Why Hollow Tech Stacks Are Holding Marketers Back (And How They Can Break Free)

Marketers are currently only using 58% of their martech's potential

Most marketing teams today that aren’t hitting their goals — no matter how fantastic their team is or how incredible their ideas are — are failing due to tech. More specifically, most teams today are operating off of a hollow tech stack — one that operates without a core that connects and powers its platforms. Any steps a team takes to deliver truly meaningful, personalized experiences will ultimately fall flat if their stack isn’t prepared to handle the lift that it involves. 

Marketing teams used to focus on driving customers to the brand’s store, website, or app where the customer experience would take place. But today, marketers are increasingly being asked to bridge the customer experience divide, with marketing becoming ever more closely entwined in the customer experience. In fact, nearly twice the number of marketers (79%) say they lead customer experience initiatives across the organization compared to two years ago. 

When marketers were only responsible for delivering brand messages on select channels, independent platforms got the job done, but as the marketer’s role within the customer experience has evolved their tech stacks have remained static and siloed and have become increasingly hollow.  Brands, with the best of intentions, have bought best-of-breed solutions to address their various objectives only to find they are left with a stack that cannot meet their needs. Solutions like CRMs, ESPs, and more were brought on to solve very specific use cases and address new channels, but this resulted in poorly-functioning, disconnected tech stacks full of band-aid solutions to core problems in your stack — solutions that won’t function properly until you address the root cause. 

The issue is that these platforms lack a central view of customers and a unified strategy of how to best engage them. Without this holistic understanding of the customer at the center guiding your stack and being accessible across platforms, channels, and departments, you’re left with a hollow stack — and your marketing will remain purely surface level and ineffective until you fill the gap.

The New Standard: Marketer’s Growing Role in the Customer Experience

As the marketing landscape continues to evolve and consumer expectations are rapidly increasing, much of the burden to meet customer needs has fallen on marketing teams to execute. Now that our world is more online than ever, consumers are becoming much more savvy and exclusive with their wallets and are expecting accurate and relevant personalization every time. They’re also expecting brands to deliver a seamless customer experience wherever they are — and the majority of this classically “CX” responsibility has fallen upon the shoulders of marketers.

The writing has been on the wall for quite some time that consumers were heading in this direction. And yet, technology is struggling to keep up. Where platforms promised “fast” marketers need “real-time”. Where platforms offer “personalization” marketers need “truly 1:1 messaging.”

To simultaneously generate revenue and craft brand experience, it is essential that marketers remain steps ahead of their customers. Customer demands are forcing marketers to constantly think into the future and how they can send the next best offer to customers at the perfect moment, and how this fits into the larger omnichannel journey — in order to both meet revenue goals and also provide a seamless brand experience. This is a process and concept that is new to almost every marketer, and the speed at which this has become the standard has left marketers’ heads spinning — and made it abundantly clear their tech was not keeping up.

To keep consumers engaged and converting, marketers now need to create meaningful and highly tailored experiences faster than ever and across an ever-growing amount of channels. Yet with over 8,000 martech platforms available today, it’s increasingly difficult to pick the perfect platforms for your business needs. Moreover, it’s not specific platforms that should take the blame but rather the structure of the platforms in your stack.

The Obstacle: The Hollow Tech Stack

As the world of martech has grown (by over 6,000 platforms in the past 10 years) and companies honed in on their digital strategy, organizations have created their own Frankensteinian patchwork of martech. Even marketing clouds that claim to be seamless are really just a mish-mash of modules missing deep integration. Things became even more complicated as platforms were tacked on to address the growing number of new digital channels. It’s no surprise the average marketing team has at least 28 platforms.

But as tech stacks grew, they weren’t always built strategically. Marketers were essentially building a house with no foundation. Rather than addressing the root cause of their problems, platforms were tacked on to solve a specific use case or problem as it arose. Without a core foundation, the result became a disconnected, hollow tech stack working around messaging channels each optimizing for their own goals, rather than around what’s most important: an integrated customer-centric marketing approach.

Today many marketers are operating off a disjointed set of tools that operate virtually independently and communicate very little across the stack. And as the customer journey is sliced and diced among different platforms, this easily causes issues, backups, and poor experiences. These tools won’t work in harmony until they fill what’s missing at their core and gain purpose to how they are executing.

Given that it’s extremely common for marketers to be working off of hollow, disjointed stacks, it’s no wonder that marketers are currently only using 58% of their martech’s potential. Our recent report, Marketer vs. Martech in 2020, showed that 51% of marketers say that critical customer experience data is not stored on one integrated platform — which is holding back their other martech.

What’s Missing: A Shared, Real-time Customer Understanding

Everything in marketing starts and ends with a fundamental understanding of the customer. And in turn, a well-rounded, optimally functioning tech stack relies on a deep, real-time customer view. This understanding must live at the center of your tech, and it needs to go beyond a 360 customer view of historic and real-time data from across all interactions. It must also include predictive intelligence about customers’ likelihood to engage, purchase, or churn as well as next best actions to guide real-time customer interactions across the platforms within the stack.

For most organizations, this isn’t how their stacks are constructed. Rather, every single channel has its own data and siloed understanding of customers, and these data sources rarely feed into one another. Martech stacks are void of a unified customer data foundation at their core, effectively making them hollow.

And, no matter how many stellar ideas marketers have, the fact remains that marketers are only as good as the technologies that power them. This is no fault of marketers, but rather due to rapid digitization and the nature of evolving tech.

Customer experience will never meet customer expectations until marketing has a reliable Single Customer View and shared decision-making across channels at the center of every tech stack.

As individuals, we often see this in practice: we might get recommended an item on a mobile app that you’ve already purchased via web, or you have different “names” on different channels (worst of all, you get called <<first_name>>).

The key to meeting your goals and delivering relevant, engaging customer experiences lies in filling the key gap in your stack. The goal is to have all your channels and systems effectively communicating with one another in real-time. This enables marketers to then effectively talk with customers and build and maintain solid 1:1 relationships.

Over the years, marketers have adopted different technologies to achieve data unification with the latest being CDPs. But, even when a singular view of the customer exists, the majority of these tools lack the required sophistication and collaborative element to properly execute against the data.

Whether you’ve bought into marketing clouds, or even had tech custom-built to suit your needs, there’s a way you can get your stack working together so you can better engage, acquire, and retain customers — with the SmartHub CDP.

The Solution: The SmartHub CDP

There’s a new solution rising to popularity to fill in the customer data foundation missing at the core of the stack: the SmartHub CDP. This platform not only centralizes data, but it also drives connected decision-making about how to best engage customers across the platforms in the tech stack. The SmartHub CDP fits seamlessly within existing tech stacks of all shapes and sizes and powers them by fully ingraining a deep, real-time customer understanding into each and every platform. It connects an otherwise disjointed stack and guides engaging, streamlined experiences throughout their customer’s journey.

SmartHub CDP diagram