Digital transformation is one of those marketing terms that’s so overused (we’re guilty of it, too) that, what does it even mean anymore? To Scott Brinker, HubSpot’s VP of Platform Ecosystem who is also known as Chiefmartec, the term refers to the way organizations evolve to take better advantage of marketing technology.
When he created the now-famous MarTech Landscape graphic in 2011, it included 150 technology providers. Last year, that number had ballooned to about 5,000. Now it’s closer to 7,000.
“Why is there such an explosion in martech?” Brinker asked at the recent Impact Growth 2018 event. “One reason is, the scope and boundaries of what we think of as marketing is expanding very rapidly. This creates so many opportunities to integrate and harmonize data and processes across the entire organization.”
Brinker brought up another overused marketing term: disruption.
“Disruption may sound synonymous with hype. But even if something gets a lot of hype in the early days, there’s still often something transformative there,” he said.
According to Brinker, these are the three disruptions marketers need to keep their eyes on:
1. Microservices and API
In her last Internet trends report, Mary Meeker noted that the average enterprise subscribes to 1,000 different cloud services, all of which house their own data. You may have the best tech stack in the world. But it’s impossible to make the most of it without the Application Programming Interfaces (API) that sync data and keep everything from working disparately in silos.
Microsoft’s tech stack is essentially an infinite loop that follows the customer journey, from early touchpoints all the way through post-sale marketing. There are also different layers separating proven players and those used for innovation and testing.
Brinker implores companies to be flexible. Rigidity slows down the speed of innovation, which marketers can’t afford, given the rapid speed of business today.
2. Vertical competition
Digital marketing looks like a direct relationship between marketers and consumers. But beneath the surface, there are several steps facilitating that, such as various marketing and advertising technology systems, Internet services like Facebook and Google, and client interfaces.
Look at Amazon. Along the customer journey, there’s Amazon Web Services, acquisitions like Zappos and Whole Foods Market. There are also Amazon’s proprietary platforms like Kindle and Echo. As of March, Alexa had more than 30,000 skills, up nearly 20,000 from the previous year.
“These companies who are competing are starting to wield instances against each other, like Google blocking YouTube on Amazon devices,” said Brinker. “As marketers, it’s up to us to think about the external environment where we need to be concerned about where our data is, how we integrate it, and keeping our eyes open for the new channels and touchpoints that are continually emerging.”
Though 47% of marketers think artificial intelligence is the industry’s most overhyped buzzword, Brinker felt “legally required” to include it. Many people think of AI in terms of their job security (mine is safe, for now at least) but Brinker pointed out how embedded it already is in marketing. Companies are already using AI for everything from ad retargeting to determining the best time to send consumers emails.
“The thing about AI is, the algorithms themselves aren’t that special,” said Brinker. “It’s not the algorithm; it’s the data we feed into these algorithms.”
When it comes to data, quantity is no longer the issue. Today, companies have an almost overwhelming amount of data. AI allows them to mine it for better insights to understand their consumers.
“The biggest challenge for us is the pace of change,” said Brinker. “As long as you’re faster than your competitors, you have an opportunity to do amazing things.”