Marketing trends wake up call - future-proofing your stack

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher December 3, 2020
Think you finally got a handle on MarTech? Think again. Looking back on this year's MarTech 2020 event, two sessions on marketing trends raised the stakes: how do you future-proof your MarTech stack? Scott Brinker and Tony Byrne shared their latest thinking.


There is never a dull moment in the world of marketing technology. Between new technology solutions, acquisitions, constant updates, and more, it isn't easy to track things. And there is no sign of things slowing down. Scott Brinker, VP Platform Ecosystem at Hubspot and Program Chair for the Martech Conference, shared the five trends in martech at the latest Martech Conference, and it's enough to make any marketer dizzy.

Five martech trends to track

In his keynote address at the conference, Brinker outlined what he's seeing as the key trends that will lead us in the next decade:

1. No-code and the democratization of technology. We already see no-code, low-code platforms in organizations today, but Brinker said there will be an explosion of tools that let non-tech people create things like landing pages, websites, applications, interactive content, forms, and more. The bulk of the tools we see in this area right now support the low-end use cases, but we will see that change. Brinker said it's a "perfect example of disrupted innovation."

2. Platforms, networks, and marketplaces. Platforms are the foundation upon which developers build specific applications (think HubSpot, Shopify, and Salesforce). Networks facilitate communication (social networks, communities), and marketplaces match producers with consumers (Etsy, Airbnb, Adwords). Brinker said that in marketing, these three are the future of what we are doing. He broke it down into suppliers, internal users, and consumers and pointed out that what we do internally influences how our company will move from marketing operations that are centralized to a decentralized model (we need both, he said). "Martech vendors provide platforms, networks, and marketplaces, but they also help companies engage with others - and create their own."

3. The Great App Explosion. Brinker shared the following stat from IDC, "Over 500 million digital apps and services will be developed and deployed using cloud-native approaches by 2023." We will see many apps in the future, both custom-built for internal use and commercial apps; most, if not all, will be built in the cloud. Think about how many developers there are in the world today (actual software developers); by 2030, that number is expected to reach 4.5 million. And we aren't even talking about the non-tech app builders that are growing in numbers.

4. From Big Data to Big Ops. According to Brinker, data is not the new oil - it's the new oil paint. The real value is in what you do with the data. The Data Age 2025 report said that by 2025 there would be 175 ZB of data globally, but we only collect a little over half of it, said Brinker. Of what we do collect, 43% is unused. The value we get from our data comes from our ability to distill and activate it. That's why Brinker says Big Ops (DevOps + RevOps) is critical. It's not going to be straightforward considering the number and complexity of applications our companies have that interact with data. Brinker also talked about the responsible activation of data and how we deal with data bias, especially for AI/ML (a story for another time). 

5. Harmonizing Humans and Machines. This one is nice to know. If Brinker's right, machines will give us more time to do the things we should be doing, like talking to customers, experimenting, collaborating with peers, and just plain thinking. 

Future-proofing your martech stack

One of my other favorite sessions from the Martech Conference was by Tony Byrne, founder of Real Story Group, a technology analyst firm. Byrne's session was called Future-Proofing Your Martech Stack, and he focused on the need for an omnichannel stack that will support you through the 2020s (and hopefully longer). With so many marketing technology choices, what is the best way to mix and match tech to support your organization's needs?

Byrne discussed four key themes, including acceleration, flexibility, efficiency, and humanity. It was nice to see similarities between what Byrne talked about compared to Brinker. 

Time is of the essence because things are moving so fast

Byrne referred to the rise of e-commerce, the spikes in service and support, and the need for faster decision-making. All of this is changing the way we take technology into the enterprise, Byrne said. It's also exposing how badly we are managing customer data. It should not be about getting the best tools, but about getting the right tools. 

Byrne provided the example of CDPs (customer data platforms). Anyone dealing with marketing technology knows the demand for CDPs is going crazy right now due to the need to improve customer data management. But it's not as simple as going out and buying the latest and greatest, nor should you buy the CDP attached to your digital experience platform. It's likely you already have some data management capabilities in your company, Byrne said, at which point a CDP is more about activation. Whether you already have some data management capabilities in-house or not, the key is to buy a CDP that meets your needs.

The need for flexibility - especially within teams

Byrne said we are working towards tiger teams, where collaboration amongst a group of specialists working together to solve a problem is critical. There is also a focus on program management over specific products, making it less about a particular tech brand and more about the type of technology: "outcome over mechanics."

Byrne talked about how organizations have been running a silo program for the last decade or more, slowly building tools and experience in pockets. The silo approach makes it hard to integrate tools laterally without a flexible architecture.

The third theme focuses on efficiency

There are stack redundancy challenges. Most organizations overbuy because they don't know the technology is elsewhere in the organization (or they know but don't share). Byrne said that an organization should do its own services and capabilities assessment, not a vendor, to ensure you do it cross-organization. 

Marketing attribution is another problem, but Byrne pointed out it's less of a technology problem than a data problem. And then, there is the content supply chain, which includes developing content variants for personalization and customization and the need for informal, faster content production upstream (without all the high production value). 

The need to remember our humanity

COVID-19 has shown us that we still need human connection, even as we lean ever more into the digital world. We need to connect with customers as human beings, Byrne said. We need to flatten internal hierarchies and work together. But to do that, you need the right marketing and CX ops platforms. The omnichannel environment we need to treat our customers as humans is shown in the diagram below.

(via Tony Byrne's MarTech 2020 presentation)

Byrne said that content is central to an omnichannel customer experience. But you won't achieve that with operational and technology silos. What organizations need to do, he said, is to convert more resources from modernizing silos to building the enterprise foundation resources you see in the diagram.

My take

Customer data management was an overarching theme in both presentations. You have to capture the data and share it to get that full view of the customer. Without that complete view, you can't create an omnichannel customer experience, and you can't be sure the experiences you do make are the right ones. 

There is foundational technology that supports everything you do, and there is a need for technical and non-technical people to get access to the information and data that exists in the foundation to build the right experiences. And we have to work together across departments and the company to leverage the best skillsets and knowledge to make it all happen.  

The opportunities for what we can do in marketing in the next decade is exciting. But it will also be a struggle for many. It will be interesting to see how far we can go.

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