Cloud-based marketing technology is no longer just for marketers. At the end of the day, these integrated digital suites—a.k.a. marketing hubs or marketing clouds—could prove useful to any team within a large enterprise that wants to get closer to the customer.
“The act of becoming truly digital extends beyond the CMO,” said Paul Roehrig, chief strategy officer of Cognizant Digital Business. “It is bigger than that.”
Today, enterprises have a number of clouds from which to choose. The fact that these solutions are integrated means companies can build a single view of the customer, with insights for anyone—sales, operations, customer service, product, finance—who is on the hook for customer experience.
“At the same time, these marketing suites help you with things like marketing automation, you can build your web page, you can deploy a mobile app, and you can do all the things that are required to compete in the digital age,” said Matt Preschern, CMO of global IT services company HCL Technologies. “My opinion is these suites are going to be dominating the overall technology investments that large enterprises make.”
Let’s Talk SMAC
From the Industrial Revolution, to the dawn of the mainframe, to our modern-day digital world, technology’s end goal remains the same: to improve productivity, efficiency, and accuracy no matter the industry. Digital, of course, ignited the importance of big data and put customers in control of their experiences.
This shift to customer-centricity marked the entrance of the SMAC stack—social, mobile, analytics, and cloud—just a few years ago.
“[But] the idea behind SMAC was unfortunately too narrow—it was born out of the technology efficiency considerations rather than transformational ones, too narrowly focused on social and mobile, and never gained mainstream application,” said Dennis Startsev, principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP. “That said, the emergence of the SMAC moniker marked the shift of marketing and customer-centric technology to the cloud across systems of engagement, data, intelligence, management, and more, which, in turn, opened the aperture of the customer-centric conversation.”
Talk about SMAC also centered on how it could help companies not only compete in a physical economy, but also based on data and information. Indeed, SMAC supported the enterprise-wide tech infrastructure and enabled companies to get closer to their customers.
“The fact that companies today are becoming more experience-based, well, that’s actually an outcome of SMAC,” Cognizant’s Roehrig said.
The technological environment has moved at such a pace that SMAC has become part of the “essential” structure for digital business initiatives, added Anand Birje, corporate vice president and head of digital and analytics at HCL. However, SMAC does not power capabilities such as hyper-personalization and real-time services, which are essential to companies trying to make experience their business.
“You have to look beyond the building blocks of the IT enterprise and try to design and build key platform components,” Birje said. “That will allow the analytics, personalization, mobile-focus, and always-on nature that digital business services now require.”
Specifically, Birje said, in addition to a software-defined infrastructure that is ready to support digital transformation initiatives, companies will require modern digital platforms and API-led applications—all of which should be further enhanced by big data and analytics platforms.
“Today SMAC is not enough,” said Suzanne Kounkel, U.S. technology leader at Deloitte Consulting LLP. “I think most organizations are thinking about applying technology to the way the world used to work. They now need to think about applying technology to the way the world could or should work.”
HCL’s Preschern agreed. “Let’s just say that you have a great customer-facing mobile app,” he said. “It still needs to connect into the underlying platform, and if the data flows don’t support that, you will not optimize your technology investment.”
But point solutions won’t always integrate seamlessly with an existing SMAC stack. Stephan Pretorius, CTO of Wunderman, cautioned enterprises about adding on random point solutions without doing the research.
“People often implement new tools without really thinking through how they need to be configured, how they need to be designed, and, most importantly, how they need to connect into the broader marketing technology architecture and even the business process,” he told CMO.com.
Rise Of The Cloud
So now what? Gartner’s latest “Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Hubs” report suggests consolidation and centralization of different platforms and measurement methodologies as a key to CX success.
According to Mark Asher, director of corporate strategy at Adobe, all businesses, regardless of industry, must recognize that they’re a digital enterprise and that the data they’re collecting about the customer journey is the most critical and valuable asset they have.
“Today, all parts of the enterprise are beginning to focus on the customer experience,” Asher told CMO.com. “So whether you’re HR, supply chain, or sales, everyone now has a responsibility to make the customer experience the best they can.”
That’s where cloud-based martech comes into play. The beauty of the marketing hub, Cognizant’s Roehrig said, is that it “aids in the enablement of not just marketing, but also sales, service, enterprise, and human resources.”
As companies embark on their digital transformation journeys, they’ll need to reimagine existing business processes and user experiences, HCL’s Birje added.
“It is important to note that each organization has a unique DNA,” he said. “To make this uniqueness shine, you need a comprehensive services framework to address the technology needs of your enterprise on its journey to digital transformation. This framework should align and integrate cross-functional services, competencies, tools, technologies, partnerships, and talent across the organization and offer a catalog of services to power the digital transformation journey.”