Clicks ’n Tricks: Tech that puts the customer first
by Charlie Stewart (@CStewart_ZA) One of the greatest challenges facing advertisers today is the effective incorporation of technology into campaign execution.
As marketers, we’re allocating an increasing amount of our budget to marketing technology (martech) — getting on for a third of total spend according to Martech Today. This is undeniably good news if it improves the efficacy of our advertising and helps us serve creative messages that resonate and elicit a response from our target audience.
Is SA getting martech spend wrong?
Yet, I have a very real concern that here, in South Africa, we’re spending on the wrong type of martech.
Globally, there’s a big move towards unifying data so that brands may better understand existing customers, and thus tap into their needs and upsell them. Gartner reports that interest in customer data platforms (CDPs), which facilitate this, is at an all-time high.
This investment is tightly aligned with an oft cited 2014 study by the Harvard Business Review which found that acquiring new business is, depending on your sector, somewhere between five and 25 times more expensive than keeping current customers on your books.
But, locally, anecdotal evidence from conversations I’ve had with CMOs suggests that, across the banking, insurance, retail, ecommerce and auto sectors, companies, unaware of the potential of CDPs, are continuing to invest in data management platforms (DMPs) and other end-of-life ad tech in an effort to reach third party (ie unknown) audiences. In short, they’re building new empires rather than developing their current ones.
A mid-2019 Clicks ’n Tricks column spoke to the folly of this: an erosion of consumer trust, reduced cookie lifetimes and rampant ad fraud offer a trinity of reasons to move spend away from ad tech.
So why are South African brands seemingly so far behind their global counterparts when it comes to procuring effective martech? Why, indeed, are local companies not adopting CDPs in the way their international peers are?
In large part, I suspect it comes down to awareness. Little, if anything, has been said of CDPs in the local media and on the conference circuit. And the few brands that have implemented the tech are the local divisions of multinationals, having done so at the behest of their global management.
Why a CDP?
In the spirit of enlightenment, here follows a short summary of how CDPs work and why they have the potential to be such good news.
In most companies, customer data is fragmented — often lying in silos within marketing, sales, customer support and other line of business departments. It’s fragmented because customer journeys are not linear. As consumers, we research brands — and converse with them — across multiple channels and through multiple devices. Yet we expect brands to know who we are and to personalise our content (or, in a world where many brands still don’t get this right, we really, really like to spend with the ones that do).
As a CDP typically acts as a piece of middleware, it’s capable of ingesting and tagging data from pretty much any source, which means that it works to augment, rather than replace, other technologies that marketers have invested in. By standardising data storage and streamlining its processing, companies gain a single view of their customers. Aside from the obvious benefit this offers in helping better please the customer by personalising content to their interests, it can also address privacy concerns by providing effective data governance structures which will be of clear value to those companies still grappling with the implications of GDPR and POPI.
As with any tech implementation, deploying a CDP will have complexities, although constraints are more likely to be at a human implementation level, rather than with the technology per se. But the potential rewards for businesses willing to make the investment in unifying their customer data are significant. Analysis by London Research, which interviewed more than 200 companies with revenues of US$50m+, found that half of the respondents already used a CDP and that they were 2.5 times more likely to have significantly outperformed against their organisations’ main marketing goal than the non-users.
For a more detailed analysis of CDPs, Martech Today has a recently published analysis of the top 25 CDP vendors, while Gartner has a useful buyers’ guide for those considering investing in one (both sites require registration to download).
Full disclosure: after years of railing against the inefficiencies of ad tech (see Clicks n Tricks columns ad nauseum), Stewart’s business became a Tealium CDP certified vendor in 2019 to prove that some martech really does work.
Charlie Stewart (@CStewart_ZA) is CEO of Rogerwilco, a multi-award-winning independent digital agency best known for its expertise with Drupal, SEO and content marketing. A Scot by birth, he moved to South Africa in the early 2000s in his quest to support a winning rugby team — a search he’s reluctantly forsaken. Together with Mark Eardley, he co-authored Business to Business Marketing: A Step by Step Guide, (Penguin Random House, 2016) and may be found on LinkedIn. Charlie contributes the monthly “Clicks ‘n Tricks” column, which looks at how brands are using digital channels to engage their customers, to MarkLives.