Most companies are somewhere along the path of digital transformation, trying to keep pace with the changing nature of communications with their audiences. While vital, that transformation is an ongoing process, and one that’s much easier said than done. There are many internal and external challenges, from aligning departments around company priorities, and developing an effective tech stack to optimise marketing communications.
Over 75% of all companies surveyed consider Digital Marketing Transformation (DMT) to be a complex or highly complex strategy to implement, according to Stein IAS’ research into the rate of DMT. For instance, while it’s widely acknowledged that an effective tech stack has become table stakes for any company in 2019. Between the need for complete integration between content channels, personalisation tools, and data analytics that feed into both, the reality is that organisations need to have a comprehensive base of technology on which to build a strategy.
As a result, chief innovation officer of Stein IAS Marc Keating says it needs a single unified vision from the entire company to make sure all the pieces fall into place:
“Marketing technology spend and usage is still very random and, in a lot of cases, still lacking a clear strategy in terms of how the technology aligns to the marketing plan and ultimately the business plan. In a lot of cases we find skeletons in the closet, if you like; technology being underutilised, or not being used at all.”
Those skeletons are the result of an internal culture that often sees responsibility for managing a tech stack devolved to individual departments. While that allows for the smooth running of that one particular tool, frequently it leads to the technology getting ‘hidden’ within a single silo and prevented from conferring its benefits to the wider organisation.
As a result, Stein IAS’ research found that while 91% of companies with annual revenue above $1 billion rated DMT as important or highly important to their businesses, the pathway to creating a completely integrated tech stack is often obstructed.
Keating argues those impediments can appear from a number of different directions, from a lack of cohesion within departments or a failure to develop each aspect of a tech stack in sync with the rest:
“You still bump into [issues like] the tech stack being there, but the integration or the level of understanding to increase maturity across it not being there. Most companies tick the boxes and get to a certain level. If you take marketing automation, most companies have some basic templates, data capture… but they’ve often not gotten beyond that to advanced nurturing through triggered messaging and content or to deep integration with a CRM.
“That’s where the optimisation of what you have is critical to getting those foundations before you invest any further.”
Given how important martech is to the growth of digital businesses, it’s unsurprising that many companies are making that integration one of their top priorities with the vast majority (80%) of UK respondents to Stein IAS’ survey believing that an effective digital marketing transformation should take between one to three years.
Keating believes that, while strides towards integration of a tech stack can be made within marketers’ businesses, many of the underlying issues are endemic and likely to remain an issue. He notes that even within relatively mature companies the departments responsible for branding communications, marketing ops and sales excellence exist within silos:
“Straight away you have three separate islands. If those aren’t connected at the highest level then how do you get true brand to demand alignment? How do you track all that from first click to revenue if you’ve got three teams that are often driving in different directions?”
The reality is that without a fully optimised tech stack, marketers will be unable to take advantage of the new opportunities afforded to them by technology. Stein IAS’ research found that companies are prioritising a shift to interactive content, better integrated websites and personalisation at the core of their businesses in 2019 and beyond. However, Keating warns that without building a solid foundation through DMT those opportunities will be lost.
“When you look at [the customer journey], 70% of that is now happening online. You need digital technology and marketing technology to power and optimise that conversion funnel.
“There are six or seven core technologies that are the foundation of every stack. Without those in place, I don't think you have the foundations to do proper digital marketing at a high level of maturity.”
Ultimately, while the future of marketing technology is one that enables incredibly powerful and personal communications with audiences, it’s a future that not all brands and agencies are guaranteed to reach. In order to take advantage of these new opportunities, marketers need to redouble their focus on evergreen issues around internal cohesion and collaboration to achieve effective DMT.
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