According to MarTech Advisor, more than $1 billion was invested in MarTech companies in Q2 2015. However, in spite of this significant investment, there is still a disparity between how valuable marketers claim digital marketing is to their organizations and how many marketers have actually developed and implemented digital strategies. According to Altimeter Group, 88 percent of executives and digital strategists stated that their company is undergoing a formal digital transformation effort in 2014. Yet only 25 percent had mapped out the digital customer journey.

Ultimately, harnessing digital technologies to get the most accurate and complete view of each customer is what will put marketers ahead. Getting to know customers well enough to anticipate their needs and respond to them in real time is key to delivering exceptional user experience and cultivating brand loyalty.

This is a straightforward concept, but it is easy to see how a marketer can get overwhelmed by the breadth of tools available that purport to solve this dilemma. One has to look no further than Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape supergraphic.

Connecting the Data

A great deal of hype has surrounded the “Marketing Cloud” phenomenon. It may seem inarguable that the ideal solution to getting a complete picture of each customer is an all-encompassing cloud that keeps customer data and insights in one place. However, as marketers get deeper into the journey of understanding their customers, they will find that one-stop-shop solutions do not necessarily offer the breadth of functionality they can find in point solutions. Moreover, all the pieces of marketing cloud offerings are often nowhere close to fully integrated.

Enter: marketing middleware. Marketing middleware aims to solve marketer's pain points by connecting fragmented data across disparate systems or point solutions.

With the scramble to adopt and implement the latest digital technologies, most organizations are currently using a plethora of solutions to address different aspects of the customer journey. Once several solutions are in place, it is neither fiscally nor logistically responsible for companies to rip out existing projects and replace everything with a one-size-fits-all marketing cloud that does not deliver true integration.

Marketing middleware enables companies to map out the digital customer journey across all the digital technologies they have in place. By using middleware to recognize users across different solutions in their marketing tech stack and connect the dots, marketers can develop a truly complete picture of their customers. Ultimately, the ability to combine multiple vendors’ solutions into an integrated marketing stack will enable marketers to accelerate new technology adoption.

Integration Hurdles

A specific integration challenge marketing middleware can solve is the disconnect between advertising technology and CRM. The lack of a data connection between AdTech and CRM creates a lot of waste — a case in point is retargeting. Back in April I blogged about an incident where I was retargeted by a company whose software I was already using and that was, in fact, active on my desktop. If the CRM system had been in sync with the retargeting platform, I would never have seen an ad.

It is the middleware technology, capable of connecting data already being collected while filling in remaining gaps, which will help marketers whose business is reliant on digital.

Another challenge many brands face is connecting users across web and mobile. The customer journey is no longer linear — consumers today are connecting with brands via a large and growing number of digital devices. This is a challenge for marketers, particularly if they are using a cloud solution that does not integrate customer data across various customer touchpoints.

Marketers can use middleware to keep up with their customers’ multichannel journeys by associating the identity of the individual across channels. This enables the marketer to deliver a consistent message to the users as they proceed along their journey.

Bringing It All Together

As marketers dive deeper into their digital marketing journeys, it becomes increasingly apparent that no single platform is the be-all, end-all for a company’s marketing needs. The key is to have the best technology for each situation and to have all these technologies synchronized and working together effectively. This is where marketing middleware will shine, as technologies in this category are designed to work together with different solutions from all across the landscape.

Digital strategies will continue to evolve, and in order to remain competitive, it will be critical for marketers to collect and act on all the customer data available to them. As companies look to create the best possible picture of their customers, keep your eye on the middleware category.

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