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Martech: What businesses need to know

We’ve already covered fintech (opens in new tab), and now it’s time to have a look at another technology portmanteau: martech. Short for “marketing technology,” martech refers to innovative new approaches to campaigns and other marketing tactics, driven by software and hardware developments.

It is an area that is experiencing rapid growth, with worldwide martech spending expected to reach $32 billion by 2018, up from $22.6 billion in 2015. Because many of the tools behind the growth of martech are relatively new, such as customer relationship management software and big data analytics, they are generating both opportunities and challenges for many marketers. The test facing businesses is whether they can remain agile enough to harness these new martech solutions to gain a competitive edge.

Martech examples

1. Big data

Perhaps more than any other martech example, big data is changing the way that brands interact with their customers. The sheer volume and variety of data now available to marketers is greater than ever before and always on the rise. Whereas previously, marketers had to make do with POS transactions data and responses to direct marketing, they now have access to geolocation data, browsing history, social media interaction and many other datasets. This data will only be boosted by adoption of Internet of Things technologies. The issue that businesses must be aware of, is that big data does not necessarily mean better marketing.

Crucially, marketers must understand that the amount of data is not important, but the insights you can derive from it are. Big data lets businesses get a more rounded picture of who their customers are, where their interests lie and what products and services they may be interested in. Organisations can also get a better grip on which marketing channels are likely to prove most effective. Should a campaign use social media, TV, digital, radio, or a combination of all these mediums? The data on its own can't do that, in order to generate effective insights, businesses must invest in suitable analytics tools to help aggregate and analyse information, and in data science personnel to manage and interpret the results.

The human side of data analysis is sometimes neglected, but the most effective marketing teams recognise the importance of their data scientists when it comes to generating insights. With the Internet of Things and wearable technology predicted to cause another data explosion in the years to come, it is important that businesses have the martech tools and expertise required to harness the information at their disposal.

2. Customer relationship management (CRM)

Another major aspect of marketing technology is customer relationship management or CRM. Customer Relationship management software gives marketers a clear picture of each customer as an individual, rather than as just a faceless part of a homogeneous group. The CRM dashboard presents evidence of all previous interactions between the consumer and the brand, regardless of which medium it occurred over. Considering that businesses can have customers from all over the world, using a variety of contact methods, having an efficient CRM programme helps simplify the task facing marketers.

CRM can also be used to automate marketing tasks, particularly those that are repetitive and labour intensive. On a simplistic level, CRM can be used to send out marketing materials, such as a follow-up email, after a set period of time has passed following a customer’s registration. More advanced CRM tools can identify who is using your website or mobile app, before automatically sending them an email or in-app message, hopefully turning leads into sales. Other automated features look to streamline the amount of different communication methods being used today.

CRM can be used to respond to consumer interest instantly across the same medium, so if they used SMS to get in touch, they’ll receive a text back straight away. This lets marketers know a customer’s preferred medium and saves them time having to manually create follow-up material.

3. Augmented reality

Augmented reality is another innovative example of martech currently being embraced by businesses. Augmented reality, or AR, is when a digital feature is superimposed upon a real world image the Pokemon Go game being perhaps the best known example. While this has previously been considered something of a gimmick, improvements to smartphone technology have seen more and more businesses embrace augmented reality as a genuine marketing approach. More than a thousand brands have signed up to mobile AR application Blippar, for example, which overlays digital content onto physical objects.

In addition, a number of high-profile brands have used augmented reality for their own bespoke marketing campaigns. Ikea used a smartphone app to let consumers see how items of furniture would look in their home for example and Converse similarly enabled shoppers to see how shoes would look when worn, simply by pointing their smartphone at their feet. The potential applications for AR marketing are vast and it is likely that more campaigns will make use of this technology as it develops. It is key that businesses that do decide to adopt AR in their campaigns do not see it as a replacement for other forms of content. AR should be used to enhance existing marketing materials and add value to the experience, driving greater engagement with consumers.

Martech impacts

One of the most significant impacts of marketing technology is the way that it has enabled smaller businesses to compete with their larger rivals. Digital software, and marketing automation in particular, has meant that businesses do not need huge marketing departments in order to effectively engage with potential customers.

What’s more, cloud-based software, usually supplied as part of a subscription service, has meant that businesses can avoid prohibitively large upfront costs. Martech has also allowed businesses of all sizes to deliver a more consistent marketing performance, by enabling marketers to track individual consumers more easily, retaining a detailed record of the kinds of marketing approaches that are most likely to prove effective.

Future martech developments are likely to include the continued movement towards an omni-channel environment and the growing importance of integration as the amount of software packages being used by a single company increases.

There's plenty of advice on using the technology (opens in new tab), however, more than the systems themselves, the biggest challenge chief marketing officers will likely face is finding the right talent to use martech tools effectively in order to deliver improved business results.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Bloomua

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.