person walking through a tunnel with water flowing through it
PHOTO: Viktor Paris

If you’ve ever been to Paris for more than a couple of days, it’s possible you heard about, or even visited, its vast city sewer system. It's an old, charming and totally fascinating look at the inner workings of a major city. It’s also a really great metaphor for the importance of integrations in marketing. If you think about individual software platforms (and even your site, app, email, etc.) as buildings, the integrations are like the streets, wires, pipes and bridges that move everything back and forth where it needs to go. Integrations break down, and data backs up … you get the picture.

According to Forrester, 85% of firms say the volume and variety of data has increased. And the majority also say that the number of partners and uses for data has also increased. This means integrations are a more important part of digital marketing than ever before. For marketers, integrations are often the work assigned to the dev team, something that’s talked about only after a new deal has been made, or a new data source secured, but, this shouldn’t be the case. Currently existing and potential new integrations offer pathways to new opportunities for marketers, and should be front and center as marketers look to become more relevant, and use their data in smarter ways.

Related Article: Tips for a Smoother Marketing Technology Integration Process

Integrations Bring Things Up to Real Time

Marketers have been working to collect as much data as possible, which includes internal and third party sources. A report from Duke University and Deloitte reveals that many companies collect data first, then try to figure out what to do with it. This has created the need for ever larger data storage capacities across CRM systems, CDPs, DMPs and Data Lakes. Then these systems all need to talk to one another just for the data to sync, which isn’t usually in real time. Then the data needs to be ported to activation systems like email platforms and content management platforms. 

That’s a ton of work to manage, and even data that’s a few hours old can be too old for good marketing. 

Marketers increasingly focus on that gap between the age of the data and the need for real-time insights to really nail personalization. If their own systems don’t reconcile sales until midnight, it’s nearly impossible to do a good shopping cart reminder email. This is where integrations become so important. In a lot of cases, vendors have a ton of insights about their clients that the clients are not using, opting instead to default to the stale data they have in their own systems. Even better, there is usually an integration already in place.

Take this very real example — many types of marketing platforms know the location of the consumer that opens an email, app or webpage, but don’t pass this back to the marketer. This real-time knowledge is often much more relevant than the address location on file in a marketer’s CRM system. A content partner or search partner might notice pattern changes days or weeks before their marketer clients, such as people who start to shop in the kids section of the site for the first time, or suddenly start to search for vegan leather goods.

Related Article: MarTech Sandwiches: A Tasty Approach to Integration Mapping

Integrations Can Break Down Silos

Marketers often complain about the data silos in their own company. Information about in-store sales might be delayed by a week or more. Knowledge of customer service issues might never reach marketers at all. Rather than planning giant data warehouse projects that move this data in bulk, look at options that utilize an integration to send data as needed in smaller batches, but in a more timely manner. For example, forge an integration with the social media team to only gather insights on trending keywords that are used in emails to enhance an algorithm. Or, integrate the website with data from the loyalty program to only deliver real time personalization for a select, but important, few.

Silos can also exist between a marketer’s vendors. It’s worth meeting with key vendors to see what insights a marketer has access to that could improve decisioning on a platform. Perhaps they have a point solution that does polls and surveys on favorite topics — and the results could dramatically affect the site recommendations from a content platform partner. 

For so long, marketers have collected more and more data, only to be burdened by it, seeking out point solutions for a quick fix. But consumers are savvy, and they want a cohesive experience across every touchpoint. This requires marketers to connect the dots, bringing the best data to the right place in real time. Integrations are a good place to focus.