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Sean Brown, CTO at creative digital agency Organic, spoke with eMarketer’s Nicole Perrin about how the agency’s clients are dealing with marketing technology—and the drive toward omnichannel integration of customer data—as they pursue the elusive single customer view.
eMarketer: How have your clients progressed in adopting and using marketing technology over the past few years?
Sean Brown: I look at the uptake of using marketing technology as a continuum. It’s not something that can be done all at once, just like you can’t start training one day and run a marathon the next day. Implementing marketing technologies is a long-term effort and investment.
Over the past five years in particular, I’ve seen a marked increase in interest in furthering marketing technology as part of our clients’ day-to-day lives, and—in some cases—a lot of progress in achieving those goals. Those that have already begun to put marketing technologies in place recognize that the data they have about their customers, their clients, their own systems and what consumers are doing is a real asset. They are the ones that have moved the furthest. I think 2016 was a big year for this movement.
eMarketer: Will this continue to play out in 2017?
Brown: In 2017, we will see this accelerate. I don’t think I have a single client who hasn’t already seen the value in understanding their customers better, and making changes in how and when they communicate with those consumers. This year we’ll see a sharp increase in the amount of investment, effort and talent acquisition around marketing technology.
eMarketer: Is the trend toward unity across channels due to marketers becoming more strategic about their use of technology?
Brown: That’s a fair statement. It’s one of the bigger reasons why we’ve seen an accelerated adoption of marketing technology. And adoption isn’t just putting hardware in place or installing software. It’s putting the right people in place who know what questions to ask, such as: “How can the technology we have help us answer those tough questions we have? How can we do that at scale? How can we do that in a way that will change what we put in front of [consumers]?”
Years ago, someone might’ve said, “I need a content management system.” Today they know they need a system that can allow the injection of data from other sources. That way, when a webpage is displayed, it shows the correct thing for each visitor and knows how to do that dynamically.
eMarketer: As technical integration improves, are your clients also making changes in how they integrate technology into their processes and overall organization?
Brown: Absolutely. Our clients have seen the pure capabilities of the tech stacks to integrate with one another greatly improve over the past few years. The software providers have seen the same trends—our marketers demand that the different pieces of software know how to integrate and share data with one another.
The challenge becomes whether you have the people in place who can take advantage of these advanced capabilities. And on the strategic side, who knows what to do after they do get intelligence out of these better-integrated systems? Across the board, our clients have started to or continue to invest in people who can best make use of these advances in technology.
eMarketer: How close are marketers to getting a single customer view?
Brown: Marketers who have invested in operations like CRM [customer relationship management] or [data management platforms] DMPs feel like they’re further along, and they’re right—they are further along than not having any capability that gives them one unified view of their customers. But we’re a ways out from a world in which we have all the data we need available at any touchpoint, anytime.
The platforms available to help in these regards have come an enormous way over the past five years—the marketing-cloud-type website platforms like Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce; the platforms with that capability for online advertising; and the personalization engines. But the idea that you have one view of the customer and you have all of the data about the customer in one place, and available to all of those platforms simultaneously and in real time, is still far away for most of our clients. Frankly, it’s still a ways out for the technology capabilities that are out there today.
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