The Martech Challenge: The digital revolution has transformed how marketers reach and engage customers, as well as the tools needed to be effective.  In this series brought to you by Sailthru, we look at how to meet martech challenges head on — exploring cross-channel marketing, innovation, customer experience, email marketing and other topics essential to today’s marketers. See the whole series here.

With more than 2,000 companies across the marketing technology landscape, it’s daunting to figure out exactly which products and services you really need — particularly if you’re focused on customer retention. As – recent Gartner study reveals, 80 percent of a company’s future profits will come from 20 percent of its existing customers.

Unlike more mature technology sectors, marketing tech does not yet have a consistent, established “stack” of components. If you’re trying to hone your results around customer retention — driving up customer lifetime value, purchase frequency, and average order value — that challenge gets even harder as it’s rooted in establishing strong relationships with each individual consumer.

Foundational to any good marketing tech stack is a solid CRM solution or Customer Data Platform. Without this, the rest will crumble. David Raab gives a great overview of CDPs, which as he says, “exist because marketers need to coordinate customer (and prospect) interactions across channels.” As such, it’s imperative to choose a partner that is modern, nimble, and collaborative around the unique needs of your business.

On top of that base, the technologies you’ll need when putting an emphasis on customer retention may vary depending on the size of your company and your run rate, but there are some constants. Below we outline the essentials — but know this going in: it’s critical to ensure that you’ve chosen a partner that can pull and aggregate data from multiple channels to ensure you benefit from a single customer view.

1. Email

Email is an essential component of any marketing strategy. One reason is that it works — really well.

Customers actually like getting weekly emails from brands they care about. For mid-size companies, a recent VB Insight study showed that email campaigns delivered, on average, a 246 percent return on investment. No wonder 84 percent of marketers consider email a crucial tool.

While email marketing can be expensive, it’s easy to get started. There are a multitude of cheap tools for small volume. It’s important to remember, however, that email marketing in a silo — much like any channel — will not deliver on the promise of its potential. It’s critical that email be informed, in real time, by data coming from individual users via onsite, mobile, social, and other channels, which is why marketing clouds and multichannel marketing platforms have made tremendous acquisitions in this space over the last few years. It’s best to look for someone who makes cross-channel, informed email easy.

When you’re ready for more sophisticated analytics, audience segmentation, personalization tools (see below), and behavioral predictions that indicate when an individual customer will open email, click through, and purchase, services like Sailthru can provide even greater ROI through a channel that is still tablestakes for every marketer.

2. Social media tools

As essential as email is, it can’t be counted on to reach every customer. That’s why it’s vital to incorporate social channels into your martech stack. Millions use networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest daily, making them highly effective platforms for engaging customers and deepening your relationship with them.

To manage social media, you’ll not only need automation tools, but also identity matching technologies such as Gigya to ensure that the data you glean from social informs marketing on other channels.

3. Mobile

No business can afford to treat mobile as a second thought in today’s multi-screen world, especially when it comes to retention marketing. It’s how you can stay connected to your customer base, wherever they are. But how you engage on mobile must respect the user and their preferences, and be sensitive to location. As well, smaller screens and short attention spans mean brands must be absolutely relevant or risk being ignored.

At all costs, avoid the mistake many companies make when they put increased attention on mobile. Many treat it as an island, but like all other channels, mobile must be integrated into an effective cross-channel approach to remain meaningful to your customers. Relevancy is critical to success in managing the mobile experience and ensuring that you’re engaging users based on their individual patterns rather than pushing communications to them just because you can.

4. Personalization

The age of broadcasting generic messages and hoping that they’ll find a few receptive listeners is over. Personalizing messages to your customers’ or subscribers’ individual interests is the key to increasing their engagement.

To do that, you need a technology partner that can do more than just add the person’s first name to the subject line or salutation at the top of your email. You need to be able to address your audience based on far more than demographics alone — you must engage with their stated or implied interests, preferences, and behaviors, then deliver different messages to each individual. Today you can personalize the ‘When, Where and What.’ By that we mean: timing, content, message, offers, and channels to either drive or prevent a specific action (like purchases or opt-outs).

5. Customer Insights

Data is the lifeblood of any modern organization. You don’t necessarily need to hire a data scientist or invest major capital in building a sophisticated “big data” platform with artificial intelligence and deep learning algorithms. But you do need to collect data and have a plan to make use of it.

The earlier you build analytics and insights into your strategy and start working with the data that consumers are providing — however small your datasets may be when you begin — the quicker you will understand the real financial value that data provides as a business asset. While many see data as becoming more cumbersome and less actionable as it increases in volume, when done right, data is a living entity that improves itself over time, getting smarter and more insightful as it grows.

There are three methodologies for developing insight from a volume of data that enable brands to optimize revenue through marketing: 1) real-time campaign stats 2) longitudinal testing, and 3) behavioral predictions. Think real-time data, long-term testing and predictive analytics are already commonplace? According to Domo, only 5 percent of marketing professionals strongly agree that they can access the data they need in real time, while an Econsulting study reports that the same percentage of marketers rate their ability to make improvements in their customer experience based on data-driven insights as “excellent.”

The 5 percent of marketers who have access to data are reaping the benefits. Take Country Outfitter, a digitally and data-savvy team (a part of Arkansas-based Acumen Brands). Working with Sailthru — an integrated customer data platform, advanced email service provider, personalization engine and customer insights tool — the brand was able to consolidate vendors, house data more efficiently, and gain access to real-time stats, longitudinal measurement tools, and behavioral predictions. The revenue gains have been significant: 80 percent gain in incremental revenue, 109 percent increase in email purchase conversion, 72 percent lift in email revenue, and 24 percent lift in purchase per click.

Pulling it all together

Forward-thinking marketers understand that there is massive revenue potential that can be tapped by simply improving the customer experience and relevancy at the individual level. Now the question is what providers to choose, and whether to assemble your own stack or buy into one of the big “marketing clouds” that purport to address all of the above components and then some.

This question is complicated by the fact that — sadly — marketing clouds don’t necessarily eliminate the pain of integrating multiple tools with one another. Most of the big marketing cloud providers like Adobe, Oracle, and Salesforce grew their offerings through acquisitions, and the more recently acquired components may not be perfectly integrated, if it was ever possible. For instance, they might try to action marketing messages off of different back-end databases — thus eliminating one of the potential benefits of an integrated solution (a single, integrated database).

You might consider building proprietary marketing tech solutions in one or more of the above categories, but be forewarned, it’s not for the feint of heart, will require deep pockets for the build, and a constant influx of cash in order to support innovation on par with emerging leaders.

With the right tech stack, the rest is up to you: ensuring that the right messages get to the right customers to keep them coming back, spending more, and advocating for your brand.

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