The future by Yolanda Sun

Keeping up with the proverbial Joneses can be exhausting among suburban neighbors. But when your neighbors are analytics powerhouses Adobe and Google, the work of keeping up falls to the entire neighborhood of marketing managers.

Marketers are digesting the latest options from both solution providers, mainly because of the scale of measurement options.

These options, which provide a cohesive view of customer segments, have become more sophisticated in deployment and reporting.

Improving Measurement

At its annual user conference last month, Adobe made highlighting one view of a customer more viable.

One example is Device Co-op, which link users who are logged in on separate devices

Google made a significant announcement with Google Analytics 360, a suite of tools that will replace Google Analytics Premium.

Like Adobe, the suite introduces a number of features that permit a comprehensive analysis of visitors regardless of devices, as well as features such as the configuration API that eases advanced strategies such as programmatic advertising.

Focus on Customer-Centricity

All of these changes complement the current consumer-centric era. The behavior of empowered customers, instead of brands, drives influence.

Just consider the established practice of showrooming, the customer comparison of a product online while standing in a store location; parallel device usage among consumers while researching online, and high expectations for personalized marketing that speaks to the individual’s needs.

Adobe and Google are responding to these trends. And these changes will influence the ways marketers organize, unraveling traditional marketing strategies.

They will also drive a potential shift in analytics strategy.

Where Marketers Are Heading

Here are a few of my own thoughts on where that influence could lead marketers.

Delays in establishing a solid digital foundation can damage your business: Even in 2016 I still encounter resistance from some companies to update their sites let alone other important attributes such as SEO strategy. Many still struggle with their budget to get the basic media and supporting media in place. That struggle creates opportunity costs in developing metrics and refining strategy to serve the right customers faster.

There was a time when adding analytics after a site launch could be done with minimal downsides to organization, time and cost.

Those days are now far behind, as analytics must be planned ahead of launching a site, planning a mobile page, and adding an app — all three of which impact a customer experience of a brand.

And as mentioned in this CMSWire post, the cost of disappointing customers has increased as technology has expanded — as the comment from Sitecore CMO Scott Anderson’s MarTech session demonstrates.

Recognizing that your customers are not channels: For years brands typically constructed separate offline and online interaction channels. The changes from Adobe and Google, however, are a needed recognition that customers and their insights occur regardless of the source and that the customer view should be seamless.

To be comprehensive in how they view their customers, marketers must use solutions that merge digital and offline data sources as easily as possible. Digital analytics solutions have been marching towards this horizon, but the latest changes confirm that the marketing industry has reached that horizon.

Technical capability from analytics that creates ad-hoc analysis will be less valuable: Over the years many developers have created tagging ideas for web analytics solutions through modifying the code itself. But the rise of a central analytics solution has introduced tag managers and data layers that require less elaborate customization to implement.

This means marketers must carefully evaluate their dependency on technically narrow solutions. They must seek solutions with features that can encourage a shared understanding of their usage. Overall implementing tagging solutions becomes easier.

Positioning to profit from the evolution of engagement: How we access digital is changing, no doubt. Mobile devices and tablets have made the screen not only smaller, but also transportable in a convenient way. Meanwhile, virtual reality devices offer a new kind of “screen,” while all sort of devices show a new context for accessing digital media.

These innovations allow new context for the value of media received, and require advanced analytics to process that context quickly.

Welcome to the analytics market, Amazon!: Adobe and Google’s continued evolution to central data in their respective analytics suite will pit them in certain instances against other solutions. One to watch in particular is Amazon.

Amazon has quietly added analytic capability to assist businesses that leverage its services, such as Kenesis, a data streaming service that allows users to integrate data within the Amazon Web Services cloud for analysis and app development.

Don’t get me wrong. I see the key differences. Adobe and Google come a different vertical, mainly online with an emphasis on website, apps and digital media measurement.

Both platforms have achieved serious legacy: Adobe Marketing Cloud reached a rate of 41 trillion transactions per year, with 2015 transactions worth $1.36 billion in revenue.

And going back to a prominent 2011 report by analytics group Cardinal Path, 43 percent of the Top 500 retail sites use Google Analytics.

Amazon's Move

But one look at Amazon reveal some intriguing contrasts. Amazon also comes from an online-influenced business model, and furthermore it is expanding its model to be more present in the consumer’s home.

Amazon has positioned Alexa as a digital starting point to research information, much like Google’s search engine is for other Google services.

Nuanced delivery services such as replenishment Amazon Dash serve as a constant real-world reminder to consumers of Amazon.

What I see from all this is a potential competition over time. Whereas a traditional retailer would stick with Adobe or a Google because of their familiarity, a startup retailer looking to scale may consider analytics associated with Amazon if its back-end services and IoT-influenced offerings complement a startup’s given business model and target customer experience.

No matter how the future unfurls, analytic competition is becoming as blurred as the digital barrier between IoT and being online.

Such competition means that managers must take advantage of new options that will create personalized campaigns and meaningful customer experiences that keep customers (and execs who sign off on the marketing budget) happy while keeping up with the digital Joneses.

(If you'd like to learn more about digital analytics, Pierre DeBois will be speaking at the second annual DX Summit in Chicago Nov. 14 through 16 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. Find out more on our brand new DX Summit event website.)

Title image by Yolanda Sun.