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Bryan YeagerSenior AnalysteMarketer
It’s tempting to harness the latest and greatest technology, but marketers should be wary of implementing new tools before they have a solid, foundational data layer in place to power their efforts. eMarketer senior analyst Bryan Yeager recently attended the MarTech conference in San Francisco where data was at the forefront of the discussion. He shared his insights from the conference and his own thinking on how marketers can prepare for the next generation of marketing technology.
eMarketer: You attended the MarTech conference in March. What was your impression of the event?
Bryan Yeager: There were about 2,000 people who attended, which is quite a bit more than last year. The fact that a marketing technology conference attracted 2,000 people the same week that another big digital marketing conference, the Adobe Summit, was going on underscores how much marketing has shifted in the past five years. Marketers often think the space is evolving so rapidly that they have to fight to keep up—that’s why they’re attracted to this event.
eMarketer: What are some challenges that marketers are dealing with now that their jobs are more data-driven?
Yeager: It’s one thing to collect data, but it’s another to conduct analysis and have that data actually help inform decisions. There are a few challenges associated with that. One of them is integration—making sure that all the systems marketers have in place are talking to each other and syncing data. Having that consistency is really important. Once that data layer and that integration task is complete, then marketers can move on to advanced, buzzed-about tactics.
eMarketer: What kind of technology is generating the most buzz right now?
Yeager: Predictive analytics. From a strategic perspective, it involves using all the data available to determine the types of [content] that a marketing department should be creating and distributing. Another aspect is more tactical—predictive tools can help marketers determine the next best move to get a target to perform an action. The ultimate goal is getting somebody to make a purchase, but there’s a lot that happens before anybody contacts a company directly.
eMarketer: Did artificial intelligence come up at the conference?
Yeager: Artificial intelligence and machine learning go hand-in-hand with predictive analytics. Up until this point, software that supports marketing operations has been process-oriented—automating and scaling processes. That was the first wave of marketing technology. Now we’re in the second wave, where a system is leveraging machine learning to determine the next best interaction based on a repository of things that it’s done in the past.
eMarketer: What are the organizational changes that result from shifts in technology?
Yeager: There were a lot of CMOs at the MarTech conference, which shows that they’re not just about the big marketing idea anymore. They’re being held more accountable. The reality of the situation is that to be a marketer at any level, especially the executive level, you have to be in tune with what’s going on in technology. The CMO is often being tapped by the CEO to lead digital transformation initiatives, and that means CMOs are becoming more technologically adept.
eMarketer: Is there consolidation or expansion in the marketing tech space?
Yeager: The number of channels isn’t decreasing, and that continues to fuel growth. The number of products in the marketing tech space has almost doubled between 2015 and 2016, and while it’s a healthy sign, it’s also a source of frustration for marketers because each year they’re dealing with twice as many providers. There are limited resources that marketers can spend on these technologies, so eventually we’re going to see consolidation. At some point, a metasystem will emerge to overlay solutions from different vendors and provide an orchestration layer.
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