Why the martech challenge for brands is a people problem

For brands looking to integrate martech into their strategy better, attracting, training and retaining skilled people is equally important as the technical aspect, according to new research from The Lumery and Swinburne University.

The peer-reviewed research, titled ‘Stacks on Stacks on Stacks’, used a qualitative approach consisting of 15 interviews between 60 and 90 minutes with marketing executives across sectors including consumer services, government and retail.

It found that to give the business the technical experience and strategic understanding of martech, having the right people should be of the same priority as having the right tech stacks.

Dr Jason Pallant

Director of knowledge enablement at The Lumery and co-director of CXI Research Group at Swinburne University, Dr Jason Pallant, who co-authored the research, told Mumbrella: “We heard so many stories of how the tech is meant to automate things quickly and efficiently. But to do that, we need 15 people to get those tools to talk to each other.

“That was a really interesting tension that emerged: martech is so complex from the technology side, but it’s equally, potentially even more so challenging from the people and process business side.”

Elissa Ryan

From a marketer’s perspective, principal of marketing automation & customer communications at Telstra, Elissa Ryan, said there could be a solution that lies in “up and cross-skilling” existing generalist CRM or direct marketers the employees.

“Many martech products are pitched at a business user so deep technical experience is not needed, rather it’s an ability to understand technical capability and be able to have a productive conversation with the person in your team who is deeply technical.

“The benefits of martech will only ever be realised with a great strategy, and this is the domain of a marketer. Connecting this with the underpinning technical capability is the part we need to train marketers to be skilled in.”

Another challenge that surfaced in the research is the complexity of martech for brand usage, which can be manifested in various ways. While some respondents said they have trouble connecting tech stacks to legacy systems or between different providers, others said simply keeping pace with new technologies can be overwhelming.

Raj Kumar

Co-founder and CEO of The Lumery and co-author of the research, Rajan Kumar, said a good approach for brands to navigate through the complexity is to stay true to their customer challenges. 

“It’s often the knee-jerk reaction that we need technology to solve this thing [a problem],” he said.

“One of the pieces in the research talks about the idea of working customer back, not tech-forward: so starting with the true customer challenge and working your way backwards from that.

“Historically, martech is largely linked to marketing outcomes, but when you think about the impact that marketing has, it’s creating revenue opportunities, operational efficiency, and impact across the entire customer experience, and therefore, the entire organisation.

“So again, think about it [martech] in not just a departmental view or a siloed view, but start with the customer at the core of the problem.”

Looking beyond the status quo, Ryan said to help brands understand their choices, martech vendors can start by simplifying the discussion.

“Use plain English and avoid terms that might not have clear definitions. Also don’t neglect to discuss operations and change management because in most cases we’re implementing tech that will replace and improve something that already happens.

“Vendors are great at selling the dream and it’s very easy to get caught up in that, but as a marketer you need to stop and ask how exactly the thing that looks so amazing will actually work.”

Apart from vendors, Kumar, added that universities, agencies, and consultants all have a role to play in making martech more accessible in the future. 

“We’re going to think about not adding more complexity to the space, making sure that we’re decluttering wherever possible, and not adding more acronyms and more phrases that bamboozle people.

“And you are starting to receive this mood of more openness with technology and more extensibility – the idea and integration with other technology – because that’s the future ecosystem.”

Kumar is set to speak at Mumbrella Retail Marketing Summit next week.


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