How do brands navigate the complex video landscape

According to the latest IAB PWC Expenditure report video expenditure has grown by 45% year on year. This is a sizable pie, which as per the PWC Entertainment and Media Outlook is estimated to grow at a 23.8% CAGR between 2018 and 2022. This increase has partly been due to the shift in brand dollars out of Television to online video. Internet Advertising (1)Unsurprisingly in the last three years every network has invested more dollars into creating more inventory by commissioning original content or attracting external creators. Last week Facebook Watch entered this increasingly crowded video marketplace with more entrants such as CBS and Disney expected to launch their offerings soon. But these platforms have some serious catching up to do with Netflix already approaching 10mn subscribers this month, and continuing to invest heavily in new shows.

Australian video landscape

There has been a lot of new research and rhetoric from all players this year using planks like ‘premium’ and ‘brand-safe’ to try to position themselves over other competitors. I think we need to look at it from the consumer’s point of view rather than the aperture of individual platforms. In the matrix below I have attempted to create a rudimentary overview of the screen content landscape.

The two upper quadrants have platforms with longer studio scripted content while the lower quadrants have shorter, influencer or user-generated content. The quadrants on the right allow users more choice and convenience and they are more active when seeking or consuming specific content. On the left users are passive or just grazing through feeds.Video Landscape (1)

In the top left is TV which is the still the leading screen with a higher time spent per month compared to video on other devices. TV, Cinema and Digital OOH in combination are great for reach building in the awareness stage of customer journeys. Linear TV’s sibling BVOD just released a fact pack of stats about its outstanding growth on the back of of a rise in connected TV viewing in H2 2018. Those who watch are highly invested in this content (and the experience is passive) so with most content being watched to completion it provides advertisers the ideal environment for 30 second brand TVC’s in pre or mid-content breaks. However I see BVOD as just complimentary to Linear TV as the content is similar and the choice is limited to a few genres. If you don’t enjoy dating, food shows and renovating or not all of them then you will seek content from other sources.

This is where SVOD (Netflix, Stan) and TVOD (NBA Pass, Optus Sports, YouTube Premium etc.) services in the top right quadrant offer more choice and control for those who aren’t satisfied by content from our major broadcasters. The most talked about shows like Stranger Things or Making a Murderer are now the ones created by Netflix and Amazon. Also mainstream FTA doesn’t cater enough to our multi-cultural audiences who often subscribe to IPTV services or use media set-up boxes to access content more suited to their cultural tastes. In other countries with large overseas born or multi-lingual populations cable television caters to this need by combining large bouquets of channels at a low enough entry price. This quadrant may not offer advertising opportunities but will continue to pull viewing minutes away from other video platforms.

Netflix Amazon Content Investment

In the bottom left quadrant the first cluster is a group of platforms trying to create video hubs with the hope that they can create sticky experiences and keep users coming back. The goal is to attract TV dollars, but as always the success of the content will prove the difference. YouTube has a head start and considerable success as it has courted ‘creators’ for many years. Advertisers have been able to use creators to endorse their products, and also buy into the Google Preferred advertising line-ups using TV metrics although brand-safety concerns remain. It remains to be seen if Snap, Instagram and Facebook can attract publishers and creators, and create enough original content to monetize against. Also can they differentiate based on the social viewing experience as Facebook has announced.

Separate to these hubs is the video content we are already used to seeing in social feeds of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. The challenge here is that users generally scroll quickly through feeds so the creative needs to be tailored to each platform to get users to pause and view their ads. What works on Facebook news feed may not work on Instagram or Instagram Stories, and brands are at the mercy of ever changing algorithms.

In the last quadrant is YouTube the big daddy of online video. This is where most of us spend our time ‘discovering’ and are in active viewing mode. There are over 400 hours of video uploaded daily, and ‘how-to’ searches are growing 70% on YouTube making it the second largest search engine. These platforms are democratized allowing any user to upload content, which creates scale but also brand safety issues. Amazons Twitch is fairly new to Australian advertisers but offers access to a massive young male audience and also e-sports fanatics.

What does this mean for brands and consumers

Consumers have never had it so good, as they have multiple ways to access and enjoy their favourite content. I don’t think consumers will choose one over the other but we will use platforms as per our needs or simply multi-screen.

For brands the complex landscape will need them to use more sophisticated screen planning tools to ensure optimal reach. Not all platforms will be needed by all brands as each brand will have a different communication objective and customer journey.

However one cannot ignore new platforms if they prove popular so expect more brands to have an always-on video approach and more test and learn activity in the coming year. Creative partners will be expected to have the expertise to plan and deliver video assets across all these multiple platforms and devices.

Finally while everyone is shouting reach numbers the real battle should be for attention and impact on sales as the strength of video is as an impactful story-telling format. Unfortunately these are tougher metrics to measure than click-through rates and completion rates.

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Can Facebook Watch make TV social again

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This week Facebook Watch the on-demand video service was launched into the increasingly crowded Australian video marketplace. The service was first launched a year ago exclusively in the U.S. Facebook has added discovery and participatory viewing (like Watch Party) features to the service over the course of the last year. Along with the international roll-out more publishers can now use ‘Ad-breaks’, which allows content creators to run pre, mid-roll or image overlay advertising on their content.

My first thought was to figure out where Facebook Watch fits into the video landscape. I recently wrote a piece about this, and used the matrix below to plot the current players.

Video Landscape (1)I’ve put Facebook Watch in the bottom left quadrant in a cluster of a group of platforms trying to create video hubs with the hope that they can create sticky experiences and keep users coming back. Until there is a vast content library, and the social features take off with audiences its a middling offering. If the goal is to attract TV dollars, Facebook watch will need to add more titles and also shows relevant to Australian audiences. The fascinating graphic from Statista below shows how the likes of Netflix and Amazon are way ahead of Facebook in terms of spend on content.

Video_content_spending_in_2017

The initial videos added to my Watch playlist were mostly those that my friends had liked or from pages I was following. I have found it useful to watch short clips of stand-up comedians, US talk shows, sports highlights rather than go to YouTube and search for these. But I had the same affection for Instagram TV for a week before I abandoned it and surrendered to Netflix 100%.

Facebook and social viewing

Facebook has gone on a buying spree picking up lucrative sports rights and commissioning shows, and if its intended watch and connect behavior works it would set it apart from other streaming services. This would take it to the right of the matrix, and make for a more active user experience. A couple of years ago Periscope was used in this manner by fans watching live steams of sporting events like boxing and UFC.

This social viewing has been attempted before by Netflix and YouTube but didn’t really catch on. At the last election Facebook live-streamed the third election debate on the News Limited page to luke warm results. Perhaps a more popular and engaging topic like a reality show launch episode or a one-off game show might elicit more social and live engagement. However Facebook is already a social network with proven engagement and community building capability. With the right content it has a good shot at making it work.

The other feature Watch Party (enabled within Groups) could be another secret weapon as the people we want to discuss our favorite show moments with are often are close friends who are already connected on Facebook. The caveat is that only videos that are already on Facebook can be shared, which means first getting creators to put their content on the platform.

Facebook Watch Party

I’m surprised that there have been no partnerships have been done with reality shows like The Block and The Bachelor to encourage Watch Parties by Facebook Groups comprising fans following these shows using highlight clips hosted on their Facebook Pages.

The skinny is that until social viewing can be proven or there is original programming relevant to Australian viewers we’ll have to mostly settle for watch lists from brand pages we already follow. Until then this is not a game-changer by any means except a new placement for brands to trial their existing TVC’s on.

 

Data Implications for Marketers in 2018

Four weeks after GDPR came into force many marketers and agencies are still scrambling to stay abreast of all the changes and implications. However GDPR was only the tip of the iceberg. There are other tectonic changes like Apple limiting Safari tracking and DoubleClick restricting visibility of DoubleClick ID that impact the established methods by which marketers use data for targeting and attribution. Here in Australia we already have strong privacy laws that uphold individuals privacy but this shouldn’t mean we can’t get on the front foot and address data privacy issues.

As marketers we can all agree that data improves our campaigns, but not at the cost of breaching personal privacy or exposing our businesses to legal censure by breaching laws. Too many headlines like ‘Data is the new oil’ and buzzwords like ‘personalisation’ and ‘data-driven marketing’ created an unregulated industry geared towards generating voluminous data that could be packaged as game-changing.

Issues like Cambridge Analytica have also heightened consumer concerns around how their data may be misused. In a recent survey by ADMA 59% of Australians responded that they are concerned about the issue of online privacy. But within these adversities Marketers must see both lessons as well as opportunities to take proactive measures to revamp their data strategies.

1. The rise of first-party audiences

GDPR has forced major technology companies to update their policies and will restrict the quantity and methods of using 3rd party data available to marketers. In addition, across the broader web with consumers increasingly deleting cookies and their browsing histories the reliability and freshness of 3rd party data is under question. For marketers this implies turning their focus to building First-party data lists that they can own and control. Some examples of first party audiences are your website visitors, users on email lists, CRM databases, mobile app users and those who’ve engaged with your content before.

What does this mean for businesses?

Performance from tactics such as Lookalike targeting and Retargeting/Upsell based on first-party audiences always outperform other data tactics. Building new audience lists must be a priority and agreements with last-mile stakeholders such as supermarkets, ticketing agents and car-dealers who directly interface with customers must include conditions to access customer data. First-party data allows marketers among other things to create lookalikes, personalize ads, segment customers based on lifetime value and exclude recent purchasers from new acquisition campaigns for efficiency. In short marketers would be better off doing direct data deals with relevant publishers, and then washing that data with their own for better targeting across the internet.

2. Audit data management processes

In modern organisations data is scattered across departments marketing, IT, sales, and may not be under the purview of a single owner. In the event of a data breach or consumer challenge the absence of a is could delay and stymie the organisations ability to respond quickly.

What does this mean for businesses?

Every organisation must have a designated Data Lead who is accountable for all aspects of data collection, exchange, storage and usage and is familiar with relevant laws.  Privacy policies should be looked at as an opportunity to have a dialogue on the company’s commitment to safeguarding user rights rather than a defensive mechanism to mitigate risk.

3. Question the quality of 3rd party data

Australia is a country of only 24 mn so available data resources are few and often the same datasets are extensively used across media publishers and clients. We are all  approached by data brokers offering unique data to target but then left to wonder about these are collected and how reliable they are. The problem is that in the quest to stay ahead of the competition most of the data used in marketing is from 3rd party brokers and is non opt-in and unregulated. This is an opportune inflection moment to pivot and work with fewer but higher-quality data partners.

What does this mean for businesses?

Ensure that all partners; technology or inventory suppliers who interact with your customers have robust data collection procedures and are compliant as per the relevant privacy laws in your market. Where data is being used for targeting consent must be implicit and for the purposes it is going to be used for.

4. Put the User first

Data privacy concerns arise when users feel that their data is on sold without their permission or used to manipulate their actions as with the use in the US Elections. The ADMA research also highlighted that 73% of Australians think that businesses generally benefit the most from data sharing – so much needs to be done to improve the perceived benefit of sharing data to consumers. As long as it is used in subtle ways to improve their online experience or retained only to deliver future rewards consumers will not mind.

What does this mean for businesses?

Build out user consumer journey maps and define how data can enhance the consumer experience and serve their need states at every stage through personalized messaging and better audience segmentation. Data should be an enabler and not an outcome. Also while personalisation sounds great in boardrooms remember no consumer actually asked to be followed around the web bombarded with creepy “i-know-what-you-want” ads. So be intuitive not obvious when using data to enhance your marketing.

 

A review of Australia’s new Digital Content Ratings

Australian advertisers and agencies can finally access daily audience data with the launch of Nielsen’s Digital Content Ratings this week. This is the final part of the IAB and Nielsen’s three-stage enhancement of digital measurement in Australia. Previously only monthly data was available, usually closer to the end of the subsequent month.

I believe the product is brilliant work from the IAB and Nielsen as it is world-leading and also timely given the recent debates around online transparency. Having poked around the interface since last week I can report that the interface works faster than the previous ones, and delivers on most of its promises. At the Melbourne launch event the Nielsen and IAB representatives were also able to articulate their future roadmap of enhancements really well.

While this is a good start I believe the online landscape has changed since Nielsen Online Ratings were first launched, and the requirements of digital audience measurement have to keep up with how digital media is being bought today. I have listed a few pros and cons below. The cons are not all specific to Nielsen DCR but for the entire spectrum of online measurement.

Pros:

First up the granularity in data is exceptional, and delivers the ability to interrogate website numbers down to demographics, device type and operating system to name a few. The availability of off-network numbers (on Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP) is important as consumers increasingly discover and consumer publisher content within these closed environments.

The immediacy of the data will enable campaign managers to adapt their activity in near real-time in response to audience trends. This is how it has been done on TV for years, and will now be available to digital planners. If a program does great numbers on a catch-up or online streaming service (think The HandMaid’s Tale) then a planner can see it within DCR and capitalize faster on this opportunity.

The daily as opposed to monthly data means shorter periods can be analysed. This will help with identifying spikes and advertising opportunities on relevant websites in the lead up to specific events like the AFL Grand Final, Federal Budget, Oscars etc. Day of week analysis can now be done to see trends in visitation. As an example do automotive and real-estate websites really receive more traffic in the lead up to the weekend.

Agencies will be able to use standardized metrics to compare across publishers both large and small. Previously some niche sites could only provide their own web analytics data. DCR will aid digital planners to evaluate smaller and niche sites, but also make decisions on which websites to initiate private marketplaces deals with.

Advertisers can plan and verify campaign performance against their demographic targets as the new daily ratings also complements the existing Digital Audience Ratings product. For advertisers who still use broad demographic targets the new metrics like Unique Audience Index and Online GRP(%) will be interesting.

Cons:

Rankings for individual websites and categories hold less relevance than before. In the early days of digital publishers mostly sold homepages, sponsorships and run of category blocks. Digital website ratings were thus important to identify the top 1 or 2 websites to advertise on. But today consumers visit a long tail of multiple sites and apps during the day advertisers and advertisers need to follow them across them all. Advertisers are interested in chasing audiences irrespective of where they are and not by masthead/context/vertical. So the shift to Programmatic buying means ratings are not a necessary starting input because audience personas, behaviors and data are more relevant.

The industry needs to move on from demographic targeting which seems arcane especially with the wealth of input signals and data available today. What is more relevant is finding prospects who are likely to buy your product i.e. have shown intent or consideration. I don’t care what the #1 website for People 18-24 is, but I want to know where people interested in a new hatchback are spending their time online. Smart digital planners value more highly the insights provided by partners like Eyeota, Signal, Quantium, Axciom etc.

The data will only become valuable if publishers become flexible with how they trade. Currently pricing is usually on a Cost per thousand and rates are set arbitrarily by each publisher. A shift to a simple Cost per Reach would be an improvement as advertisers want to reach new prospects not pay based on the number of banner impressions served. Similarly if a mobile homepage has more reach than a desktop then the pricing should reflect that but it is the other way around now. Differential pricing based on day-parts and day of week would also be a big change because this is already how auction-based advertisers and programmatic works.

Digital measurement systems need to evolve to become more consistent with the strategic planning process. If the comms planning output is a behavioral and attitudinal based persona from RoyMorgan then diluting it by using demographic inputs to identify relevant websites is a step backwards. If every website could be tagged up so a planner could identify the top websites by specific Helix segments or personas then that would be significant.

Digital needs to grow up in 2017

When TV ratings started to dip a few years ago the online industry were quick to trumpet their own growth in comparison. But in a reversal of fortune it is digital that is now under the scanner as critics have highlighted fundamental issues with measurement, viewability and fraud.

From just $3.13bn in 2012 to $6.8bn in 2016, digital media has been growing very quickly at an approximate annual growth of 20%. But just as the onset of adolescence is often accompanied by troubled times and accusations of misjudgment, digital has become a magnet for criticism from all quarters in trade media. Although I am a digital specialist I think the channel needs to stop projecting itself as the new kid on the playground, with the shinier shoes and gear and take a hard look at itself.

In my personal opinion there are six deliverables that are reasonable for a marketer to expect of an established media channel. The six are in no particular order: Audience reach, Costs transparency, skilled workforce, improvement in customer experience, marketing effectiveness and robust measurement. In this post I use these six parameters to assess the current challenges that digital as a channel faces and offer possible solutions for consideration.

  1. Delivery of audience reach:

“Is the advertising reaching my audience”

The challenge: Digital tactics like search and social reach more than 80% of the population but not all reach is good reach. This is especially true in digital where media is largely bought and sold in impressions. If an impression is non-viewable, fraudulent or appears on a brand-unsafe website the reach delivered is actually undesirable. Viewability in Australia stands at 49.3%, Ad blocking at 27% and ad fraud amounts to $120mn locally. If you were an advertiser you’d be understandably worried about the worth of your online investment.

The solution: All stakeholders in the digital ecosystem should agree to 3rd party and independent auditing measures. Associated technology and verification costs must be shared as in the long run viewable and verified impressions will lead to advertising reaching the most relevant consumers and better financial outcomes for all.

2. Transparency in costs:

“I want to know what I’m being charged for”

The challenge: The increasingly complex digital media ecosystem has simultaneously increased the cost of delivering online interactions (paid and owned) to consumers across the web. As a consequence apart from inventory costs there are now fees for data, technology, measurement, ad serving and campaign personnel that must be accounted for. With the rise in costs comes the danger of misappropriation and suspicion by marketers that they are being skimmed.

The solution: Media agencies should be proactive in disclosing the composition of their service fees, and any business relationships or investments in sub-contractors that they recommend to clients. On the buy side marketing bodies like the AANA should collaborate with the supplier side to prescribe guidelines that are fair and take cognizance of how digital actually works. Nothing will be gained by pushing suppliers into a race to the bottom.

3. Skilled workforce and education:

“How do we up-skill everyone in digital”

The challenge: Digital is a relatively new channel so there aren’t many experienced practitioners. I cringe when I read inaccurate claims and comparisons made by online publishers because it only exposes the naivety of the industry. You cannot compare a video view to average viewing time on TV or claim incremental reach using two separate measurement panels.

The solution: We need digital specialists to understand marketing and traditional media so they broaden their viewpoints. At the same time C-Level marketers and anyone with a traditional media background has to up-skill quickly because all media is soon going to be traded digitally. I’d like to see more digital leaders impart their time to organisations like N-Gen/MFA5+ and deliver guest lectures at educational institutions. For more on this refer to my older post about how to combat the digital skills shortage.

4. Improvement in customer experience:

“How can I transform my business digitally”

The challenge: The focus is always on media and brand websites but digital is much more than these two touch points. Increasingly all our go-to channels are digital with the lines blurring. Consumers don’t think of brand touch points as digital or traditional. They just want to solve a problem, take an action, get information etc. Apart from websites, bad ad experiences are equally disruptive with consumers citing annoying/intrusive ads (64%) as the top reason for using an ad blocker software.

The solution: Brands need to consider their consumers worlds through a 360 degree lens, and make every interaction simple. The focus should always be on leading the consumer quickly through the purchase funnel. Think Uber, Netflix, Apple, Google all brands with great UX that consumers keep coming back to. Beware of being sold technology solutions that market themselves as the panacea to all your problems. Map out your ideal digital experience workflow first and then tender out the project to find the best vendor to deliver your vision. Advertising formats that disrupt the online experience must be discontinued and the IAB’s L.E.A.N ads guidelines adhered to.

5. Robust measurement:

“Are we only counting what we can measure instead of measuring what counts”

The challenge: Until recently metrics from Google, Facebook and some other major publishers were not audited by the MRC. This is now changing and more 3rd party vendors are being accredited for independent measurement validation. The problem is that we get too many metrics for digital but most are meaningless and only befuddle those who receive them. There are also multiple vendors each with different counting approaches. Imagine if television had 4 accredited rating companies who calculated a TV rating point differently.

The solution: Media agencies and advertisers have to band together and use their collective investment might to demand auditing and validation. We need consistent definition of units like video views. Let’s bring in some rigor by mapping the role of channels and metrics to relevant stages in the consumer journey rather than looking at them in isolation.

6. Marketing effectiveness:

“Is my online media driving marketing ROI”

The challenge: Online specialists focus on media and operational metrics like clicks, impressions, views which are important for efficiency but not as important as metrics that actually matter to marketers. A good marketer cares only about metrics such as brand favorability, sales, profit or future sales indicators like net promoter score. Also in Australia only 4.9% of retail sales are done online so connecting online metrics to offline sales is an important requirement.

The solution: There is no holy grail or silver bullet for the above challenge, but astute marketers can implement low cost tactics to estimate the online to offline effect. Simple solutions like using online coupons (Facebook Offers) that can be redeemed offline and location data (beacons) to track offline visits from online ads can also be used effectively. Our team recently used the Google Adwords Store Visits feature to measure the impact of paid click ads on automotive dealer visits. In addition there are other options; short-term (brand uplift studies) and long-term (multi-touch attribution and econometrics) that should be invested in to provide indicative guidance for future investments.

In summary there must be acknowledgement that digital has issues and needs to address them quickly. But the way forward is not to cower down or lash out but to implement solutions proactively. The impetus must also come collectively (and proactively) from the constituents of the industry. It’s time for digital to display some grown up behavior.

Better online ad experiences hold the key to combat ad-blocking?

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Another week another report on the disastrous impact ad-blocking could spell for digital publishers future revenue. It appears that everyone is out there blaming ad blocking companies for this apocalypse or creative people for creating bad ads instead of taking a hard look at themselves. The simple fact is consumers have punished the industry for taking their attention for granted.

My personal view is that just as advertising is the price you pay for bad products, ad blocking is the price you pay for bad ads. Ad avoidance is not a new consumer behaviour – we’ve always tried to avoid advertisements (on TV) and had the option to vote with our remotes.

Yet Television has survived because you don’t see the same ads repeatedly in one viewing session, they are generally of a better quality and there’s a limit to the number of ads per break. I think the online industry ought to have shown similar restraint when the floodgates opened in the last decade and revenue started to flow into online media.

The online display model has an inherent flaw because CPM is the currency, which makes delivering impressions a priority. This pressure has led to bad practices like invasive ads, pop-unders, poor frequency capping, auto-play pre-rolls, pop-ups, overuse of bad re-targeting rules etc. that have driven customers to ad blockers.

On the other hand publishers like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn are thriving and not just because they can exert more control within their walled gardens. Their ads are standardized (no jumping pop-ups or jarring animations), fit seamlessly within the content stream and are innovative (Canvas, carousels) etc. Not surprisingly these are technology companies that do user experience well.

I agree that Adblocking is a serious issue – one that could kill off small independent publishers whose only income stream is advertising and maybe even bloggers who rely on Adsense revenue (Fark). That’s not good for content, writing skills and society in general. Also because ad-blockers are dumb and rely on filters-lists, they can inadvertently block content and less disruptive ads as well. It is also unfair that some ad-blocking companies run an ‘acceptable ads’ program and make money by charging publishers to be white-listed.

Publishers have hit back by restricting users with ad-blockers and in some cases demanding micro-payments to continue accessing content. I am personally skeptical that all of those ad block users are going to take the trouble to unblock sites when they could simply find the same news elsewhere or worse still find a way around the restrictions.

The initiative I am most positive about is from the IAB which has started its L.E.A.N.ads program to address ad blocking. Bad ads – and I mean the experience not just the design have put publishers in the predicament they are. While ad blocking primarily affects the sell-side i.e. publishers selling inventory, media agencies need to find solutions because we need strong publishers with quality content so we have great environments to place our clients ads.

I think as the ones who understand consumers best we need to get on the front foot with leading our clients and creative agencies on better creative. Better ads for me are those that are personalised with user information, optimised to the screen they are presented on and relevant to the contextual environment.

The solution is for all stakeholders to come together and develop a strategy that wins back the attention of online users. I’d like to see some consensus around how many and how those impressions are served on a page. Secondly let’s invite consumers to give the industry feedback and vote on existing formats by level of intrusiveness and usefulness.

This may result in fewer ads but more loyal and returning users who reward the best online experiences with their attention, thereby helping publishers secure advertising income and funding for content.

Marketing Technology – The big questions

In my first post on Marketing Technology a few weeks ago, I touched on the growing importance of this space and the building blocks while creating a tech stack.

Today I’d like to tackle three related questions I often find my clients on the marketing side challenged by.

  1. What marketing technology do I need?
  2. How do I choose marketing technology for my business?
  3. Who should be making these decisions, me or my agency?

The answer to the first question depends on the problem you’re trying to solve which will differ based on your core business challenges and your digital maturity. The crew over at Growthverse have produced a simple to understand visualisation that covers 800+ martech solutions, allowing you to choose by need area. Marketing technology covers many functional areas like Analytics, Paid Acquisition, Content Management and Data.

Which brings me to the second question, how do we go about choosing once we know the options. I’d like to advise caution first – many organisations look on new technology as a silver bullet to solve all their troubles. In reality marketing isn’t that complicated, but a poor understanding of customer journeys misleads marketers into finding quick fixes. As consumer confidence gets hit by world events and harsh economic realities and product parity grows, brands can only differentiate and win on Customer Experience. Technology and relevancy of creative enhance customer experiences but cannot substitute poor ones.

“You’ve got to start with the CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE and work back toward the technology” – Steve Jobs

So back to that second question, here are a few considerations while choosing marketing technology irrespective of category:

  1. Customer Experience – Will it deliver on my digital vision and the ideal digital customer experience I’ve drawn up. If you have neither of the above on paper kick yourself and stop wasting time evaluating technology. Technology is only an enabler, it cannot precede strategy. A clear Customer Experience map will define your priorities, the key digital touch-points and influential channels. This will in turn become the beacon that helps you define your needs.
  2. Future Roadmap – Ask prospective vendors for their product roadmap over the next 12 months. Platforms must evolve as consumer behavior and marketing evolves and the best ones constantly invest in R&D to do so.
  3. Transparency – This entails a clear understanding of all upfront and ongoing fees associated with use of the platform. In the current landscape technology platforms may be part-owned by media or advertising entities, who in some cases may be re-sellers making a commission on leads. You always want to know that you’re getting neutral advice that is in your best interest first.
  4. Scale – Is the platform scalable i.e. if your business expands can the technology still meet your expectations. As your marketing program matures you will find yourself entering new geographies and incorporating new channels. The ability of the platform to scale depends on whether it has secured partnerships with other vendors and anticipated its clients future requirements.
  5. Support – An obvious one but most challenges arise during and just after implementation which is when the need for troubleshooting support is crucial. Beyond this stage, marketing technology should always be self-serve so that your in-house or agency people can manage it themselves rather than rely on a remote team regularly. Beware of vendors offering managed services to get over the line – this should raise red flags about poor UX.
  6. Compatibility with existing technology – This is usually my bugbear. I hate it when platforms and technologies don’t play nice with each other across vendors. While there is merit in using a unified stack, sometimes the best ad-server, campaign management software and inventory provider for my needs, don’t belong to the same vendor. The technology just has to work without the end-user having to mediate and identify fixes themselves.
  7. Targeting – The role of martech is to target new prospects or existing customers at the moment of highest receptivity. Ensure your technology can do this. If its a DSP, can it buy into all the biggest ad exchanges or if its a CRM system can be segment your audience for tailored messaging. Marketing automation software must be able to personalise content and serve dynamic creative.

And finally to the third question – how do we do the actual evaluation. In my opinion, this should be entrusted to experts and always the people who are going to be regular end-users. Ensure your entrusted expert can produce an exhaustive list of evaluation criteria they followed before giving you a recommendation. Steer clear of anyone simply forwarding you the vendors sales collateral. Do your own research by referencing reports from Forrester and Gartner who produce evaluations in multiple categories. Over at websites like G2 Crowd and TrustRadius you can read independent reviews and comparisons by real users.

I hope these two posts have shed some light for those of you currently in charge of marketing team technology decisions. This space is only going to get more complex in the future and I look forward to engaging with others on this topic and discussing your own experiences.