Future-Proof Your Marketing Tech Stack with the Right Customer Experience (and Help from AI)

In the digital marketing world, it’s difficult sometimes to ignore the brand and marketing news generated from within the group of enterprises and startups who make their own headlines in the space.

In 2019, this was certainly the case when marketing cloud Acoustic emerged as the rebranded spinoff of IBM Watson Marketing. On day one, as an independent entity, it boasted 3,500 clients. It also had branding and marketing of its own to do.

Acoustic’s CMO Norman Guadagno told me recently, “We were carved out of IBM in July, and have been busy since then. As you can imagine, we spent a lot of time building our business and getting it up and running, which takes time.”

Guadagno and his team made their rounds with customers around the globe, hosting launch events and partner events. Now, they’ve pivoted from what was primarily “listening mode,” but will continue to spread brand awareness and stay engaged with their community.

“We have been doing a lot of listening,” Guadagno explained. “It’s important to hear from customers and partners about what their expectations were, and what disappointed them or delighted them by what they were able to get from IBM when they owned these products.”

This resulted in a roadmap and vision around what value the Acoustic “family” of products can bring. And because of the global scale of this client base, Acoustic’s “vision” resonates across the rest of the marketing tech landscape.

According to Guadagno, these different capabilities and functions that marketers use were siloed. Campaign automation, content management and personalization, along with analytics tools – experience, journey and reporting analytics – need to be integrated. An exchange tool that moves data across multiple platforms must also be in place underneath these capabilities. “The goal,” Guadagno concludes, “is to create a much more integrated experience for our customers.”

He adds, “The evolution of the marketing tech stack is an ongoing process. We believe that the integration of new products and platforms, and the ability to deliver intelligently-composed messages through channels like email or SMS, is a challenge for most businesses. You’d think it would be better, but it’s not.”

With these integrated, personalized messaging capabilities, marketers must also use the technology to refine their approach in light of growing consumer awareness around privacy. Guadagno advocates for a holistic perspective that goes beyond specific regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Act.

“There’s been an absolute revolution in how people consider trust and privacy,” he said. “Companies need to pay attention to individuals who are taking ownership back of their data and privacy. Whichever regulations are on the horizon, marketers have to shift from being reactive to being proactive when it comes to privacy. If you’re not doing that and leveraging technology assets to get ahead of the curve on privacy and data, you’re going to be left behind.”

For marketers overwhelmed by the thousands of tech vendors in the space, Guadagno recommends beginning with one of the few that provide a core campaign automation tool. “Every business starts with, ‘How do I connect with my customers?’ Then they start to figure out all the things on top of that — what adds more value [to their stack],” he said. “The smart marketer is thinking about how that experience is integrated end-to-end, and is valuable for the customer and easy to manage for the marketers.”

Where does AI fit in?

“AI is essentially pattern recognition,” Guadagno explained. “It’s something that humans can’t do. You don’t want to have to sift through all the data [to determine] the best offers, then test them.”

He said, “A lot of businesses are still not embracing a ‘test and learn’ mentality. I can’t tell you have many times the same basic email message comes from a company to me and I can’t imagine that it’s not managed to make it better. That’s the whole point, there are great tools from an automated perspective that should make the message continuously better, and yet it’s not.”

He added, “At every step along the buyer journey, marketers will become more and more sophisticated in examining each step. AI is seeing all the scenarios we could never see through a human lens and that really drive that experience, refining and refining. Customers can’t really see the data, but we’re good at being intuitive.”

From Guadagno’s perspective, when customers intuitively know that one eCommerce site is getting better at understanding how to seamlessly deliver a successful experience, it gains a big edge in branding over a competitor that isn’t improving.

“There’s sort of a battle waging back and forth, between human intuition and large amounts of data, where companies are finding patterns, increasing efficiency and effectiveness,” he said. “Companies should understand the impact of branding on this. After the sale, it layers on the sum of what makes somebody become or stay a customer. Marketing tech is at the heart of this experience.”

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