Ten years ago, digital marketers only needed a core set of technologies to handle their basic needs, which rarely went beyond email, ad serving, and search engine marketing.
A decade — and hundreds of additions to the Lumascape — later, marketing technology stacks rival some of the most complex business systems in the world. To engage customers, brands today are relying on literally dozens of internal and external systems cobbled together via Superglue, paper clips, and old gum. Marketers have expressed feeling this “platform fatigue,” yet they still continue to invest in more ad tech year after year.
Image source: www.chiefmartec.com
Why this explosion in ad technology? The goal wasn’t to create so much complexity. It just organically happened for a variety of reasons:
• Specialization. As channel marketers evolved their approaches, tools evolved with them. Take ad serving, for example. The first ad servers were built for banners. Eventually, marketers needed rich media ad servers, video ad servers, mobile ad servers, etc.
• Consumer media fragmentation. Marketers follow their audiences to their media destinations. Mobile usage begets mobile marketing. Social media usage begets social advertising. The rise of iTunes and app stores ushered in a world of millions of apps, each with their own marketing opportunities.
• Innovation. Just as specialization facilitated the depth of channel technology evolution, innovation made it wider. Ad verification, marketing attribution, subscription research, etc., arrived on the scene. New sub-channels of existing sub-channels have their own technologies now.
• The Programmatic Revolution. In the last five years, self-service media buying has probably doubled the amount of marketing technology on both the buy and sell sides of the equation with a virtual alphabet soup of ad tech: DMPs, DSPs, SSPs, third-party audience data, exchanges, yield optimizers…there’s no end in sight.
• Opportunity. As digital marketing budgets grow, the opportunity for good ideas to turn into ad tech has grown with it. On the marketing side, bigger budgets mean more accountability to generate ROI and marketers need new technologies to fill their gaps.
The cross-channel complexity Issue
The problem isn’t that marketers have too much technology, but rather that these tools can’t integrate fast enough or well enough for marketers to get the most out of their investments.
Consumers can move quickly and easily through a brand’s marketing channels. They can hop from device to device, from brand sites to social media to their YouTube videos and then send an email as they research your brand.
However, marketers cannot move fast enough to react effectively — let alone be proactive — to these multi-channel consumer signals.
Do marketers do a great job within a single channel? Yes. For example, email has become a virtual science. There are dynamic systems now that can learn the right day of the week and time of day when an individual customer will open and click an email. They can test subject lines and email offers with the first 10% of their email blasts and take those insights to ensure the final 90% have the most optimized messaging.
But ask an email marketer to coordinate with the rest of the marketing technology initiatives and they fall very short. Even the most sophisticated email systems either support base level (API) simple integrations or have invested a lot of time and money to build deep integrations with a handful of other platforms; integrations that can’t easily be replicated again and again for the rest of the ecosystem.
It’s no one’s fault. This complexity is a product of the marketing industry’s success. For every step in the right direction to get better, it was also another step that each channel took from the rest of the group.
And so here we are today. Highly sophisticated technologies that are great on their own, but don’t work well together.
We’re arguably on the fifth generation of SEM tools and web analytics platforms. Even the new kid on the block, social advertising, has a multitude of technologies to listen, monitor, publish, and advertise, each in their second or third iteration in five years.
Technology investment cycles seem never-ending. But the antidote to platform fatigue isn’t buying more technology. It’s knowing how to get the job done by getting more out of the technologies you’ve already invested in.