Five minutes with: Scott Anderson, CMO of Sitecore

What are your biggest opportunities & challenges for the next 12-24 months?

We’re seeing an exciting opportunity to add “context” into the marketing mix. As the number of smart phones has exploded to 1.9 billion worldwide, it’s no longer enough just to think about crafting the message. Now relevancy includes consideration of location and the context surrounding the individual. Big data and real-time insights are the key to delivering context-based experiences across whatever channel the individual is selecting at that particular moment in time. Mobile has eliminated the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds, opening boundless new opportunities for marketers.

Of course, there are challenges too. The volume of data created is increasing at unprecedented levels–and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. Large organizations are scrambling to figure out how to scale quickly and efficiently to make sense of it all. Those who prioritize on integrating the individual consumer’s data across all touch points and using that data to customize experiences in real-time are in a great position to delight consumers.

What are some unmet needs in the marketing technology landscape?

For many, the marketing tech landscape is confusing, even overwhelming, with so many choices. The term “martech stack” has emerged as marketers work to cobble together so many disconnected digital platforms. I hear over and over again from senior marketers the desire to connect data streams and to align content across the buyer’s journey. Marketing technology platforms continue to open up amazing opportunities to connect, interact, and learn from customers. However, as each comes with its own data set, the more of them we deploy, the further we are getting away from a single view of the customer. The average marketing organization houses 21 marketing platforms! With this in mind, brands are challenged to choose the right set of technologies and to connect them in a useful way. How does one deliver holistic experiences to customers through that maze? 

The unmet need is a truly integrated platform that can track across touch points, provide a single view of the customer, and enable real-time customization at scale. For the most part, the solutions on the market today specialized to one channel but fail to make connections across all channels.

What keeps your clients up at night?

The risk of losing out to the companies that are disrupting the market keeps clients up at night. Look no further than Uber and Airbnb to see traditional industries disrupted by digitally enabled innovators, hell bent on delivering a better experience. Consumers value personalized experiences on their terms and are coming to expect them as a matter of course. Delivering what is expected today may require rethinking processes, technologies or entire businesses. Our clients are mostly marketers and IT. Both realize that consumer preferences and behavior continues to change at an accelerating pace. Those who are sleeping a little more soundly begin with focus on what delights customers and then are backing into the content, technology, data, and offerings to get there. Doing so requires coordination across data sets, executive priorities, systems, departments, and strategies–all at scale–and, in the digital age, in real-time.

What social network do you anticipate accelerating growth in the next year?

I’m impressed with the evolution of LinkedIn. In the past, LinkedIn was a sedentary network of resumes.  It has since evolved into a dynamic space for the B2B audience to connect, share information, and interact. I have always felt that the greatest value LinkedIn possesses is the self-managed, up to date data about the business world. Good to see that LinkedIn is now leveraging that data while also staying cautious about protecting its audience from exploitation. 

What’s the hardest thing to educate clients about?

I still see a lot of marketers enamored by the technology rather than the end goal of delivering great experiences and achieving business objectives. Who hasn’t seen headlines about “mobile-first,” “big data,” and “social”? All of these tech categories and many more offer amazing enablement to deepen the connection between businesses and people but none are ends unto themselves. As I talk to other marketers and business leaders who are struggling with where to take the next step, how to pull insights from all that data, or how to keep up with the advancement of the connected consumer, I constantly find myself helping them refocus on what matters most–customers. 

As the number of options grows, marketers are getting pulled into an increasing number of directions.  Some of the more progressive marketers are realizing the need to reintegrate the loosely-connected quilt of tech platforms. Alignment across organizations–specifically IT and marketing–on a comprehensive plan, is a good starting point. Architecting the journey across touch points,from “hello” to long-term engagement can bring people, processes, and content together to create a larger impact than operating in silos.

Finally, ensuring the technology supports the plan in a comprehensive way is needed to underpin a first-class marketing operation. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to deliver experiences that fit in with customer lifestyles and demands. It’s the difference between being relevant or just annoying.

2015 will be all about?

2015 will be the year of context or at least the start of it. Why do we talk about mobile, big data, social, personalization, analytics, IOT, ROI, etc, separately? Just like the disparate chapters of a good novel, the big trends in marketing are on a path to come together. There is no better time for that to happen now.  What does that mean? It means when a consumer is out on their phone, switching to their tablet, jumping in their car, getting to office, and then later flipping on the TV at home – marketing should be able to deliver them exactly what they need, exactly when they need it.

Experience, delivered in context–that’s what’s happening next. We’re already seeing some of our clients converge their communications channels to address what consumers expect, which is to “show me you know me.” As other marketers take notice, they’ll start to see how all the pieces can fit together and begin to make the shift themselves.  2015 will be the year of context marketing.

–Scott Anderson is CMO of Sitecore.

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