Recently we talked about why we think marketing techology matters. But what does everyone else think?

DataXu has a lot of insights into that question, having recently published a detailed report Modernizing The Mix: Transforming Marketing Through Technology And Analytics. It surveyed 532 marketers across the globe about the state of marketing technology, and the results are illuminating. Let’s take a look at some of the findings and what they mean:

Lesson #1: You’ve gotta learn how to play the martech game…

78% of marketers in the U.S., 63% of marketers in Europe, and 68% of marketers globally say understanding marketing technology is an “increasingly important skill” for senior marketers. Those are significant figures any way you cut it, showing that martech will only become more prominent in the coming years.

Scott Brinker from chiefmartec, furthermore, shrewdly points out that we’re talking about senior marketers here. This “techy stuff,” he writes, isn’t something that marketing executives can avoid learning and leave for more technically-minded staffers — they’ll have to dive right into the nitty-gritty. And Brinker adds that many marketing executives he’s interviewed can discuss martech with authority. Martech represents the shifting wave of gauging customer experiences, and marketers of all stripes will need to display intimacy with it to succeed.

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Lesson #2: … but creativity still rules

Understanding marketing technology was important to marketers, but there was one thing that was even more important: creativity. This won narrowly, with 79% of U.S. marketers, 69% of European marketers, and 72% of marketers globally giving it the nod.

We know martech is powerful, and we know it can give us deep insights into the behavior of our audiences. But marketing is still an endeavor that requires emotional resonance, that tough-to-define quality that puts our brands on the map, gets our customers excited and drives sales. In short, marketing has to connect with real human beings. That’s really the core of marketing, and this won’t be changing anytime soon.

Lesson #3: Consumer behavior is getting tougher to pin down. Martech can help

It can be hard to retain consumers’ attention these days. A constellation of websites, social media services, and media compete for consumer affection, and audiences are often comfortable navigating cross-channel. Younger generations glide across social media services but also across devices (Gen Z is comfortable using up to five screens simultaneously).

It goes without saying, then, that consumer behavior can be complicated and tough to pin down. Martech is the key to getting as close to the truth as possible.
To that end, the majority of marketers tend to use martech in these three areas:

  • Social media management: 71% U.S., 56% Europe, 70% globally
  • Email marketing: 71% U.S., 55% Europe, 60% globally
  • Digital advertising (display, mobile, social media, video, etc.): 65% U.S., 52% Europe, 56% globally

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As DataXu mentions, there has been an explosion of paid, owned, and earned content on the web. Specialized marketing technology, meanwhile, can help marketers distribute and improve their content in an organized fashion.

Lesson #4: Marketers can feel frazzled by all of the technology out there

When asked what most threatened the success of their marketing teams, 23% of global marketers reported “being stretched too thin due to working with and managing too many vendors.” Going hand-in-hand with this could be the fact that 59% of marketers say they don’t get the most out of the martech they have.

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Marketing teams may be feeling frazzled because they’re dealing not only with more tools but also increased complexity across the solutions they employ. One way to combat this complexity, according to DataXu, is to make use of best-of-breed point solutions. For example, you might have an unwieldy piece of technology that attacks multiple problems inefficiently; instead, you could pick a solution that solves one problem and does so very, very well. If you pursue best-of-breed point solutions, make sure to integrate them fluidly with your marketing stack and ensure they fit with your overall marketing picture.

Furthermore, consider whether every tool in your marketing stack is delivering efficient value. According to McKesson’s Rohit Prabhakar, many marketers can become so enthralled with the technology at their disposal that they fail to squeeze maximum results from it. In the case of martech overload, it may be beneficial to pare your marketing stack to only the essentials. According to Prabhakar, most companies only need martech in three categories: tools to gather data on customers, delivery mechanisms for content tailored to customers, and A/B testing tools.

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Lesson #5: Analytics will be the difference maker going forward

Marketing pros know that marketing works — that’s why we do it! But what works best? Check out these stats:

  • 21% of marketers globally say that what most threatens the success of their marketing teams is “poor visibility into metrics” on whether marketing efforts are working.
  • 12% of global marketers say the biggest threat is “proving that one channel works better than another channel.”
  • 74% of all marketers surveyed say their most difficult marketing challenge is “quantifying the effect that marketing efforts have on new sales revenue, or creating/quantifying the most efficient cross-channel mix possible to drive results.”

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We have two immediate thoughts about this data:

DataXu notes that understanding martech is important, but so is becoming data-literate. Oftentimes, much of martech’s impact is lost if marketers can’t parse relevant data and figure out what it means. Knowing how to make sense of mountains of raw information, however, can lead to clarity about what marketing is working and what’s not.

On the other hand, it’s clear that analytics is a key part of martech and has definite room for improvement. There aren’t many solutions that can track ROI cross-channel and reliably identify which mix of channels will produce the best results. This could be something that the industry will improve upon in the coming years. Marketers are certainly rooting for that to happen: 100% of U.S. marketers surveyed by DataXu said they feel data and analytics will be essential for their teams in the future.

For more on how to use martech to improve your brand, check out our webinar How Visual Insights Can Lead to a Holistic Marketing Strategy.