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      Real-Time Personalization

      3 Questions the CTO Must Answer to Build the Perfect Personalization-first Marketing Technology Stack

      By Carl Bleich

      May 04, 2022

      18 min read

      Real-Time Personalization

      3 Questions the CTO Must Answer to Build the Perfect Personalization-first Marketing Technology Stack

      If you’ve been paying attention to the digital commerce boom over the last three years, then it’s no surprise that e-commerce companies everywhere are investing into their marketing technology (martech) stacks to boost their personalization efforts. It’s also no surprise that these efforts will have a significant impact on the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and team. 

      What isn’t common knowledge, though, is how to keep people from legal, procurement, and even marketers out of your email inbox and away from your desk.

      As companies everywhere make massive investments into their e-commerce personalization strategies, their commerce-driving teams have prioritized personalization and are using it to unlock commerce growth

      But what about IT? What about the CTO? Where does that leave you? Too often, you are just looked at as the necessary party to implement the martech stack, fix it when it's broken, and make sure it runs compliantly with governing laws and regulations. 

      In order to build the perfect martech stack with personalization in mind, IT must also be at the top of the mind of internal decision makers. The CTO’s checklist for building the perfect martech stack must ask and answer these three questions: 

      • Does the martech stack “work for IT”? 

      • Does the martech stack allow your commerce-driving team to work independently? 

      • Does the martech stack fit your digital transformation strategy? 

      Let’s dive in. 

      Does the Martech Stack “Work for IT”? 

      Sales professionals of competing vendors are always quick to point out the amazing benefits to your commerce-driving team during their pitches. Whether it’s increased conversion rate, new channels to communicate with customers on, or a whole new marketing strategy altogether, it’s easy to understand the benefits for that team. 

      But where does that leave you as the IT team? The martech stack has to work for everybody in the company, not just the commerce-driving team. The most important question the CTO must ask and get answered is — is this going to work for my team? 

      We’ll start in the obvious place — implementation. 

      While those aforementioned metrics are great for the company bottom line, we know what the CTO and team are thinking about how to implement this martech stack and make sure the daily users of these products can actually achieve those metrics. That can be a massive undertaking depending on the martech stack and what specific use cases are being implemented. 

      Your commerce-driving team may have an important role in implementation, but the CTO and the rest of the IT team are the primary digital transformation stakeholders. It’s critical that marketing stakeholders understand the level of effort that IT puts in to set up the platform, and what decisions to make strategically in accordance. 

      If the solution is not implemented correctly, it will never provide value. But once it is, integrations become one of the most important immediate considerations. Your martech stack must be able to connect different apps together and allow them to talk to one another so that your commerce-driving team can benefit from the functionality offered.

      But be careful. Vendors often advertise hundreds of integrations, all pre-built and ready to drive value right out of the box. But you know better than that. All of those integrations don’t always do what you want them to do. And your team is always responsible for the tweaking or changing of the integration to fit the business’ brand. 

      The name of the game with integrations is quality over quantity. Choose a vendor that allows you to customize its flexible integrations easily, so your team can spend its time on other important revenue-driving tasks rather than constantly being tasked with fixing integrations that are not up to your standards. 

      Additionally, when considering troubleshooting and error management, the more vendors involved and the more integration types there are, the higher risk there is for errors that cannot be easily corrected. Centralization on a platform is critical for efficiency and effectiveness. 

      Speaking of vendors, consider your entire martech stack as a whole and its future when building it out. Vendor management can be an absolute nightmare for IT when considering things like compliance, privacy audits, and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or other governing laws for every piece of the martech stack. 

      The bottom line:  Having 20 vendors supply point solutions for your martech stack is going to have legal or procurement popping up far too often to ask questions and give “helpful reminders” about these solutions. There are also technical and legal concerns that come into play with point solutions that can be avoided by contracting with fewer vendors and keeping things simpler. 

      Considerations like additional technical complexities, more integrations, more paperwork, more support, and not knowing who the point of contact is at each vendor can be maddening for IT. If there is an issue with a solution, the responsibility lies on you to fix it, and fix it quickly. Sorting through this fix is much easier if your tech stack is not full of point solutions with more than a dozen different points of contact. 

      Compliance, working with sensitive data, and security are other very important considerations for IT professionals when it comes to the martech stack. There can be serious compliance issues that come with audits if your martech isn’t up to par with security and data privacy. 

      Public documentation offered by vendors is also crucial and it should be reviewed up front so there are no surprises on the back end. A good documentation library will allow the CTO and/or team members to find use cases, guides on product integration, and API reference and release notes for all solutions inside its martech stack. 

      This documentation should be detailed and not only offer an explanation of what a use case is and what it’ll do for your company, but offer a detailed explanation of how to set it up within the martech stack. Be wary if a vendor cannot produce detailed documentation to you. It might mean extra work on the back end. 

      One more important point to remember when considering whether the martech stack will work for IT: The solutions must be future-proof. That means your martech stack must be built with both the present and future in mind. 

      After experiencing success with the solutions, the commerce-driving team will want to scale and add more software and use cases to the martech stack. Ensure that the martech stack you’ve selected is easy to add functionality to. Also ensure that the platform you’re working with can handle the volume of data and volume of messaging planned for it without having to rearchitect if you outgrow one or more of the point solutions. 

      You don’t want your team starting over in the implementation process every time your commerce-driving team implements a new use case or solution. And speaking of your commerce-driving team…

      Does the Martech Stack Allow Your Commerce-driving Team to Work Independently? 

      Let’s be honest — what this question is really asking is, do you have a martech stack that keeps marketing out of your hair every day? And additionally, does it free you from unnecessary conversations with legal and procurement as well? 

      If you’ve built an amazing data warehouse, and now every single day someone asks for a report from it, have you actually helped yourself in the long run? Food for thought. 

      When another email floods your inbox or you get another Slack alert asking for help with a task related to the martech stack, we know your first reaction isn’t to jump for joy (don’t worry, your secret’s safe with us).

      “Time to value” is a massively important KPI in today’s market. Efficiently using your martech stack to connect commerce experiences for your customers can’t happen if the daily users of the platform are constantly needing IT assistance to do their jobs. And with time-consuming expert functions like data queries and other data science work, in particular, you’re better off automating those processes instead of tackling them manually. 

      In a perfect world, these daily users can use the data collected and unified by IT for omnichannel campaigns, email marketing, retargeting, and other key marketing automation activities without IT’s help. 

      Finding a tech stack that is simple to use for individuals without a technical background is a massive weight off the shoulders of the CTO and team because it frees up everybody’s time for other revenue-driving tasks and activities. This is another major reason why the CTO has a role in the decision-making process at so many companies in today’s market. This person isn’t just involved to make financial decisions about a tech stack, but to answer the ever important question — “can my team ensure this martech stack runs optimally for others with a reasonable amount of effort?”

      It’s also important that the solutions in the martech stack are not only easily operable by those without a technology background, but also that the martech stack itself is resilient and integrated.

      When you’re hosting your child’s fifth birthday party, you don’t serve the lemonade in your finest china. You serve it in plastic cups to avoid costly accidents and dangerous messes. While we know your commerce-driving team aren’t 5-year-olds (probably), one parallel does loom large — those who don’t know how to properly use something can accidentally break it. 

      Doing things in the martech stack for the commerce-driving team and working behind the team to clean up its mess are two nightmare scenarios for IT. Ensure that the martech stack you choose is easy to use for those without a technical background and can’t be easily broken by those with less experience than you. Your future self will thank you. 

      Does the Martech Stack Fit Your Digital Transformation Strategy? 

      If everyone in the company holds the same goal of driving revenue, IT makes a massive contribution to achieving that goal during the vendor selection and implementation process. That massive contribution is in large part ensuring that the technology solutions being selected and implemented fit with the overarching digital transformation strategy of the company.  

      The CTO and team must consider the impact of staying with or moving away from legacy technology solutions from multiple different angles. Those include: 

      • Examining the total cost of ownership. It’s easy to see the price of an upgraded piece of technology and then budget accordingly if possible. But IT understands that the total cost of ownership is generally much larger than the up-front cost. It includes maintaining all aspects of the tech stack and must consider efficiency with developer resources. Expensive replatforms and difficult upgrades are the responsibility of IT. Those things must be squared away to scale the business. 

      • Technical debt. This is the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy solution in the present rather than taking a more calculated approach and considering the future of the company. Just like a loan or mortgage, if technical debt is not repaid in a timely manner, it can accumulate interest and make the process of upgrading a tech stack even more difficult. This must be considered during the vendor selection and implementation process. 

      • Having too many tools or vendors. Site speed is arguably IT’s most important KPI. If an older legacy tech stack or a newer tech stack with solutions from multiple vendors is slowing down the speed at which your e-commerce customers can shop, that’s a major issue. This is a risk that is not always fully understood by other members of the company when it comes to implementing new tools, particularly when it involves multiple vendors. IT needs to successfully navigate this to ensure consumers have a good experience online. 

      While marketers look for key metric measurements to improve and C-suite leaders look for more immediate revenue benefits, the CTO and other IT leaders must make sure that the company is making an efficient, long-term investment that will pay off in the long run. That means taking into account the total cost of ownership, potential technical debt, and the negatives of being associated with too many vendors. 

      “Efficient and long term” don’t necessarily equate to being extremely economical up front either. As the old adage goes, “you get what you pay for,” and that is undoubtedly true in the SaaS space. Selecting a vendor or solution that is more cost effective upfront may save budget initially, but will it cost the company more in the long haul? That is just one of many things the CTO and team must balance in the vendor selection process so an effective financial decision can be made for the present and future. 

      Bloomreach Engagement — The CTO’s Dream

      With some of the key KPIs for IT being site performance and site speed — and knowing the effects of those metrics on conversion — it’s important to have an all-in-one marketing technology solution that won’t slow your consumers down online. When also considering access to a data collection and unification tool like a customer data platform (CDP) and the ease of use for other members of the commerce-driving team, the answer to the question of how to build a martech stack with personalization in mind is simple: Bloomreach Engagement.  

      Bloomreach Engagement combines the power of a CDP with native artificial intelligence, an email service provider, marketing automation, and web personalization so you can create marketing campaigns across channels that drive revenue. 

      Instead of working with siloed point solutions that don’t speak to each other, marketers can use Bloomreach Engagement to unify all of their customer data in real time and deliver connected customer experiences with a single solution — and they won’t be bugging IT constantly to help them do it. Bloomreach Engagement creates a single customer view for marketers that helps facilitate the creation of personalized product recommendations, personalized email campaigns, and so much more. 

      Interested in learning more? Watch our short video to learn exactly how Bloomreach Engagement functions and how it is specifically designed to help digital commerce companies drive revenue.

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      Carl Bleich

      Content Marketing Manager at Bloomreach

      Carl works with Bloomreach professionals to produce valuable, customer-centric content. A trusted expert with over 15 years of experience, Carl loves exploring unique ways to turn problems into solutions within digital commerce.

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