Digital marketing is all about creating exponential growth – so it should come as no surprise that some of the challenges associated with delivering digital marketing success grow exponentially with your business.

Principal amongst these challenges is that of tech and IT, which encompasses all the software, hardware, financial and human resources that empower us to build and shape the digital world. In this article we’ll be discussing solutions to some of the trickiest challenges associated with technology in digital marketing – if you can work out how to remove these obstacles, you’ll have a clearer run at digital growth.

Here are the key aspects of the tech challenge in digital marketing – and how to overcome them

Evolving tech and customer expectations

How exactly are teams meant to deliver landmark digital projects when tech and customer expectations are changing faster with every passing year? With new customer-facing tech like VR and augmented reality on the rise and with consumer attitudes to digital shifting all the time, it’s hard to imagine how exactly your marketing communications will need to be delivered to the customer by the time a long-term project has reached market-readiness.

Our recommendation is that you focus on translating your brand’s core services into a smooth digital experience, designed for the technology and digital habits associated with your audience today. Use an agile approach to ensure you have the flexibility to remodel your tech to meet new opportunities or requirements.

You can take comfort in the fact that a high proportion of today’s marketing tech – such as WordPress and MailChimp – is built to help you create responsive marketing communications that will display optimally to the customer whether they are using a laptop, smartphone, tablet or other internet-ready device. When the next generation of consumer tech comes along, market forces will incentivise marketing tech companies to add important new devices to their responsive roster.

Don’t let the pace of technological change beat you into “implementation paralysis”. First, nail your brand’s core service in a digital form, according to current best practice. Then, ensure your team keeps on learning, so they can be equipped to continually optimise and evolve your digital offering.

Creating a single customer view using integrated data

As digital channels have proliferated, there has been a tendency amongst marketers – caused largely by technological limitations – to treat each channel and its data separately. This is totally at odds with the way today’s customers behave – browsing multi-screen, using different devices at different points during the sales process, and expecting their relationship with the brand to be consistent across channels.

Savvy marketers and brands are responding to these new norms by using integrated data to create what is known as a “single customer view” – an analytics interface incorporating all of the measurable channels which connect the customer to the brand. In a typical single customer view (SCV), the marketer would be able to see data on all of the following:

  • Search
  • E-mail
  • Display
  • CRM system
  • Automation
  • Social media
  • Affiliates

Having all of this information together in one place is valuable for all sorts of reasons. It allows data analysts to more easily spot trends across channels; it is far more efficient than maintaining separate databases for separate channels; and perhaps most importantly it creates a holistic view of communications with the customer, opening the door to sophisticated strategies such as programmatic marketing.

So if SCV is so great, why isn’t everyone doing it?

The answer, in a high proportion of cases, lies in legacy systems. Many organisations have historically ploughed immense human and financial resources into creating bespoke systems to process data for individual or multiple marketing channels. These legacy systems could be fantastically well suited to their particular jobs – but the trouble is, it’s often an extreme technical challenge to integrate them with each other to create a single person view.

This can leave organisations in a pickle. Do we plough resources into integrating all our legacy systems (if that’s even possible), do we ditch everything and start from scratch using easier-to-integrate systems, or do we simply do without a single customer view?

In this regard, start-ups have the upper-hand over bigger, longer-established businesses – they can implement a single customer view from day one, using easy-to-integrate software like Google Analytics and MailChimp.

Recruiting talent during a digital skills crisis

Global demand for digital skills currently far outweighs supply of digital talent – and it looks likely to do so for the foreseeable future. Organisations face a real challenge in trying to engage the right talent in spite of this digital skills gap.

The digital recruiting challenge for organisations is multi-faceted:

  • High wages – digital tech marketers are offered wages 36% higher than the UK average. Freelance and agency rates are similarly high.
  • Career philosophy/talent retention – there’s a strong trend amongst Generation Y tech talent towards hopping from organisation-to-organisation throughout your career – a portfolio-based approach to a working life. This culture makes the job of retaining the best talent extremely tricky.
  • Digital skills gap – the worldwide shortfall of digital skills (especially pronounced in the UK) means there simply aren’t enough skilled digital workers to deliver optimal digital economy growth.

Lack of buy-in from leadership/stake-holders

Sometimes it’s not the tech itself that presents the problem – it’s attitudes towards technology within the organisation, especially in the upper echelons.

Senior stakeholders may resist increased focus on digital marketing and technology more broadly for any of a wide number of reasons. Some fear for their continued influence within the organisation as digital takes a more central role, whilst others will doggedly cling to the notion that digital is an optional extra rather than a necessity. Whatever their reasoning, you’ll need to use your soft, diplomatic skills to win over a crucial group of senior stakeholders to your cause. Achieving leadership buy-in is much likelier if senior leaders can be reassured of their continued influence and status.

The job of the digital marketing evangelist doesn’t stop at board level; in fact, you’ll also need to look all the way down the corporate ladder to ensure your digital marketing tech is being bought-into and properly used at every level.

You probably can’t individually assess every team member’s uptake of your digital marketing tech; but what you can do is carry out regular audits to gain a strong insight into the overall picture. Randomly select a statistically significant proportion of marketers at every level within your organisation, and interview these people to learn how they are using and how they feel about your digital marketing tech.

You might ask:

  • How often do you use APP X to monitor conversions?
  • How do you feel about our new single customer view system?
  • What technological tools do you need to improve your marketing processes?
  • How do you feel about the relationship between our digital marketing team and the rest of the organisation?

Asking questions like these may shed light on tech requirements and attitudes towards digital marketing within your organisation, which will empower you to make enlightened decisions regarding digital marketing tech in the future.

Fostering good communications between your IT team and your digital marketers

Digital marketing couldn’t exist in anything like its current form without cutting-edge tech – and yet, the technical skills of digital marketing are often far from tech-y in nature. How many email marketers are there who could hand-code a piece of software? How many content marketers are there who could trouble-shoot a faulty system?

There’s a big gap between the skills and typical characteristics of IT specialists and those of other digital marketers. Through fostering good inter-departmental communications, we can bridge this gap and unlock the most effective of collaborations.

One way we can achieve this is by implementing working practices that promotes discussion and collaboration between different worker types within a team. Your efforts towards this goal could take a simple form like providing incentives for innovative collaboration between tech specialists and tactical digital marketers; or you can go much further by adopting a flexible, project-based working framework like the agile methodology. If you can get your techies and your creatives talking, you’ll stand a better chance of achieving real innovation and unity of purpose.

Drowning in a sea of MarTech

As if tech in general isn’t enough of a challenge for digital marketers to surmount, there’s also a whole MarTech industry dedicated to digital marketing software which presents additional puzzles for marketers to solve.

If you want to keep updated on marketing tech, you can turn to news sites like MarTech Today. That being said, the majority of news out there on marketing tech will not have any direct relevance to your company, so if you’re short on time, we recommend a problem-first approach to researching MarTech.

First identify the problems your team could really to do to solve, then do some research into whether there’s a tech solution that fits the bill. With thousands of MarTech products on the market, there’s always a good chance you’ll find just what you need.

One key consideration in identifying the right MarTech product is whether or not the application is well suited to integrating with your other apps and systems – particularly the single customer view mentioned earlier in this article. When choosing your MarTech software, consider how the application fits in with what you’re using and doing already. Will it integrate with your existing apps? This has to be a key factor in your decision to buy.

Keeping everyone up-to-speed with fundamental digital marketing tech

You could be the most gifted marketer in the world – but you may never reach your full potential until have a good working understanding of the mechanisms and mediums that deliver communications to your audience. This is why we encourage all our readers to learn about technical subjects like CSS media queries for responsive design and Moore’s law. In this age of proliferating platforms and accelerated digital change, ongoing learning is an especially important consideration for everyone in our industry.

There’s so much to learn in the field of digital marketing that you couldn’t possibly master it all. We recommend reverse engineering the technology behind your marketing communications to identify the topics you really need to focus on – so if you’re using MailChimp to run your email marketing campaigns, become an expert on everything that goes into that process – the code behind the emails, the tenets of responsive email design, mobile user experience, and so on.

By continually considering the stories of your customers – the who, how, where and when of their experience of your marketing communications, you’ll enable yourself to keep identifying the tech that matters to your operations; the tech you need to learn.