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The martech health check: big gap between ambition and reality revealed

Launching today, new research conducted by independent creative agency Initials’ technology and innovation unit LABS looks at how companies are approaching, developing and deploying martech.

In order to explore why investment in martech frequently generates results that fall short of expectations, Initials surveyed 150 senior marketers on the issue. The research sought to pinpoint the root causes of the problem at an industry level, reveal marketers’ true levels of confidence in where they’re at today, and create some simple benchmarks against which businesses can measure their own performance.

The results show companies aren’t just thinking about how martech can help them; they’re actively pursuing the opportunities it presents. New technologies, whether for customer acquisition or retention, are being championed by management. Research is being undertaken into consumers’ usage and attitudes, with most respondents feeling there is a healthy and productive partnership between marketing and IT in their organisation.

The foundations may be in place, but respondents are unsure they are being built on in the right way. A good proportion of the companies surveyed have yet to put marketing at the heart of their technology design, and an even higher proportion don’t believe they’re comprehensively data driven. Significantly, only one in four respondents strongly agreed that digital solutions are always developed based on their relevance to customers. The findings made clear martech isn’t always about marketing.

Investing in solutions

When asked what percentage of their total marketing budget was used to buy or build tech solutions not surprisingly the answers varied dramatically, but the mean score overall was 33%. The survey also revealed that organisations with more employees and annual turnover in excess of £100m spend proportionately more on martech than smaller ones.

The findings demonstrate martech is often 'off-the-shelf', rather than bespoke to the needs of the brand and its consumers. The solutions therefore lack genuine differentiation, negatively impacting brand marketing results. Additional insights, which included qualitative research as well as quantitative data, suggested various reasons for this under delivery. They included complexity, structural incoherence, skills shortages and chief finance officer scepticism.

Dominic Murray, digital director of Initials Labs, comments: “Only 31% of respondents strongly agreed that their company was keen on developing its own technology. And even fewer believed it would work with specialist third parties to create bespoke, truly differentiating solutions. This preference for ‘buy’ over ‘build’ is understandable, but it inevitably leads to a ‘wind tunnel’ effect where most companies are using very similar technologies to deliver very similar experiences.”

Richard Barrett, managing director of Initials, adds: “Many marketers still don’t feel their company is properly data driven. They don’t think technology is selected solely on the basis of user relevance. And it’s clear that a lot more work needs to be done to weave digital solutions into the brand DNA in ways that create real points-of-difference. Building a brand-led tech strategy isn’t easy, but it is essential if you’re going to deliver irresistible customer experiences.”

The findings feature in Initials’ whitepaper, OK Computer? - designed to explore why marketing technology needs to be 100% brand-led and how to achieve it.

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