Today’s consumers expect personalized brand experiences that provide real value. This demands a new kind of marketing, driven by massive amounts of real-time customer data. However, many marketers are finding it challenging to make this leap. The problem is not a lack of adequate data or technology to harness it, but because there is a disconnect that still exists between IT and marketing. Technical expertise will one day become a prerequisite for marketers, but until then, IT will continue to play a crucial role in helping marketers deliver better results using technology.
What It Looks Like Now
IT resources are essential now that marketers rely more heavily than ever on data and the technology needed to store, analyze and manage it. However, many companies aren’t set up in a way that encourages IT and marketing to work closely together. In fact, Teradata found that 50% of companies don’t consider IT and marketing strategic partners. Many marketers still consider IT a support function — a service for fixing something that is broken — rather than a partner or consultant. Even worse, many IT and marketing teams simply aren’t communicating. Accenture found that 49% of marketers introduce technology with no consideration for IT standards.
What It Could Look Like
As a marketer, it’s in your best interest to communicate your technology and data needs upfront. Involve IT from the beginning and come to mutual decisions rather than involving them as emergency problem-solvers at the last minute. Talk with your CIO about whether the technology will be easy to manage and secure within your existing IT environment. Work hard to understand their technical concerns, discuss your objectives and work together on an action plan. Finally, maintain regular communication by meeting for coffee once a week in addition to scheduling regular check-ins and planning meetings.
Some forward-looking companies have mastered the marketing-IT strategic partnership. Companies like Amazon, Monarch and Carnival Cruise Lines are using Big Data, sophisticated technology and the expertise of their IT organizations to improve their approach to delivering customer experiences. Let’s look at three companies blending the art of marketing and the science of technology to drive marketing success.
A Hyper-Personalized User Experience
Amazon was one of the first companies to invest in Big Data-driven marketing instead of traditional advertising tactics. Others should follow their lead and pay attention to user behavior to provide customers with relevant, tailored suggestions. Working more closely with IT will allow marketers to leverage this data and create a user experience that makes the customer feel as if you designed it specifically for him or her.
A Holistic Customer Picture
The British airline Monarch has benefitted from a marketing-IT initiative that gathers demographic, geo-location and historical site activity data to create a single view of each customer. Using these detailed customer insights, Monarch updates its website in real time with the most relevant content, including personalized flight grids, promotions and suggested destinations. The marketing team no longer relies on internal resources to collect and integrate data from different sources — they have worked with IT to integrate technology that expedites the process and reduces the burden on the web development team.
A Predictive View of Customers’ Needs
At Carnival Cruise Lines, IT and marketing work hand in hand to perfect the vacation experience, predicting and fulfilling users’ needs from pre-purchase through the end of the voyage. For example, before boarding the ship, guests can order toiletries online to avoid extra packing. Once on board, they can enjoy cloud-managed intranet services that put key information at their fingertips. Throughout the cruiser’s journey, marketers can customize their online content in real time to make it the most relevant for each guest.
Amazon, Monarch and Carnival are some of the leaders in the strong integration of marketing and IT. The shift is happening elsewhere, but it’s not happening fast enough. The data and the technology to harness it exists today. Now is the time to bring together the analytical and the creative minds of the organization to the benefit of customers. This collaboration is certain to create more intelligent customer experiences, not to mention better business results.
James Smith is the VP of North America Marketing at Sitecore.