Martech in 2023 will be the Year of 4PO (Part 11)

Omnichannel

Omnichannel is the future of marketing. Mckinsey offers an explainer:

The prefix “omni” means “all,” and “channel” is a reference to the many ways customers might interact with a company—in physical stores, by surfing the web, on social media, and in emails, apps, SMS, and other digital spaces. And this omnichannel approach can be a powerful way to meet your customers where they are, providing them good service in line with their preferences and needs. (Note that, in this article, we use the terms “customers,” “consumers,” and “shoppers” interchangeably in referring to omnichannel marketing in both B2B and B2C contexts.)

More and more, customers move across all channels—in person, online, and beyond—to get what they want. But not every customer is looking for the same thing, and omnichannel marketing acknowledges that. Some people want more services for certain transactions; others prefer low-touch, 24/7 interactions. Effective omnichannel marketing, then, happens when companies provide a set of seamlessly integrated channels, catering to customer preferences, and steer them to the most efficient solutions.

So why is omnichannel marketing important? Research on the omnichannel experience shows more than half of B2C customers engage with three to five channels each time they make a purchase or resolve a request. And the average customer looking to make a single reservation for accommodations (like a hotel room) online switched nearly six times between websites and mobile channels. If these customers encounter inconsistent information or can’t get what they need, they may lose interest in a brand’s products or services.

And this can translate into business outcomes. Omnichannel customers shop 1.7 times more than shoppers who use a single channel. They also spend more.

Here is a graphic from Netcore which explains the shift from multi-channel to omnichannel:

A Netcore explainer shows the differences between multi-channel, cross-channel and omnichannel marketing:

From Netcore: “Omnichannel marketing creates the brand’s presence across all channels–seamlessly tied to show the same or similar products across channels. With each interaction, the user proceeds towards a specific goal via your defined user flow. This is a compelling way to nurture leads across different channels and create an excellent customer experience instead of showing the same advertisement via different channels and leaving it to the users to define their journey. Omnichannel marketing solutions collect and process customer data from various channels allowing the brand to re-target customers with relevant, engaging, and contextual content. This kind of content builds a strong personal relationship with the prospects and eventually increases customer loyalty.”

Among the new channels which will come to the fore in 2023 are Email 2.0 and WhatsApp. Both can serve as alternatives to the brand’s website and app, and bring the conversion funnel closer to the user. For the marketer, the advantage of these two push channels is that marketers can now get greater control on initiating customer journeys in an extremely customer-friendly way.

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Omnichannel, combined with profitability, personalisation, predictions and progency, completes the 4PO framework – giving marketers the right saber to win the Customer Wars!

As an aside, here is my take on new titles for the Star Wars movies to bring to life the marketer’s new universe:

  • The Phantom AdWaste Menace
  • Attack of the Clones Martech
  • Revenge of the Sith Big Adtech
  • A New Hope Stack
  • The Empire Marketer Strikes Back
  • Return of the Jedi Profits
  • The Force Loyalty Awakens
  • The Last Jedi Marketer
  • The Rise of Skywalker Profipoly

May the Force Customer (always) be with you!

Martech in 2023 will be the Year of 4PO (Part 10)

Progency

Even as AI transforms marketing and martech products become even more all-encompassing, the need for humans will not go away. Professionals will augment the power Martech 2.0 stacks bring to the table. This will require a new generation agency – what I have termed as “Progency” (product-led agency). As I wrote in Progency for Martech: The Missing Link:

This product-led agency will combine content and creative skill sets with number-crunching and software capabilities to build on top of a proprietary full-stack martech platform to deliver the outcomes marketers want with a performance (success-based) model. The progency will help marketing teams outsource the outcomes they want – just like is being done with adtech agencies that generate leads, app installs or new customers and are paid based on results.

The progency will be different because for the first time an agency will build solutions on top of its own product. In the past, agencies have not focused on having their own internal products. Adtech agencies have used products provided by Google and Facebook, and then overlaid their creative and analytical skills to deliver results. The progency will be tech-first, owning a martech platform. Ownership is important because only the developers will fully understand the power of what their platform is capable of. This is what will provide a sustainable competitive advantage to the progency.

… The progency can be seen as the services arm of the martech companies. But it is not a classical people-led services business. The progency is actually a very scalable tech powerhouse with the full stack martech platform as the machine. Brands can either buy the machine itself (in effect, rent a version of it, since it’s all delivered from the cloud) or hire the machine developer to deliver the outcomes.

… Its pitch is simple: we will deliver the outcomes you need, we will get the job done for you. We have the machine and the operators. No one knows the machine better than we do. We constantly make the machine better. You don’t need to worry how it works. (No marketer knows how the targeting machines of Google and Facebook work.) You can of course buy the drill, but we are here to give you the hole that you really desire. You pay based on the performance, so we are on the same side.

What TCS, Infosys, Wipro and other IT services companies did for global customers with their outsourcing people-led solutions, the progency can do in marketing – but with one big difference. The Indian IT services firms did not build their own products and IP (with some exceptions like Finacle from Infosys). The progency will be a product-first company – building on a modern Martech 2.0 stack to deliver performance outcomes in marketing by leveraging the skills of professionals who know how to make the best use of the machine (the tech stack and utilities). With an explosion of data and AI models, marketing will need expertise of a much higher level – with the prize being a 50% reduction in AdWaste and a path to sustainable profitable growth.

India can be the progency operator for the world. There are many India-domiciled martech companies, with Netcore being one of them. There are very few martech services companies – the focus is almost entirely on adtech given the huge spends. But as MSR (martech spend ratio) increases, this will start changing and the demand for services will rise. A progency with its own product can deliver efficiencies and margins like software product companies.

2023 will see the rise of the first progency entities. The complexity of martech will be absorbed in the combination of product and professional services to create a unique model that will transform marketing’s measurability and efficiency in the future by making it performance-based (like in adtech). The future of marketing is about one marketer, one stack and one progency.

Martech in 2023 will be the Year of 4PO (Part 9)

Predictions

2022 has been the year AI came to the fore. In an article entitled “From Prediction to Transformation” in Harvard Business Review, Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarb write:

In some cases, AI simply concentrates decision-making without changing who has control. Look at the hiring process, which in most large organizations is managed by the human resources department. Traditionally, hiring has involved a great many HR people who make a lot of small decisions, especially about screening applicants, which can require teams of people looking through hundreds of résumés in order to identify promising candidates to interview. Thanks to AI, one HR executive can decide what criteria to use to decide who gets an interview. The basic process and the key decision-maker remain the same, but fewer people are needed.

In other cases, AI radically centralizes decision-making, completely changing how and where it happens. Credit card verification is a case in point. Before the rollout of connected devices that automatically validate cards, merchants would make their own judgments about whether to accept someone’s card. They could reject it if they suspected fraud—for instance, if someone’s signature didn’t match the one on the card or a customer didn’t have supporting ID. And they could readily accept cards from regular customers. But systems driven first by crude database checks and now by AI prediction have automated the process. Credit card purchases are approved according to rules set by a small group of people, most likely a committee, which creates the risk parameters embedded in the programs that run verification devices.

In marketing, AI has already started having an impact – predicting segments to send campaigns, predicting churn, predicting next best actions for customers, helping with subject line optimization and send-time optimisation (for emails). Generative AI is already helping marketers create content and images.

So far, marketers have worked largely on first-party data. With zero-party data, the data models can get even stronger, and help marketers address the most important problem of the next best action for customers. We are delighted when we get an email recommendation or see a product that preempts and piques our interest – the next book to buy, the next web series to watch, the next dress to check out, the next destination to vacation in. Marketers have so far relied on signals from user actions (search terms, links clicked). Once this can be augmented by zero-party data where customers can tell them what they are looking for in natural language or even interactively via a chatbot conversation, the accuracy of predictions can be multiplied – thus creating more transactions and loyalty.

In 2022, we have seen what GPT3 can do. Rob Toews outlines in Forbes what its successor will be capable of: “It is possible that GPT-4 will be multimodal: that is, that it will be able to work with images, videos and other data modalities in addition to text. This would mean, for example, that it could take a text prompt as input and produce an image (like DALL-E does); or take a video as input and answer questions about it via text. A multimodal GPT-4 would be a bombshell. More likely, however, GPT-4 will be a text-only model (like the previous GPT models) whose performance on language tasks will redefine the state of the art. What will this look like, specifically? Two language areas in which GPT-4 may demonstrate astonishing leaps in performance are memory (the ability to retain and refer back to information from previous conversations) and summarization (the ability to distill a large body of text to its essential elements).”

Predictions follow naturally from implementing a Martech 2.0 unified stack and aggregating zero- and first-party data in a single customer data platform. Think of the memorable experiences we have had where an intelligent salesperson in a store guides us to exactly the product we want. Tomorrow’s AI-powered virtual agents will have a “digital twin” for each of us, and software agents will engage us in conversation, predict our next actions, and end us just-in-time alerts. Powered by rapidly improving AI engines, 2023 will be the year this new customer-centric world will start coming to life all around us.

Martech in 2023 will be the Year of 4PO (Part 8)

Personalisation – 2

Zero-party data can improve personalisation which first-party data simply cannot.

Tim Ringel (Clickz): “Zero-party data is information willingly or even proactively shared by consumers with the brand. It might be in the form of surveys, loyalty programs, and preferences. They share it because they perceive value in that sharing… With zero-party data, marketers can now get consumers’ explicit consent to use their data and continue to create individualized experiences without sacrificing privacy. This will build a stronger long-term stronger relationship with consumers. But only if you give them a reason to consent… Once marketers can provide a solid incentive for consumers to willingly share their data, consumers will regain trust and reclaim ownership of their experiences. If you have consistent customers who enjoy your offerings, they are more likely to share their information. Moreover, they’re also more likely to be ambassadors of your brand.”

Zack Hamilton (Fast Company): “Customer-permissioned zero-party data is the catalyst to balancing data acquisition needs. It will also meet the privacy and compliance demands. This new strategy will require organizations to elevate data as an experience. New stakeholders have to get engaged. Cross-functional relationships between marketing, data science, legal, privacy, and compliance will become critical… Zero-party data will enable brands to increase customer trust and loyalty. Hyper-personalization will have positive business impact, including reducing customer acquisition costs (CAC) and increasing average order values (AOV) and customer lifetime value (CLTV).”

Vlad Gozman (Forbes): One of the key benefits of zero-party data is that it’s more trustworthy than third-party data. Because customers share it willingly and know that it’s being used by the brand, they’re more likely to trust the brand with their personal information. Another benefit of zero-party data is that it’s more accurate. Because customers supply it directly, there’s less opportunity for errors or inaccuracies. And finally, zero-party data is more engaging. Brands that use it can create more personalized customer experiences, which leads to higher engagement rates and longer customer lifespans. As consumers become increasingly privacy-aware, brands will need to rely more on zero-party data to create trusted, personalized relationships with their customers. Further, Apple’s move to block cross-app tracking and the trend of browsers toward tracking prevention may make traditional tracking models obsolete.”

The key to unlocking personalisation powered by zero-party data is by leveraging E2L2 (Email 2.0 and Loyalty 2.0). Email 2.0 enables interactivity and Loyalty 2.0 adds micro-incentives (Atomic Rewards) for actions. As I wrote in Loyalty 2.0: How Brands can Tokenise Customer Attention and Data: “Every customer is different. While segmentation is better than mass communication, what’s even better is hyper-personalisation. For this, brands need to aggregate data and then use AI-ML to discern patterns to recommend the next best action to customers. Data today is collected from actions done by customers on the brand’s communications (push messages) and properties (website and app). A trick that marketers have missed is the simplest one: asking customers directly. To make the collection of zero-party data (data volunteered by customers), two building blocks are needed: a hotline to ensure customers are paying attention and not ignoring incoming brand messages, and incentivises which reward them for their data. Data-driven thus means incentive-driven, asking the user to self-reveal both because subsequent interactions will become more targeted and because of the rewards earned in return…While [marketers] can decode actions of individual customers on the website and app, the better approach is to simply ask customers and incentivise their actions (in this case, the data being provided voluntarily). How many brands ask us? How many brands offer us incentives for giving information about ourselves? In this case, the additional benefit is that we will also benefit from the personalisation in the offers that we receive. We want to be shown opportunities that interest us, that speak to us. Revealing ourselves is both an opportunity to earn points and to ensure future communications are targeted for our particular tastes.”

2023 will be the year when personalisation fulfils its true promise and potential – powered by zero-party data collection in interactive and incentivised emails.

Martech in 2023 will be the Year of 4PO (Part 7)

Personalisation – 1

As customers, we love content and experiences curated just for us.  And yet, there is a big gap in what brands offer. What’s missing is the data and analytics which are at the heart of crafting unique experiences for every customer.

Brian Carlson (CDP.com): “Data-driven marketers will embrace data and analytics as a foundational step to identify opportunities and create operational efficiencies. They examine the full customer lifecycle, focusing on areas where the most value is found. Data-driven marketers also leverage customer segments and microsegments, and will factor in data like behavioral, transactional, and engagement trends into their strategy… Personalization-ready marketers will invest in technology solutions that have activation capabilities and advanced analytics. Data-driven marketers should plan to develop scalable content and AI-driven functionality so they can respond to customers’ needs in real time.”

Blake Morgan (Forbes): “The shopping experience of the future will be personalized and technology-driven. Customers will be able to see items instantly, try them on and test them virtually, and have them customized to their exact preferences. The shopping experience will seamlessly move between the physical and digital worlds to give customers exactly what they want when they want it… Technology will be everywhere and make it possible for companies to automate the mundane parts of customer experience while also increasing and scaling their personalization efforts. It will be a fine balance between the two sides: customers want technology to make the experience smoother and more convenient, but they also want personalization. Companies will have to find the balance between automating and innovating with technology like AI, VR and connected IoT devices while also adding a human touch.”

Esat Artug (Ninetailed): “Personalized experiences are becoming an important part of the customer journey in this fast-paced change. Brands that successfully meet personalization demands will be handsomely rewarded with increased loyalty and greater revenue in the years ahead. Because the more consumers interact with a company in a more personalized way, the more likely they are to buy from that company again…Investing in customer data and analytics foundations will give businesses the ability to collect, cleanse, and unify data from various sources. This will provide a complete view of the customer journey, which is essential for personalization. Additionally, businesses need to be able to quickly process this data and create actionable insights in order to make real-time decisions. Building up agile capabilities will allow businesses to move quickly and efficiently to implement these decisions.”

Data is central to personalisation. While much of the focus has been on what marketers can glean about their customers using first-party data, I think 2023 will herald a big shift towards zero-party data.

Martech in 2023 will be the Year of 4PO (Part 6)

Profitability

With easy financing drying, profitability is the key driver for businesses. Marketers have so far not been burdened with driving profitable growth – their task has been to grow the topline. Most have taken the easy path of pouring money on new customer acquisition via Big Adtech. As consumer spending slows in 2023 due to the twin effects of rising inflation and interest rates, CEOs will expect their CMOs to think and act like CPOs (chief profitability officers). For this, marketers cannot just optimise ad spending or try and improve customer experience on the brand’s owned properties (website and app); they will need to look at the elephant room in the room – the 50% AdWaste in their marketing budgets which is the root cause of diminished profitability or rising losses.

AdWaste is happening on account of wrong acquisition and reacquisition. The former is about paying Big Adtech for a user who does not transact or uninstalls the app within days; the latter is about paying Big Adtech for remarketing to an existing customer who has become inactive and thus not responding to the brand’s communications. The top imperative for marketers in 2023 will be to identify this wasted spending and eliminate it – without impacting revenue growth.

Marketers need to begin by answering two questions:

MSR today for most brands is 10-15%. Earned Growth is probably negative. The objective needs to be to get both to 50% or higher. (Sidenote: for a discussion on Earned Growth, see Net Promoter 3.0.) Think of the sum of MSR and EG as the FAB (Free Ad Budgets) Score. The path to profitability needs a FAB Score of 100 or more. There are two tracks marketers need to push profitability: build hotlines using Email 2.0 and Loyalty 2.0, and improve experiences on their digital properties with a unified Martech 2.0 stack and create differentiation for Best customers with Velvet Rope Marketing. [For a longer discussion, see Digital Marketing and its Discontents and Disruptions.)  As I wrote in the essay: “Start by addressing the crux of the brand-customer relationship with Email 2.0 hotlines and move the conversion ever closer to customers. Loyalty 2.0 gamification tokens give marketers the ability to engineer shifts in user behaviour by redirecting the AdWaste spending towards Atomic Rewards. Martech 2.0’s unified stack ensures that the incoming traffic to the brand’s properties has a personalised experience high on relevance. A focus on Best Customers (for acquisition and retention) reduces AdWaste and increases revenues. Together, these innovations can double brand profits without an increase in marketing expenses.”

For many B2C/D2C brands, profitability had become an afterthought. This will change in 2023 with pressures from investors and consumers. The solution lies in looking onward to the AdWaste and then using obliquity to solve the problem by focusing not just at the extreme ends (ad spending optimisation and martech consolidation) but in the middle – converting 1-way push channels into 2-way hotlines. An E2L2 (Email 2.0 and Loyalty 2.0) implementation is the first step in the journey towards exponential forever profitable growth.

Martech in 2023 will be the Year of 4PO (Part 5)

My Writings

Solving the $200 Billion AdWaste Problem: “Brands spend $400 billion a year on digital advertising. Most of this is spent on new customer acquisition. The biggest beneficiaries of the advertising spend are the Big AdTech firms like Google and Meta, and increasingly Amazon and Tiktok. Brands are in a competitive race to acquire new customers and Big AdTech acts as the gatekeepers to digital customers. Attention is auctioned as clicks cost increasingly more each year. For many brands, the CAC (customer acquisition cost) has been rising 40-50% annually. And yet, brands feel they have little or no choice but to continue spending because they have few alternatives to reach out to new digital customers. The result: brand profits are taking a hit, and Big AdTech amasses even more power with their profits…For martech companies, the $200 billion AdWaste can become the new pool of money which multiplies their TAM (total addressable market). Today, most martech companies play in the 10% spending pool (about $50 billion). Newer solutions can substantially expand the available market. But to do this, it is not about adding new features to the martech stack but about taking a very different approach with a fundamentally new insight: attention and data are upstream of transactions, and “Atomic Rewards” (micro-incentives) can help marketers get more attention and data. In other words, persuade marketers to pay their existing customers rather than Big AdTech.”

Digital Marketing and its Discontents and Disruptions: “Digital Marketing too is facing threats from two sides: new customer acquisition and existing customer retention. CAC (customer acquisition cost) has been rising rapidly while competition for a brand’s existing customers combined with attention recession is forcing marketers to offer discounts and coupons to lure them back. Both are hurting profitability and creating angst amongst business leaders: how to ensure continuing growth amidst these twin challenges of increasing costs and decreasing loyalty? … Digital marketing needs a disruption…This is marketing’s future. Earned Growth (a metric based on revenue growth from existing customers and new customers coming in via referrals) should be the North Star Metric for marketers. Email 2.0, Loyalty 2.0, Martech and Velvet Rope Marketing 2.0 are the four horsemen to lead marketers into this new world of exponential forever profitable growth.”

Even as marketers need to shift spending from adtech to martech, they also need to migrate from Martech 1.0 and Martech 2.0. Here is a chart that outlines the transition they need to do:

It is with this background that I think of 4PO – profitability, personalisation, predictions, progency and omnichannel – as the defining trend for martech in 2023. Profitability can only come about with the elimination of AdWaste, personalisation needs data, predictions will be driven by AI, progency combines product with agency-like services, and omnichannel is the hallmark of today’s customer.

Martech in 2023 will be the Year of 4PO (Part 4)

Others

The Future of Commerce lists the 5 key marketing trends for 2023:

  1. Hard times will mean hard facts for marketers
  2. Customer obsession will prove the winning formula
  3. Focus on quality data for customer personalization
  4. Finding the right channel mix
  5. Rethinking the martech stack

TechFunnel has 10 martech trends going into 2023:

  1. The rise of zero-party data gathering
  2. The need to become video-first
  3. SSP and DSP (finally) coming together
  4. No-code as the go-to for digital marketing
  5. Holographic ads: the meeting of real with virtual
  6. Multilingual marketing by design
  7. App push notifications as a high-ROI conversion driver
  8. The return of no-visual audio
  9. Age of the “genuinfluencer”
  10. The arrival of generation Alpha

This is McGaw’s list of trends:

  1. The First-Party Data Revolution Continues
  2. The Rise of the Self-Service Buyer
  3. Rethink Marketing Attribution and Budgets
  4. Flexible Tech Stacks with Trimmed Walled Gardens
  5. The Convergence of Marketing, Sales, and Product Teams

Luma’s State of Digital Marketing 2022 writes: “First and foremost is that enterprises are focusing on first party data: capturing, managing and executing on their own data. Solutions such as CDPs, data clean rooms, and new identifiers and identity solutions have grown significantly. On the advertising side, we’ve seen an explosion of commerce media plus a reemergence of contextual advertising. An area that we’ve always felt has been under-invested is creative tech, and we are now seeing more interest in these solutions. Finally, the industry is moving to cohort-based targeting vs. one to one with solutions like Google’s Privacy Sandbox. The biggest challenge with the focus on first party data is that its a much smaller data set creating scaled addressability concerns.”

Salesforce’s State of Marketing provides a summary of its key findings:

Shopify’s Commerce Trends 2023 had this point on data:

One key point highlighted in Coeffcient Capital’s Consumer Trends 2023 report is the rising customer acquisition costs.

There is an expectation of a consumer spending slowdown in 2023 which in turn will impact digital advertising and marketing spends. Dentsu’s 2023 Global Ad Spend Forecasts writes: “While ad spend is still rising, the expected total ad spend for 2022 has been downgraded. Having already seen worse than expected results from global media giants like Alphabet, Meta, Spotify and Snap, the industry expects this trend to continue into 2023. However, the picture is not a clear case of ad spend falling everywhere. Some platforms like TikTok are growing in response to continued growth in usership and the comparatively new category Retail Media – ads within commerce platforms like Amazon – are also growing.”

Martech in 2023 will be the Year of 4PO (Part 3)

Gartner

The complexity of martech solutions, the need for driving clear business outcomes, and the desire for integration has also been highlighted by Gartner in its 2022 Marketing Technology Survey in these three charts:

While some of the points mentioned by Scott Brinker and Gartner apply to B2B companies, the situation is not very different for B2C companies where the same “martech cancel culture” is rising thanks to the bloat of tools that marketers have to deal with now.

Martech in 2023 will be the Year of 4PO (Part 2)

Scott Brinker

Scott Brinker has been one of martech’s earliest evangelists. I was introduced to the term “martech” in May 2014 by my colleague, Veer. We attended the first Martech conference hosted by Scott Brinker in Boston. Upon our return, we began Netcore’s journey into the world of martech, to complement its email and SMS businesses. In a recent interview, Scott Brinker spoke about the state of martech today:

Consolidation has defied the martech stack for a long time. It feels like we’re finally at a point where a variety of motivations are leading people to start to think about rationalising this. That’s why I think we’re starting to see a martech ‘cancel culture’ out there now.

…For a while, martech stacks were definitely getting out of control. It wouldn’t have been unusual to go into a company and find 60 apps in the stack. So yes, part of this consolidation or rationalisation is driven by people needing to simplify operations.

Even if they cut their apps in half, you still end up with a company of a decent size, such as mid-market and up, where it’s very unlikely just one product is doing everything for them. They are going to have multiple products and other elements across the business, such as the data layer, they’re going to need to connect to. That’s where we’re seeing that integration discussion: Consolidate down to what are the essential capabilities we need, eliminate some redundancy, but then with the things that remain, really make sure the choices and investments are going to integrate. How well they integrate is now a first-class consideration in that buying criteria.

…[Martech’s] always been 10 per cent about the tech, 90 per cent about people, training, the organisation and strategy. That stuff is hard and doesn’t change quickly. Many folks bought a bunch of tech and into its promise. Yet if you don’t have enough in the way of developing org capital to harness it, you’re just going to be able to tap into it well. The martech in theory could do these amazing things, but if I don’t have the people to orchestrate what we do with it, why am I paying for it at this point?

A slide from a presentation by Scott Brinker highlights the shift in Martech through the years:

Scott Brinker wrote about convergence and consolidation: “This 2nd Age of Martech is bringing significant improvements to marketing technology and operations on all three of these dimensions — commercial software, professional services, and custom software. While massive consolidation in the martech landscape has not yet materialized — and given current software dynamics in the cloud, it seems unlikely to shrink to a handful of vendors in this decade — we are seeing convergence in this 2nd Age of Martech. The industry is converging around platform ecosystems, where the lines between services and software and between custom and commercial are blurring into the cloud. This convergence is much more transformative than consolidation ever could be.”