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Technology is getting smarter. Between predictive analytics and artificially intelligent algorithms, there are a number of decisions that technology can make for businesses. But sometimes that’s not a good thing. Jeff Weiser, CMO of stock photography and editing company Shutterstock, spoke with eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about why there should always be a balance between automation and human decision-making.
eMarketer: What’s top of mind for you when it comes to marketing technology?
Jeff Weiser: The biggest question is how do we harness data and technology to drive marketing optimization? One area where data and technology converge most is marketing automation. The key with marketing automation, however, is how brands can use it to extend the marketing team’s bandwidth without sacrificing the visibility that comes with human labor.
eMarketer: What do you mean by “visibility”?
Weiser: The challenge is that marketing automation can be great for extending bandwidth or optimizing workflow, but it’s also often making business decisions on a marketer’s behalf. We’re used to having people building predictive and scoring models, but with a marketing automation tool, I don’t know what kind of model is running in the background. The real opportunity in marketing automation is to not only extend bandwidth, but also provide insight into what’s happening under the hood.
eMarketer: Marketing automation is only as effective as the data behind it. What data obstacles do marketers still face?
Weiser: The biggest data challenge is still attribution. For Shutterstock, the average customer interacts with four touchpoints before making a purchase. That means we’re spending on them four different times, and if we don’t know the ROI [return on investment] of each of those media touchpoints, then we can’t make a decision about which one drove the purchase.
A lot of companies get frustrated because they can’t figure out attribution with mathematical precision, and they don’t want to live in a messy space. That’s why they stick with last-touch attribution—because it’s neat and clean. But I’d rather see more companies experiment.
eMarketer: When you think about the marketing technology stack, do all-in-one solutions work best, or do you favor point solutions?
Weiser: Integration is a challenge. That’s why I’m generally a fan of picking individual parts of a marketing technology stack and putting them together in a way that works best for the brand, as opposed to buying a one-size-fits-all solution. It comes back to needing visibility under the hood and knowing what these technologies are doing, particularly in areas where data and algorithmic decision-making occurs.
eMarketer: As you look into 2017, what technology are you most excited about?
Weiser: There’s no new technology that particularly excites me. To me, the art is in creating the right technology stack to fit the business, so in 2017, the big initiative will be reassessing the marketing technology stack and making sure that we have all the right pieces. I also want to emphasize that I don’t start with the technology—I start from the other direction. I ask, “What are we trying to solve and what are the requirements for that solution?” Then we look at the marketplace for technology.
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