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Tony BrandaChief Data and Analytics OfficerEmbrace Home Loans
Marketing technology vendors make promises about seamless integration between solutions, yet brands still find that their tools are siloed. Enter omnichannel integrators, service providers that can weave disparate pieces of the stack—and the data within them—together. Tony Branda, chief data and analytics officer at mortgage lender Embrace Home Loans, spoke with eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about choosing a database integrator and what it enabled the company to do.
eMarketer: Companies’ marketing technology stacks are constantly growing. Why is this problematic?
Tony Branda: Each piece of marketing technology—be it a marketing automation tool, an experience cloud or a CRM [customer relationship management] solution—has its own data model attached to it. Every step in the cross-device journey requires data handshakes between different systems. For example, in the past, we had a number of point solutions for mobile marketing, but we didn’t have a marketing database where we brought them all together. We didn’t have one version of the truth.
eMarketer: How did you choose the right vendor to integrate and manage your solutions?
Branda: We considered building this capability internally, but it quickly became cost prohibitive. We needed a partner that could do two things: get us from being a brand that only used a few channels to a brand that’s truly omnichannel, and transition our direct marketing into a more automated, digital platform.
For companies that are trying to go through a digital transformation like we are, it’s better to make a big leap with an omnichannel integrator like Acxiom to [catch up to where the industry is] rather than just make small changes. We needed a marketing services company that could provide the full breadth of services and connect all the dots on the data side.
eMarketer: Have there been any bumps along the way? What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as far as systems integration goes?
Branda: There were bumps with flash-in-the-pan solutions. There were a number of point solutions that we glommed on top of the technology stack that we built, so integrating those created some challenges. Everybody wants the latest solution to solve one particular thing, but [that can create silos.]
eMarketer: Can you share an example of a campaign that wouldn’t have been possible before you brought on an integrator?
Branda: One of our ideas for the future is to leverage addressable media types in the Acxiom software and service cloud, and plug them into set-top-box testing. A number of midsize mortgage companies are working with local TV providers on this, but Acxiom enables us to work with cable providers. This lets us run ads that are not only more dynamically targeted, but also feed us back data about who saw the ad. That way, we can actually make advertising accountable.
eMarketer: What advice do you have for brands that are still choosing an integrator? What are some key capabilities or characteristics to look for?
Branda: Flexibility and the ability to create one version of the truth. In order to deliver a truly omnichannel experience, brands have to be able to predict what customers want to buy next or what they want to do next, and that often requires multiple solutions. For their part, an integrator has to understand all the different components and how to connect them. They have to understand the media side, the database side, the importance of connecting online and offline experiences, and the importance of identity resolution across channels.
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