Scott Brinker on stage at the 2017 MarTech Conference in Boston.
Scott Brinker on stage at the 2017 MarTech Conference in Boston. PHOTO: Hill Media Group

At last count marketers have 6,829 marketing technology (MarTech) solutions available from 6,242 unique vendors in about 50 categories from which to choose, according to Scott Brinker’s 7th edition of the marketing technology landscape

Brinker, vice president of platform ecosystem at HubSpot and author of the Chief Marketing Technologist blog, released his closely-watched MarTech Technology Landscape Supergraphic last month. The infographic which started in 2011 with 150 mar-tech solutions added two new categories this year, “Compliance and Privacy” and “Bots & Live Chat.” 

Emerging Category Details

We caught up with Brinker and others to discuss some things marketers should know about the emerging categories of bots/live chat and compliance/privacy in the MarTech solution ecosystem — and tips for success using these new solutions.

Bots Can Accelerate the Buyer’s Journey

Brinker noted in his blog that text-based and voice-based chatbot have had an incredible year of innovation and adoption. He’s confident in another “spectacular 12 to 24 months ahead.”

So how are marketers getting a piece of the pie? Brinker noted in an interview with CMSWire that marketing with bots and live chat has the potential to significantly accelerate the buyer’s journey. Generally, he said, B2B buyers wait until the last possible moment before they associate with a sales person. “They'd much rather take a self-service approach," he said. 

Before the rise of bots, though, there were challenges like bad Google searches, poor website search and general bad information in the web ecosystem. “Let’s face it — a lot of the burden was on the prospects,” Brinker said, “until the point that they finally broke down and said, ‘OK, fine. I'll talk to a sales person.”

Chatbots can reverse the polarity because the onus is on the bot and the company to provide the answers directly to the prospect/visitor. “For marketers this is awesome because they're actually serving your customers with what the customer wants,” Brinker said. “But the other thing exciting about it is it gives us as marketers so much more insight into the deal and actual questions the prospects have. We talk about ‘voice of the customer,’ well, this is the voice of the customer.”

Related Article: Make It Stop: MarTech Landscape Hits the 5,000 Mark

Bots Can Unite Marketing, Sales, Service Ecosystems  

The bot revolution is a boon for digital transformation, according to Brinker, because marketing, sales, customer service and the actual product delivery or service delivery are becoming more connected. “There is the recognition that we really need to be able to help customers throughout their entire lifecycle," Brinker said, "and we need to break out of those silos.” 

Chat and messaging solutions work across marketing, sales and service. “I think this is a really big step forward for marketing in general,” Brinker said. “And I think it's going be really interesting when you start to integrate this with the other solutions in the MarTech universe. These chat-based interfaces are just going get more and more powerful.”

graphic that includes all the marketing technology solutions, according to Scott Brinker.
Scott Brinker's marketing technology supergraphic.

Ask Vendors for Industry-Specific Bot Demo

Dan Cummins, CEO of Atomic X, said marketers wanting to get a piece of the bots and live chat pie need to do their research and ask vendors for an industry-specific demo. Not all chatbot companies have realized by now they need robust live chat capabilities with human intervention points. “So, it depends on what’s more important or a better fit for your company — a traditional live chat system or a chatbot that will likely get you to true automation in less time,” Cummins said. 

Related Article: A Good Chatbot Is Hard to Find

Recognize Chatbot Tech Spectrums

In the chatbot and live-chat vendor tech ecosystem, there are two spectrums, according to Cummins: 

  • Single license systems that are completely free. However, he said, they are only suitable for very small companies, such as independent contractors or business professionals. 
  • Modern-day "enterprise" level chatbots that will cost $1 million or more, plus 25 percent of that cost for a yearly licensing fee, plus support costs, etc. (check out some details on chatbot cost and savings). “But if the system is effectively implemented, it’s almost guaranteed to bring in new leads or reduce support costs,” Cummins added. “If a company can handle new business or if they want to reduce support costs — the right time to invest in a bot or live chat capabilities is now.”

Don’t View Bots and Live Chat as Short-Term Investment 

With bots and live chat, it’s not just about implementing the technology, it’s about the holistic experience of the customers, according to Siddharth Taparia, senior vice president and head of marketing transformation and strategic partnerships at SAP. “We as humans, are OK communicating without talking to someone live, as long the experience is rewarding,” he said. Bots and live chats should be approached strategically as long-term investments with clear goals in mind (e.g. reduced wait times, higher-quality conversations). 

“When determining whether to make the investment, think about your customers, as the implementation and design must reflect their unique wants and needs, otherwise it will not be successful,” Taparia said. Test any approach with customers to ensure it won’t turn them off. “The decision to implement should have buy-in from the marketing, sales, IT and customer support departments to ensure everyone is on board,” Taparia said. “Collaboration is key for success.”

Related Article: 8 Considerations When Branding Your Chatbot

Chatbots Can Be the Missing Link for Conversions 

Customized marketing has always been difficult because if the marketer is too specific then it’s very easy to be very wrong, according to Rajiv Bhat, senior vice president of data sciences and marketplace at InMobi. If you apply too broad a message swath you could end up missing the connect needed for the conversion, he said. “Chatbots might well be the missing link needed to bridge the gap,” Bhat said. “Chatbots offer the opportunity to draw in a user with personalized messaging, use the interactive channel to fill out the missing pieces of context to deliver a perfectly tailored value proposition.” Given that, marketers need to make a change in mindset: to not only consider what we know about the user but to also carefully articulate what we don't. For example, is the user still interested in the car she was looking at last month? 

“A conversation is about uncovering new information together and for this, both parties need to come prepared with what they don't know,” Bhat said. “A reasonable strategy would be to have the chatbot fill out the missing pieces of information while handing off the conversation to a real person in the event of a black swan discovery, i.e. an entirely new piece of information such as user wanting a product that is no longer available.”

Compliance, Privacy Solution Govern Strong Data Processes

Brinker said the emergence of compliance and privacy solutions into the MarTech landscape comes as the GDPR has served as a catalyst for a “qualitatively different shift in how companies think about data quality.” Marketers and brands have a responsibility to accurately manage relationships according to the preferences of their customers, he added. It will result in better data and greater customer empowerment. MarTech is ultimately a “bunch of data repositories” and systems that manage interactions from those data repositories, Brinker said. “A lot of these vendors are coming into the compliance and privacy to provide good technology solutions to help governance that process.”

Be Strong with Data Mapping 

Darren Abernethy, senior global privacy manager at TrustArc, said with the rise in compliance and privacy solutions comes the responsibility for marketers to coordinate with other stakeholders within their organization for full visibility into the personal data coming into and out of their systems. They must be acutely aware of any appending of information that occurs, where it is stored (CRM databases, IT systems, etc.), and with whom it is shared (email service providers, affiliates, etc.). “Every company's marketing team should participate in data flow mapping, in order to classify and inventory information — to be better organized and buttoned-up from a regulatory perspective, and for record-keeping obligations,” Abernethy said.

Consider External Certifications of Vendor Privacy, Security Practices

Marketing vendors have likely already received, and will continue to be inundated with requests for demonstrations of compliance with GDPR and its "data processor" contract obligations. These flow down data privacy and security requirements throughout the supply chain, Abernethy said. Marketing teams should consider external certifications of their vendor's privacy and security practices, Abernethy added. It can serve as a useful proxy when marketing vendors are being evaluated against their competitors. “Such demonstrations of having gone through independent audits and assessments are a competitive differentiator that simultaneously bring clarity to an organization's internal practices and viability as a marketing partner,” Abernethy said. “In turn, all organizations should likewise have their own defined and repeatable vendor assessment and management processes, to ensure they are working with safe and reliable partners.”

Related Article: The Missing Step in Reaching GDPR Compliance: Privacy Shield

Consider an Embedded Privacy-Proactive Enhanced Notice

Marketing now involves digital identifiers, tracking technologies and cross-site/app collection of information that can be populated into CRM systems, data management platforms and existing profiles. With that, marketing pros should consider investing in lightweight technologies that embed privacy-proactive enhanced notice on websites and in advertisements. “This is increasingly recognized and trusted by consumers,” Abernethy said. He cited the AdChoices icon offered by digital advertising self-regulatory bodies in the US, Canada, Europe and around the world. 

These types of solutions are scalable globally, allow for consumer choice/opt-out, and work in a multitude of environments, from desktop/mobile web browsers, to in-app, to video ads, to native advertising. “Having a central consent management system for keeping track of people's permission to drop cookies or other tracking technologies on end-user devices is a key compliance solution as well,” Abernethy added.

Privacy, Consent Solutions Build Customer Relationships

Adrian Newby, chief technology officer for Crownpeak, said marketers should look at privacy and consent solutions as investments into building and maintaining customer relationships. “As consumers become more aware of how their data is being misappropriated by some unscrupulous companies, the competitive battleground for brands will be based on a foundation of trust,” he said. Consider tools that demonstrate a sincere interest in protecting an audience’s data and empower them to make decisions about what they’re comfortable exposing, he added.

Choose Solutions That Prevent First- and Third-Party Tags 

Solutions for privacy should automatically prevent any first- or third-party tags from firing if user consent has not been obtained. “This way your team is not responsible for managing opt-ins, which can be difficult to operationalize and extremely prone to human error,” Newby said. “For companies that are looking to achieve GDPR-compliance, minimizing risk is essential since if a tag fires and grants a third-party access to a user’s data, your company may be liable for not honoring the user’s preferences.”