Forrester Analyst Digital Empowers Customers Challenges Marketers
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Forrester Analyst: Digital Empowers Customers, Challenges Marketers

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With more than 950 digital marketing vendors now offering software andservices in about 40 categories, it's getting harder for marketingexecutives to blend the right mix for their companies.

More and more, they rely on experts like James McCormick, senior analyst forconsumer intelligence (CI) at ForresterResearch, for guidance. Speaking yesterday at the EnsightenAgility 2014 conference in San Francisco, he outlined the challenges andstrategies for marketers making those choices.

Mapping Vendors

McCormick provided a five-tier blueprint or map he developed to help companies assess their capabilities, existing use of vendors and the gaps they need to fill. Overlaying that with those 950 vendors, he said, can help marketers choose which vendors to add, which products to keep and which to cut loose.

It's a good approach in a market that seems to grow daily. Just yesterday, Ensighten CEO Josh Manion told the 400 attendees at the conference that his company — which last week secured $40 million in series B financing — is adding  fournew products: Activate, which helps customers scale their efforts; Pulse, to ID and track customers across channels; Ensighten One, to help collect and "activate" data; and Manage, which monitors and responds to tag-managementissues.

CMSWire caught up with McCormick after his appearance and asked the Britishresearcher to summarize his thoughts on key topics facing digital marketers.

CMSWire: What's your research specialty at Forrester?

McCormick: I focus my research on the customer insights professional, which is theprofessional in a large organization who manage customer data and utilizevalue-add. So it could be the CRM professional, a data scientist, the digitalmarketer. I specifically focus on the digital marketing aspects, how we can usecustomer data to inform customer interactions, to improve customer experience,and to make better decisions.

CMSWire: In speaking with companies, what is the greatest challenge tothem right now?

McCormick: The greatest challenges are the evolving customers and the way they are empowered to engage with us. It's all about the way digital is giving them power they didn't have before. So, A, we need to evolve our organizations around that customer, around their thinking. And, B, there are things like the multiple masses of data that we have that we can plug together to understand our customers.

CMSWire: There are some 950-plus vendors in this field. It's awfullyconfusing to marketers. How can your clients cut through that clutter?

McCormick: I talk about an online market blueprint that involves the capabilities weneed to deliver a full online marketing suite. You kind of need a map to showthe landscape of 950 vendors. Once you have that map, it's then a good guide todecide what should we do with our existing vendors. Do we need more? Should weget rid of some? You really need a marketing blueprint to decide.

Learning Opportunities

CMSWire: Proportionate to the market, how many enterprise companies wouldyou estimate have a good blueprint for this today?

McCormick: We're probably talking less than 15 percent. It varies by verticals. Forinstance, the financial services firms are really just starting to get thisright because of the security and compliance [issues]. They lack the marketingtechnology. The retailers are perhaps a lot better. There are some othercompanies like Disney and some insurance companies that are doing well in thisspace.

CMSWire: How long do you think it will be before that number climbs to 50 percent or 75 percent?

JamesMcCormick 400 Stage.jpg

McCormick: I think we're going through a stage of massive evolutionary orrevolutionary change at the moment. We talk about tag management and how that'sevolving. We have your cross-channel management tools, which are evolving. And Ithink there is a period of consolidation among the vendors that needs to happenbefore we start to see that climb substantially. I think we will seestraight-line growth in terms of maturity, but there are a lot of things thatneed to be commoditized before we see that happen. We're talking 18 months tothree years before we see some significant growth from that 15 percent level.

CMSWire: Consolidation is probably a major fear for some customers. If they lock into one vendor and it gets acquired by a company they're not using, the offering could get tapered down, and they're starting all over. How do you advise clients on that?

McCormick: That is a pretty scary thing. As organizations, we've never really beengreat about consolidating, and that's not just on a technology level. It alsoapplies to people and culture and business perspectives, as well. My advicereally is, from a data-driven marketing technology perspective, is once you'vedone your acquisition, get things in order as quickly as possible in terms ofthe technologies relative to the online marketing suite map that I discussed,and use that as your guide for what you should keep and what you shouldeliminate.