By 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs, reports Laura McLellan, VP of Marketing Strategies at Gartner.

Changing consumer behavior is the driver behind such a prediction. This evolution is forcing marketers to create differentiated customer experiences in order to thrive in the next 10 years. The brands, that create unique, memorable, delightful customer experiences will be the ones which realize accelerated revenues. The achievement of this goal is challenging marketing and technology leaders to integrate marketing, brand strategies and sales strategies with data and technology strategies in new ways. These leaders are now faced with making game-defining recommendations to the C-Suite, based on their tech stack, which comprises the layers of services or components involved in the delivery of software applications.

Today’s always-on, always-connected, multiscreen consumer, whether a B2C or B2B buyer, needs to be delighted, or else they are going somewhere else at the click of a mouse. Creating differentiated experiences over the web, on the phone, in-store or face-to-face needs to go beyond just being pleasant and relevant. These shopping and buying experiences need to strive to feel nearly psychic and mentally anticipatory. understands this trend. They just announced that they will be using integrated technology, big data insights, machine learning and advanced algorithms—and will nearly be able to know what you want even before you do. Thus, they want to not only provide recommendations for your next purchase, but also have your future purchase, preboxed and ready to deliver before you even order it.

And the path to technology-enabled strategic differentiation takes on many manifestations. IKEA remains committed to its retail strategy, even as it sees 20% increases to its online store per year at nearly 1.3 billion visits, with 10 million downloads of the catalog.* Senior management realizes online shopping cannot replace the emotional hands-on experience of walking into their retail location. The CEO sums it up nicely by saying, “We see that Internet and ecommerce is growing. But at the same time, when buying a new bed, a lot of people want to try it first, and if you buy a sofa, you may want to touch the fabric.” How critical is technology to their inventory systems, supply chain management, stock and staffing patterns to create this shopping experience?

Contrast this technology-supported retail strategy to the banking industry’s rapid pruning of retail branches and replacement of tellers with ATMs. Technology has officially enabled the bank of the future to be everywhere at a fraction of the cost of brick-and-mortar. The ATM of this year will offer you 24/7 live video chat with a teller, provide the platform for loan applications with the swipe of a card and load debit cards from your employer, as we move to a near-cashless society. How differentiating will that customer experience become for a major financial institution brand? How long will it be until we have a new bank brand called Bank of the Future where the ATM is on your mobile phone? Oh, wait, don’t we have that now? Isn’t it all because of technology?

What I’m passionate about helping marketers to understand is that they can no longer just create different brands through a communications/advertising strategy. The most successful marketers of the coming decade are those who are going to be technology-savvy leaders. Businesses need marketing leaders who know how to drive the integration of technology with business processes and manage cultural transformations.

To compound matters, while it’s easy to understand the importance of the various types of different customer experiences, the actual strategic planning, implementation, technology integration, operationalization and optimization processes require herculean efforts on behalf of marketing and technology leaders. However, no matter how wide and high the mountain is that we need to climb, the mission is more critical to the organization than ever before. First, the tech stack and big data affect almost every aspect of the demand generation. Second, new enabling technologies, such as the cloud, AI and big data, have now reduced the cost of entry for entrepreneurs, who can start up a highly unique business with little capital and achieve a billion-dollar valuation nearly overnight. This is causing a rapid rise of competition coming out of the woodwork. Kodak, for instance, couldn’t get out of its own way, as technology caused the rapid implosion of this renowned brand.

Brands and marketers can no longer be complacent about the technology stack. I personally believe embracing tech stack integration and big data ARE THE NEW IMPERATIVES for marketers, not just for their business survival, but also for their personal survival.

Just look at the diagram below showing all the points of influence of tech stack and big data. They tie into predictive analytics and data insights that then become the critical inputs to business strategy, targeting, content and channel strategy, measurement, and paid, earned and owned media strategies.


So where does the marketing leader start?

I won’t kid you. The task is daunting and overwhelming. There are approximately 30 major technology categories with hundreds of vendors that marketers must consider utilizing (not including the various big data applications required to create dramatically differentiated customer experiences). Just look at the complexity of the marketing landscape published by Lumascape.

To help clients tackle this massive task, we have created within our 8 Pillars of Demand Generation construct a series of assessment questions and quantifiable tools to help them ask the right questions on their journey to creating their differentiated customer experience through a compelling data strategy.

After determining your data strategy comes the process of assessing your current tech stack and prioritizing future technology needs, based on your company, brand, product, marketing and routes to market strategies. You want to start to choose technologies that will change outcomes, create memorable experiences and increase your efficiencies and effectiveness across the business.

I want to reiterate: this work is not easy. It is exceptionally complex and rapidly changing, as more applications are now available from the cloud, on demand. This is helping dramatically increase the affordability and sophistication of solutions to midmarket marketers.

For tech stack integration, KERN recommends the following key assessment questions:

  • Given market trends, competition and blue ocean opportunities, what is the differentiated customer experience you are seeking to deliver for your brand?
  • What and where are the brand touchpoints across the purchase path where technology can help you make a better decision, provide more effective information, increase the speed of the transaction or deliver a more emotionally delightful experience?
  • Given these touchpoints and desires, what are the 5–10 most critical technologies and integrations that need to occur at each of these touchpoints?
  • How would you evaluate the current state of these technologies in your organization today? Use a scale from highly effective and integrated to siloed and out of date.
  • What are the cultural, organizational, leadership, financial and technology barriers that need to be overcome to achieve the data strategy?
  • What are the consequences of not aggressively making the investments, leading the integrations and changing the experience of the business in the next three years?

Nelson Mandela said, “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” There is no easy path to the top of the technology marketing mountain. To me, the exciting part about being a modern marketer is that the challenges are endless and diverse. How lucky are we, as marketers, to get to push ourselves to new heights with new technologies never dreamed of before?

In my next blog, I will continue on the topic of technology by focusing on big data and its dramatic role in demand generation and revenue acceleration.

To access KERN’s entire Executive Preview of The 8 Pillars of Demand Generation for Revenue Acceleration, click here.

* Wall Street Journal 1/28/14.