From martech silos to an omnichannel stack

For the past decade, most enterprises have focused on scaling and modernizing their martech and digital experience (DX) stacks, pushing ever-richer content and experiences through web content management (WCM) systems, marketing automation/ESP platforms, and CRM environments, among others. This made sense for improving digital customer engagement in those platforms, but also led to serious challenges that now need attention.

When you apply personalization to your website, and customize media assets for social networks, and then deliver special offers via email, you’re effectively customizing experiences within each channel, but potentially confusing your customers. On the surface, it appears like you’re engaging smarter, but in practice, your just creating isolated silos of customer engagement.

The result is that customers engage with you differently across channels, at a time when brands like Netflix and Amazon have trained them to expect a more coherent, omnichannel experience.

What’s a martech leader to do? Clearly it starts by taking a more customer-centric approach, perhaps involving voice-of-the-customer initiatives and more attention paid to true customer analytics. But you need to evolve your tech stack as well. Here is how stack owners can adjust.

From top-heavy to bottom-heavy

Your investments in WCM, marketing automation and social engagement technologies were not made in vain. But now it’s time to take a more enterprise-wide approach that will redirect investments lower in your stack. Going forward it will matter less what you do within channels and more what you do across channels.

To do that, you’re going to need to rethink your stack and move from martech to enterprise-wide CX.

Real Story Group’s Omnichannel Stack Reference Model.  Note especially the critical services in the lower “Enterprise Foundation” layer.

In particular, you’ll want to explore four key solutions for supporting the enterprise-wide customer experience. Critically, each of these platforms lives underneath your existing customer engagement solutions and ideally will serve them all independently.

Customer Data Platforms (CDPs), a single, unified datamart of extended attributes and segments that marketing and engagement platforms need to engage intelligently with individual prospects and customers
Journey Orchestration Engines (JOEs), to serve as a kind of traffic management system, gathering information on real customer journeys across enterprise touchpoints, and directing how and where they should be treated going forward – regardless of channel
Omnichannel Content Platforms, to support a single source of the truth for re-usable content that you can confidently and consistently syndicate across all your customer and prospect touchpoints
Omnichannel Operations Hubs, to support internal collaboration across business units, creating the right assets, coordinating the right campaigns, and measuring outcomes across channels

Key technology buyer considerations

Based on my company’s experience working with large enterprises using these platforms, we can generalize about three key considerations for technology customers.

1. These are highly fragmented marketplaces

If your enterprise is exploring omnichannel tools to deploy enterprise-wide, the good news is that you’ll encounter almost an embarrassment of supplier choices. The bad news is that your team may struggle to differentiate among them — though once you get beneath the covers, you’ll see stark contrasts in terms of architectures, performance levels, use-case emphasis, pricing models and geographic footprint.

The Customer Data Platform Market is highly fragmented…and still growing.

How’s a customer to choose? We always recommend taking a business-focused, use case-based approach. Across nine archetypal CDP use cases, the typical vendor only excels at three or four, so prioritization becomes extremely important here.

Like most marketplaces, you have a choice between large CX and marketing cloud suppliers, and a number of (typically newer, more focused, but smaller) pure-play vendors. Which brings me to…

2. You shouldn’t default to old-line suite vendors

Chances are, your enterprise already licenses some technology from at least one of the big martech “suite” vendors: Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce, IBM (albeit selling these tools to HCL and Centerbridge).

These vendors focus very much on customer-facing engagement systems and have invested heavily in ramping up those toolsets. Unfortunately, they have arrived somewhat late to the party in terms of providing lower-level omnichannel capabilities, which arguably would erode the value of some of their beefy (but silo-bound) engagement platforms. So my advice to you: don’t default to martech suite vendors as you look to develop enterprise-wide services. In fact, consider this an opportunity to reduce your level of investment in these platforms as you build services lower in your stack.

3. Carefully create boundaries and test before you buy

Vendors always push boundaries with their tools – e.g., building a CDP into a JOE, or saying that their WCM platform is really an omnichannel content platform (hint: it’s not). To some extent vendors are following desires among customers for more bundled services. But I think you should resist that temptation.

The smart omnichannel stack owner will carefully create service boundaries to avoid unnecessary overlaps and attendant employee and customer confusion. Focus on what a vendor does really well, not what they say they can do in aggregate. The best way to discover the truth is to test thoroughly before you buy any technology.

From here to there

I don’t know any firm that has yet built a true omnichannel stack….yet. The key thing is to make a plan and start transitioning. Hopefully you find the reference model diagram useful to your enterprise, but of course, the transition from martech to CX is more than just a technical challenge. RSG’s Stack Leadership Council is evolving some approaches to governance and operations in this new world. I look forward to sharing those lessons.

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