2016-2018: The Marketing Hub Transition

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As the marketing tech hubs have grown through acquisition, many large enterprises find they have multiple leading marketing hubs (e.g., Adobe, IBM, Salesforce) in their infrastructures, and as these suites continue maturing, technologists must find a bridge between these functions.

Earlier this year Gartner released its latest ‘Magic Quadrant’ report, and it was clear that digital marketing hubs are getting more traction and attention in the marketing technology stack. Gartner expanded the scope of Audience Targeting to include a new cross-domain category called “Master Audience Profile.” This is defined as the combination of first, second and third-party data, held across known and anonymous domains, for the purpose of precision targeting and tracking of consumer offers and experiences. Within this definition, the idea of a digital marketing hub falls short, there must be a horizontal layer across all functional barriers, experiences, and technologies (not just marketing). This layer is the customer experience hub.

Understanding Your Customer and Their Experience

Validated within the 2015-2016 Gartner CMO Spend Survey: Digital Marketing Comes of Age, are many of the market needs that the digital marketing hub aims to solve in order to create more meaningful customer experiences. It’s worth noting that Gartner’s spend survey was limited to enterprise companies in North America and the U.K with revenues greater than $500 million USD, which is representative of the majority of Janrain customers.

As such, Janrain commissioned Altimeter to develop a white paper on best practices for using registration to understand customer journeys. Altimeter concluded that declared first-party data, either in the form of becoming a registered user or fast-tracking that process through social login, was crucial to digital transformation. Altimeter challenged the notion that consumer registration is just a necessary evil, stating that it should instead be viewed as “a key part of digital transformation and an enabler to begin to understand customers.”

Registration is the crucial moment when a customer makes the decision to move from an anonymous person to being addressable because of a compelling value proposition.

Registration is the crucial moment when a customer makes the decision to move from an anonymous person to being addressable because of a compelling value proposition.

Here at Janrain, we routinely see the typical approaches emerge while our customers are undergoing digital transformation. Digitally native consumers now expect that brands will cater and deliver a more personalised and coherent multichannel experience. The desired baseline for effective communication and engagement is to have a consistent view of customers—including anonymous ones—across marketing all programmes and processes.

This aligns with Gartner’s research stating that 56% of marketers rank customer experience as one of their top 5 priorities; coupled with 1 in 3 CMO’s with innovation budget will pilot or implement a digital marketing hub.

In her LinkedIn post earlier this year about predictions for digital transformation, Charlene Li, principal analyst with Altimeter said that customer experience will be the top priority for 2016 and outlined key insights as to why we see it so commonly in our customers’ strategy. Charlene posits that the biggest challenge with digital transformation is that it spans the entire organisation. She has found that the key to alignment is to have a common understanding and approach to serving customers, thus turning every engagement into a better customer experience and building a decision-making process around the customer.

Bridging the Gap Between Marketing Needs and Technical Delivery

Leaders in Marketing and Technology have already invested in Adobe, IBM, Oracle or Salesforce – often investing almost equally in all four. According to Gartner, the market is divided on whether to source from a single vendor (46% of respondents) or from two to three (54%). This is where the short/medium term risk lies. While the major hub providers battle it out to deliver a credible omnichannel experience (and fight tooth-and-nail to become the incumbent) CIO’s are left with a void to deliver value back to the business. The customer journey has not changed; it’s just improved through analytics inferred via third-party/cookie data management platforms (DMP) and hardly any true behavioral based customer data.

While we have certainly moved the needle in terms of integrating marketing technology, this is hardly something we should applaud ourselves for. Data is stuck in functional silos, with no connection or attribution between consideration, purchase and loyalty. No matter which vendor wins, without alternatives to the marketing hub, the consumer or brand certainly does not.

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The Master Hub: Customer Experience

Gartner reinforces the gap’s existence, citing even amongst respondents who only have a single digital marketing hub (91% reported integrations with other vendors). The concept of a “customer experience hub” is in its infancy and naturally falls under the Customer Identity Access Management umbrella. But the category will surely grow as people begin to understand the needs of a consistent layer across functional elements of workflow that unifies the customer experience.

In the interim, having a CIAM platform that is independent of your marketing hub is the best way to create a customer experience cloud and provide a middle ground. We must ensure that all actionable data—across workflows—is written back to the customer profile.This allows for a true multi-vendor, best-of-breed stack where each vendor is contributing to enriching the data for mutual benefit and delivering a master profile of value.

Altimeter noted in its 2014 State of Digital Transformation paper that brands were already undergoing digital transformation, which was also confirmed at the time by Gartner’s research and Janrain customers. It’s fair to say that nearly all our large/extra-large enterprises have already begun their digital transformation (with early investments on customer journey and not with the same vendors). This then becomes the challenge of the truly unified marketing hub; you must align with a single vendor in order to truly leverage all the advertised value. This is more challenging than many may assume because vendors have bought into multi-year programmes, integrations to legacy systems have been built, the cost of change is high, and to ‘rip-and-replace’ means diverting focus on new tactics or strategies that add additional value.

The longer-term risk is that the business gives up. That the path to deliver value from the marketing technology stack is so delayed by the battle for hub supremacy that the CIO has to either take short cuts or end the transformation early.

The next two years will focus on delivering actionable value to the CIO and laying out a roadmap that empowers data-driven intelligence in a way that aligns with their CMO counterpart’s ability to leverage, target and harness. The rhetoric for ‘silver bullet’ hubs/digital transformation is over; it’s time for DT to be more nimble and deliver value sooner.