Investing in the Future With an Open Marketing Platform

Consider the tidal wave of banner ads, promotional offers, social media campaigns and e-commerce engines targeting consumers every day, in every part of the world, every second. This massive digital infrastructure produces a mind-boggling mountain of data with the power to turn marketers into mind readers of what consumers want. So you might be surprised to learn that the average conversion rate for e-commerce sites – the portion of consumers who actually purchase a product or service online – remains around 3 percent.

That’s an astonishing fact, and it begs the question: What are we missing in all this data crossing hundreds of channels and platforms at any given moment? The answer is many-faceted.

  • Fact One: In the world of multichannel marketing, you cannot fully comprehend nor appeal to consumers unless you understand and track them cross-channel, cross-platform – online and off. You need a unified, 360-degree view throughout the consumer journey. In other words, you need to upgrade your marketing from cross-channel to omni-channel.
  • Fact Two: It’s still not easy for marketers to build or deploy fully personalized and relevant omni-channel experiences that consumers find attractive enough to click “buy,” contact a call center, or visit a local store. Most solutions are not sufficiently flexible, easy to use, or well integrated. To improve the consumers’ experience, we need to simplify the marketers’ experience first!
  • Fact Three: Low customer conversion rates can be traced back to the poor quality and incomplete data due to the widespread use of closed marketing suites, creating costly data silos and limiting access to the many new analytics, reporting, and personalization tools in the market today. And even if you are able to break the data silos created by these disparate marketing applications, integration services can be restrictive and expensive.

What’s the answer? Effective right-time marketing requires technology solutions that are based on these key factors: completeness of data, openness, and flexibility of the optimization platform. I talked about how this entire cycle starts with data in my last ClickZ column (see Marketing Optimization: It All Starts With Data!). Let’s now explore how openness and flexibility are critical attributes that build upon high-quality and comprehensive data to drive right-time marketing actions.

Open Technology: A History Lesson in Brief

If you look back 40 years or so, you’ll find the roots of today’s technology in the computer mainframes and mini-mainframes of that era. Built by companies like IBM, Digital, and Wang, each platform functioned in isolation, the manufacturers producing everything from soup to nuts for customers using these closed systems. Little by little, however, the industry woke up to the fact that computing required standards that would enable technologies to talk to each other.

Now enter a new era based on hosted solutions relying on the Internet as a distribution channel, the ubiquitous cloud-based services of recent years. First we begin with closed, proprietary systems before the inevitable swing back to open applications and platforms giving customers the greatest possible flexibility.

Many of the hosted marketing solutions – from Web analytics to email service providers – typically lock up the data behind firewalls. In some cases, they provide an API to access data, but there’s a cost for retrieving it. And like the early days of the mainframes, there’s little or no operability between hosted solutions. In other words, these systems don’t talk to each other without building proprietary connectors. That lack of interoperability between solutions and restricted access to data continues to stifle the industry.

Openness and Flexibility

History does repeat itself, and that’s why I believe that openness and flexibility will define the best marketing solutions of the future. Indeed, that evolution is already upon us. Tag management companies have been leading the charge because they enable the marketing team to centralize tag deployment and data collection across every digital marketing application. All tagged marketing data comes through one system, liberating data for the enterprise that generated it in the first place.

However, while the quest for an open marketing platform may start with tag management, it certainly doesn’t end there. There are many online, offline, and reference data sources, which simply do not deliver tagged data. An open marketing platform must unify all this omni-channel data, as well as easily interoperate with the best tools the market has to offer to visualize the insights or drive the right-time actions. That’s why an “agnostic” approach to building a marketing platform is so essential:

  • Choose the best solutions for your needs. Don’t let vendors hold you or your data hostage.
  • Ensure you have the flexibility to take advantage of advances in data management, visualization, analytics, and personalization without having to rip and replace your entire system.
  • Compare the cost and performance of your marketing solutions. There are an increasing number of good options out there!

As I said before, the value of the analytics and actions is bound by the quality and completeness of the data. That’s where the omni-channel marketing journey starts. And, it is the openness and flexibility of your marketing platform that will enable your business to drive those highly relevant, personalized consumer experiences for years to come, ensuring your investments thrive through the ebb and flow of technology.

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