marketing technologies, customer data platforms, as an example. They provide a centralised way of pulling in data from across the organisation and rationalising it with a standardised customer identity.
You can then analyse and act on this data independently of all those different source applications responsible for generating it. So, although customer data platforms centralise this disparate data, their open architectures simultaneously make it easier to support data sources spread across the organisation.
One of the most interesting presentations came from the Customer Data Platform Institute's David Raab. The presentation provided some much-needed clarity for the definition of the customer data platform. As of today, there are almost as many definitions as there are vendors in this domain.
There are five key capabilities that the Customer Data Platform Institute uses to ensure the systems deliver a true customer data platform database: It must be able to ingest data from any data source, it must capture full details of ingested data, it must store ingested data indefinitely (of course, subject to privacy considerations), it must create unified profiles of identified individuals, and it must share data with any system that needs it.
The customer data platform market is still in its early stages, but they are gaining in popularity. The big promise behind them is to give users open access to complete customer data. However, many customer data platform systems fail in one or several of these capability areas – often resulting in buyer disappointment.
Common examples of incomplete solutions include systems that build a unified database, but do not allow other systems to read it – making it difficult to easily share data or change systems without disruption. As another example, they can be systems that create unified profiles in real time, but do not store data outside of the original data sources.
The last thing the buyer organisation wants is a system limiting how the data can be used - sometimes limiting or blocking critical applications, such as identity resolution, personalisation or customer experience orchestration. So, to avoid having to regret later, define your requirements carefully, do not look only at "leaders", do not jump to conclusions, research the market and solution alternatives, and conduct a formal RFP process.
Not surprisingly, this came up in several presentations and panel discussions during the event. Today's marketers need to feel comfortable and be conversant with big data and artificial intelligence to truly exploit the vast amount of customer information and insights available to them.
Forward-thinking marketing decision-makers and influencers are already exploring how predictive marketing enabled, for example, by machine learning, massive amounts of profile, behavioural, transactional, and application data, easier and cheaper data extraction, and lower computing costs can support their marketing and customer acquisition and engagement strategies.
Also, savvy marketing teams are using data to create and deliver more personalised products, services, and experiences at the right moment along the customer journey, as well as to sort and prioritise sales and marketing actions.
Data-driven marketing is absolutely great, but customer-driven marketing is even better. At the end of the day, the purpose of marketing is to win customers and keep them by making sure they have a great experience. Of course, these two are not mutually exclusive, but it is oftentimes good to stop and ask, "how good and relevant is this for our customers?".
If you are interested in talking more about the key development trends and directions, things to consider, or your organisation's needs, key issues, and plans in the data-driven marketing space, let's have a cup of coffee (or even a few cups of coffee) together. Tea or water is also fine.
Marko Saarinen is a principal consultant and head of marketing science at Tieto's Customer Experience Management. As a customer insight and data-driven marketing professional, Marko has studied and influenced the effects of data utilization and emerging phenomena and technologies on business, sales, marketing, and customer experience optimization.