Alphabet Soup: Martech Systems Are Letting Retailers Down

Brands are in drowning in technology. They use everything from email service providers (ESPs) to customer data platforms (CDPs) to data management platforms (DMPs) to CRMs. Yet these martech systems are just not supporting their marketing objectives, according to Align Technology, Data And Your Organization to Deliver Customer Value, a study by Forrester Consulting, commissioned by Bluecore. 

Among other things, the study clearly points to a limited role for ESPs. 

Of 176 martech decision makers who answered this question, 32% rely on their ESPs for A/B testing of email content, products and offers. But 37% use campaign management software for that purpose.

In addition, 20% demand productive segmentation for improved personalization from their ESPs. But 34% get that from their CDP and 33% get it from their DMP.

At the same time, 15% ask their ESPs to provide machine learning to optimize and automate campaign creation and performance. Yet 39% achieve these ends with their DMPs and 38% through their CRM. 



Worse, only 13% apiece use their ESPs for identity resolution and automated 1:1 product and content recommendations.

The study does not report trending patterns, so it’s unclear whether these numbers mean ESPs are gaining or losing ground in the services they provide. 

But one thing is certain: retailers need more from their marketing technology as data get “bigger, faster and more complex,” the study notes.

Overall, retailers cite these objectives as No.1: 

  • Win new customers — 16%
  • Improve our customer experience — 16%
  • Invest in automation — 12%
  • Increase customer loyalty — 12%
  • Retain existing customers — 10%
  • Create or increase customer value — 9% 

And No.2? The goals are:

  • Win new customers — 16% 
  • Invest in automation — 14% 
  • Improve our customer experience — 13%
  • Retain existing customers — 10% 
  • Increase customer loyalty — 9% 
  • Create or increase customer value — 8%

All well and good, but fewer than half say their firm is very effective at achieving these goals:

  • Retain existing customers — 40% 
  • Increase customer loyalty — 32%
  • Create or increase customer value — 30%
  • Improve conversion rates — 26% 
  • Optimize our marketing organizational structure — 24%
  • Invest in automation — 23%
  • Improve our customer experience — 21%
  • Reduce marketing waste — 21%
  • Win new customers — 20%
  • Increase team bandwidth — 16% 

Perhaps worse, only 30% are very effective at driving seamless and consistent omnichannel experiences, and 12% at creating personalized experiences. 

The causes of this malaise include fractured organizational structure — over 40% believe this hurts their data management.

And many are unable to cope with the alphabet soup of technologies. These percentages believe their current marketing technology supports their key objectives:

  • Improve our customer experience — 35% 
  • Retain existing customers — 35%
  • Increase customer loyalty — 32%
  • Invest in automation — 27%
  • Increase internal team bandwidth — 25%
  • Win new customers — 21%
  • Reduce marketing waste — 20%
  • Improve conversion rates — 18% 
  • Create or increase customer value — 15%

Forrester recommends that retail brands:

  1. Harness insights into customers’ preferences and needs 
  2. Demand modern solutions from martech partners to deliver modern experiences,
  3. Leverage artificial intelligence that adds intelligence to automation

Forrester surveyed 307 retail and martech decision makers in the U.S. and Europe, working in a variety of consumer product areas. Of the respondents, 66% are in the U.S. and 35% in the UK, France and Germany. 

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