In a challenging economic landscape, marketers are forced to evaluate which tech really impacts business and revenue goals.

We identified six martech categories — three legacy and three emerging — that no marketer can afford to ignore right now. But using them in the same-old or limited ways can be counter-productive in today’s evolving landscape. These six martech categories are "must-have," but they are also "must-change."

1. Email Marketing

Email — a key "owned marketing" pillar is more important than ever in a first-party data world. It has stood the test of time even as a new and complex ecosystem of marketing technology has grown up all around it.

This has led to two challenges. First, said Will Devlin, VP of Marketing at MessageGears, is figuring out email’s place in the overall marketing mix and making sure it works cohesively with every other CX touchpoint. Second, its legacy status often misleads marketers into making a typical mistake — not investing enough or in the right ways to upgrade their email marketing tech capabilities.

Eyal Manor, Chief Product Officer at Twilio, also cautioned against hanging onto large lists filled with inactive or unresponsive customers. Not only do they lower overall engagement rates and annoy customers, but they also put you at risk of higher spam complaint rates and non-compliance with privacy laws.

What to Change

Upgrade your email strategy and tech!

For the former, focus on smoother integration into new and complex CX workflows, data, privacy and compliance and evolved measurement metrics.

For the tech, explore ways to leverage the visual advantage of email. Mobile optimized email, in-mail video, seamless connections with social media, click-to-share and click-to-chat links and interactivity with polls, quizzes and gamification are all worth exploring. “It’d be foolish to overlook upgrading that component of the tech stack,” said Devlin.

2. Marketing Analytics

In a 2022 Twilio report, 63% of consumers said they are happy with personalization — but want brands to use first-party data and not data sourced from third parties. Marketing analytics stacks that collect and analyze first-party data help brands be both consumer-first and privacy-first.

That means instead of going wider — collecting disconnected data about every channel — next-gen marketing analytics will focus on going deeper into each customer’s life. The goal is to analyze a connected (not fragmented) view of each customer’s life across every channel she uses, with prescriptive, predictive and real-time marketing analytics to support smarter decision making.

What to Change

Find ways to reframe your marketing analytics around the customer instead of the channel or the campaign. Not only will this approach support your CX goals, but it will also drive up customer lifetime value and drive down customer acquisition costs.

Also, invest some time to explore the hidden parts of your customer’s journey — unseen interactions that marketing attribution systems cannot track but which impact customer decisions at each stage of the journey.

Related Article: Eliminating Vanity Metrics From the Analytics Portfolio

3. Search Engine Optimization

Hands down, the biggest evolution in search engine optimization (SEO) is in the areas of voice-enabled search. This will be a new skill for marketers to master as consumer voice search behavior is different from text search, with longer sentences and more nuance offered by tone and implication. Coupled with increasingly artificial intelligence-powered search engines, not only are search results getting more powerful, but also way more granular and predictive.

What to Change

Without delay, start prepping your content for video and voice search, image optimization and overall improvement in content credibility and authoritativeness.

4. Video and Virtual Event Experiences

While video looked set to be the next big thing when the pandemic struck, the challenge now is to sustain the use of video and virtual events to continue engaging audiences.

With 66% of consumers willing to pay for a virtual event that has better production and content quality, Manor said the bar is already high when it comes to creating customized virtual event experiences. “It’s estimated that 20% of all online conversions will be driven by short and live videos by 2026 — but winning is all about the quality of content.” He cited the example of Barry’s Bootcamp, which has seen 6x growth in memberships by investing in videos that closely mirror the brick-and-mortar, interactive class experience.

Learning Opportunities

There’s no doubt that consumers watch relevant video content. But relevance is more than the message — it is also the channel, timing and context. Figure these elements in totality for the winning formula; i.e., your video content is found, clicked on, consumed and, preferably, shared.

What to Change

Video search optimization, getting captioning right so videos can be watched effectively without sound and ensuring contextual relevance between text and video content are all key tactics to ace right now.

5. Chatbots and Conversational AI

Instant messenger, text, SMS or speech chatbots are evolving fast and actually delivering big time in helping brands deliver 24x7 access and customer service. A Juniper Research study pegged chatbot-facilitated consumer retail spend growth at close to 400% — rising from $2.8 billion in 2019 to $142 billion by 2024.

For marketers, chatbots are about elevating the CX. Pieter Buteneers, director of engineering in machine learning (ML) & AI at conversational AI and CX platform Sinch, endorsed the growing sophistication of chatbots and other conversational AI assistants that are no longer tripped up by typos, regional slang or shifts in topics. “Thanks to NLP, today’s chatbots can meet and even surpass human performance in tasks like language understanding and image recognition.”

Applications in marketing and sales, payments, order processing and customer service are key opportunities for brands to explore right now. With consumers saying they’d spend 20% more with businesses that offer conversational messaging, marketers should focus on emerging entry points, a data-centric approach and constant iteration, said Manor.

For example, he suggested exploring click-to-start-messaging ads, which deliver a more engaging experience than a static landing page, offer an early entry point into a conversation, build trust higher in the funnel and increase conversions and loyalty because “businesses can use the zero- and first-party customer data to continually surface insights and iterate messaging so agents can help consumers complete purchases.”

What to Change

Customers want to initiate chats on their favorite platforms such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, Slack or text messaging — or on social media and locational marketing apps such as maps and search. Go beyond your own websites or apps. Explore the full range of conversational AI channels and find what serves your business and customers best.

Related Article: How Will Conversational AI Transform Customer Experience?

6. Podcasts

Every major publisher has a head of audio, and their team head counts are growing. Almost everyone — brands, publishers and individual influencers — has a podcast or several, the podcast production and distribution ecosystem is more accessible than ever and the competition between podcast platforms is intensifying. There’s no denying this channel is mainstream now.

New formats are emerging, too — live streaming podcasts to social platforms, "immersive" podcasts that use the latest in sound production technology, crowdsourced content, exclusive branded content for inner circle customers and more are trends to watch.

What to Change

Assuming your brand already has podcasts in production, go deeper into exploring ways to monetize your audio content and better track or measure outcomes from podcast advertising investments. Audience growth strategies designed to engage younger, learning-focused audiences should be a core focus area for the year.

Finding Your Method in the Martech Madness

Martech stacks are quickly making way for "CX stacks" built around strong data foundations that better balance data privacy and activation. Refreshing your use of key martech will help you stay aligned with the larger business goal and get the best outcomes from your tech investments.