surveyor looking at the land
The mind boggling number of marketing tools businesses have to choose from can paralyze them when it comes time to purchase PHOTO: PublicDomainPictures

Gartner made some interesting predictions about customer experience (CX) and the marketing technology associated with it in early 2017. The research firm suggested customer experience management would continue to top CEO, CMO and CIO agendas, calling it the “watchword of our age.” On the technology side, Gartner predicted CMO technology spending would exceed that of CIOs and that eventually, the CIO role will fall under the CMO organizationally. 

The technology projections, in particular, are quite believable, especially when you consider the mind-boggling number of marketing technology systems included on Scott Brinker’s 2017 Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic: 5,381 systems from 4,891 unique companies. These systems break down into the following six categories and include a very broad spectrum of capabilities:

  • Advertising and promotion: This category includes mobile marketing, search and social advertising, display and programmatic advertising, video advertising, and print and content advertising, as well as public relations.
  • Content and experience: This category includes marketing automation and optimization, content marketing and interactive content, web experience management, mobile apps, SEO and email marketing.
  • Social and relationships: This category includes call analytics, social media marketing and monitoring, advocacy, loyalty and referrals, feedback and chat, customer experience and CRM.
  • Commerce and sales: This category includes proximity marketing, sales automation, ecommerce platforms and shopping carts.
  • Data: This category includes marketing analytics and attribution, mobile and web analytics, marketing performance, data management, customer data platforms, data management platforms, cloud data integration, dashboards and data visualization, and business intelligence/customer intelligence and data science.
  • Management: This category includes collaboration, workflow, project management, budget and finance, and product and talent management.

Deciphering which of these systems are most critical for CX can be quite difficult because arguably all categories in the landscape affect the customer experience in some way. 

Turning to the analysts muddies the waters even more. Gartner positions CX technology as a component of a larger digital experience platform that contains multichannel interactions and commerce, social networks and customer analytics while also touching areas like the internet of things (IoT) and back-office platforms. Forrester has both a Digital Customer Experience Improvement Playbook and a Customer Experience Ecosystem Playbook for 2017 — each of which includes a comprehensive tools and technology section.

A Map and Compass for the CX Landscape

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” ― Douglas Adams, "The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul"

Wading through this technology morass requires organizations to become much more strategic about their marketing and CX technologies. Developing a CX technology strategy is a must, and success could well come down to determining which technology changes to embrace and which to ignore. The strategy should include several considerations.

Align Technology Selection With Marketing and CX Objectives

Unifying customer contact channels, providing more personalized offers and communications, understanding and reacting to what customers are saying about the company, pinpointing content needs and providing that content through various digital channels — these are all legitimate CX objectives. Each requires a different type of CX technology. To figure out where to go first, map customer journeys, understand significant gaps, issues or pain points, and set CX objectives to fill those gaps.

Determine the Technical Characteristics That Will Best Fit the Environment and Objectives

Decisions here include choosing between cloud and on-premises systems, deciding whether to use multiple best-of-breed offerings or a single enterprise platform, and choosing an integration strategy. With six categories and 5,381 systems on the landscape supergraphic, it is pretty clear that no single vendor or platform can cover all the capabilities needed for excellent CX. While some platforms do include significant capabilities (e.g., CRM and sales automation), the distinct trend in CX technology has been to implement best-of-breed systems augmented over time as additional CX objectives are tackled. 

In its annual research report on marketing technology, Walker Sands found that 88 percent of marketers use more than one martech tool on a regular basis, and that marketers using an integrated best-of-breed approach get the most value from their tools. Meanwhile, Forrester thinks that big vendors are starting to buck this trend. In its Digital Experience Platform Wave report, Forrester noted that the industry is highly fragmented and that vendors are starting to try to address the fragmentation by adding capabilities to existing platforms. Whichever way you go, developing an integration strategy for capabilities not found in your chosen platform or tool set (e.g., determining who does the integration, picking tools with open APIs, etc.) is critical.

Impactful CX Tech

CX strategy notwithstanding, a handful of capabilities in the CX technology stack stand out. They include the following:

  • Customer profile/master data management: Understanding the customer is the central tenet in CX today and requires tracking of information such as social and sentiment data and relationships, mobile profiles and communication preferences, devices, mobile app usage patterns, and anonymous and logged-in web activity data.
  • Customer analytics and AI: Comprehensive analytical capabilities will make or break CX initiatives. Gartner believes that by 2020 more than 40 percent of all analytics projects will relate to an aspect of CX, and Signal Marketing found that 61 percent of CMOs believe that AI will have the biggest impact on CX.
  • Voice of the customer: Tools that allow companies to obtain and act on customer feedback, including social media listening posts, surveys and suggestion boxes, will become quite important as customers seek to engage and tune their experiences.
  • Multichannel service: Providing consistent and seamless experiences across channels is a critical component of CX. Companies must be able to recognize customer activity across all channels and to deliver personal communications to all channels in real time.