How many times in the past six months have you heard that “customer behavior is changing rapidly”? According to Michele Fitzpatrick, Retail Industry Strategist with Acxiom, 89% of shoppers changed “how” they shop over the past 18 months, and they are not likely to return to pre-pandemic behaviors, ever. To keep up with these changes, Brand and retail marketers must seek to meet customers “where they are” in their purchasing journey, and the solutions to this challenge will be found in a new generation of marketing technology.
The question looms, how should you go about selecting the optimal technology partner to support the needs of your customer marketing efforts? In this article, we’ll share a solid list of considerations to identifying the right partner for any technology you are considering and suggest changes to your decision-making process that may surprise you.
Digital Transformation is here and now. The pandemic accelerated retailer development of all things digital, and they are continuing to devote resources and further investment to maintain momentum. It should be a path that your key stakeholders are walking with confidence. After all, if your customers have gone digital, why aren’t you moving quickly in the same direction?
A similar transformational change in the MarTech sector also occurred. Only a few years ago, a survey of one-hundred RFP’s seeking a loyalty management system would have centered on the same 5-6 providers, all of which offered end to end bundled solutions. Today, there are a more diverse set of options available to marketers, in many cases highly focused, best in class marketing technology solutions to address a specific part of the customer experience tech stack.
Modular loyalty technology solutions provide options
Through this transformation, the approach of seeking a loyalty management system to meet all needs has been disrupted by the concept of modular technology. This has made the end-to-end provider model just one option, not THE option.
There are now multiple groups of solution providers organized around individual components of the MarTech stack. The good news for brands is they can breathe easy that full replacement of enterprise platforms is not needed just to add new capability. Instead, there is opportunity to append nimble, lightweight technologies to meet specific needs without burdening either your budget or your IT resources.
Personalized loyalty solution provider Exchange Solutions is one such company to watch. Retailers can now accelerate the opportunity to grow their loyalty program performance by adopting modular loyalty solutions, such as Exchange Solutions’ new offering called Promo Enhance, powered by their ES Loyalty product. This SaaS based solution is an optimal fit for retailers that need to maximize their promotion personalization efforts but lack the resources and hefty budget required to completely replace their existing platform, including those offered by their competitors, according to their recent launch announcement.
The procurement process of the future should seek to match the nuanced needs of customers with the specific benefits of built-for-purpose software. It is more important than ever for marketing leadership to seek out a relationship with a tech provider that meets their needs as defined by these well-defined criteria.
1) Business and financial objectives. What stage of your business cycle might dictate needs? Are you launching a new program or initiative, supporting a temporary marketing campaign, testing a new idea, or are you re-platforming a proven customer loyalty program with updated technology?
2) Channels. What specific customer behaviors are you hoping to influence and what channel(s) (web, mobile, SMS, POS) are you using to reach customers?
3) Business model. What is your revenue model, competitive situation, and gross margins?
4) Volumetrics. What is the typical purchase cycle for your products and services and size of an average purchase transaction?
5) IT culture. Does your organization prefer to develop internally or outsource to best in class providers?
6) Time and Budget. How much time do you have and what is your budget? Do you have the corporate patience to endure a long and possibly expensive configuration and implementation process, or do you have a limited time window in which to launch a customer-facing initiative?
Your selection process might start with a room full of interns researching the web sites of providers and populating massive smartsheets with key data points. This process creates a solid foundation but is incomplete, leaving you vulnerable to missing out on candidate suppliers that might be the best fit.
Internal and external research should be supplemented with endorsement from independent and reliable market sources. Engaging with a group that has domain expertise in customer loyalty, resources that have walked in your shoes before, and is technology neutral (meaning they don’t have tech to sell and don’t accept commissions) provides the full perspective necessary to make the right decision.
We talked with the CEO of one of these firms, Simon Rowles, Beyonde, an Australian based technology assessment firm, and he shared more key filtering questions that should be asked to reach the best decision:
- Do you consider the potential supplier as an advisor first and vendor second?
- Does the vendor specialize in the market sector or channel where you operate?
- Does the vendor’s economic model support your long term success?
- Is the vendor delivery system resilient and capable of making changes quickly when needed?
- Will the vendor solution free up your team to focus on higher value business decisions?
- Does the future roadmap of the vendor align with your vision?
The key to making a bullet-proof decision to purchase specific marketing technology is to ensure that interests are aligned, and the vendor is built to fill the role of an extended part of your team. Modular technology solutions allow quick integration with your tech stack and support business need for nimble marketing solutions that can return results through pilot programs and beyond. Price, terms, and delivery are important elements to fulfilling an agreement, but matching culture and vision between two organizations is the secret sauce to enable your success.
Taking a fresh look at the evolution of MarTech today and applying the criteria we listed here just might help you uncover options that you may not have considered before and accelerate your path to success.