Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Josie Klafkowska

Experience as a Service: The future of successful marketing

By Josie Klafkowska, Global Marketing Director at Wunderman Thompson Technology

The challenge of delivering world class customer experiences becomes increasingly sophisticated and complex every day. Rapidly changing consumer habits and an accelerated pace of change in the media and technology landscape have disrupted traditional customer engagement models across most industries. The impact that bold, new fintech arrivals have had in the banking sector serves as a prime example.

And in today’s experience economy, brands are no longer only competing with others in their industry for customer attention. Take Amazon’s recent investment in electric vehicles as an example, turning the marketplace giant into a genuine contender in the EV market. The truth is, experience is the new differentiator and brands that get this right can transcend traditional borders to compete and win in new markets.

But getting customer experience right is hard. Two recent developments in particular – channel proliferation and personalisation – have dramatically shifted both the pace and scale of change.

Keeping your head above the rising technology tide

Every marketing activity, every piece of content and every offer is now multiplied across every channel, every persona, every segment. This creates an overwhelming number of hits to the marketing budget in the form of both the cost of campaigns, the technology required to make it a success and the headcount needed to execute successfully.

This rapidly growing mass of marketing content, experience design, business rule management and data analysis necessary for every element of marketing activity is creating its own gravitational field, into which marketers are being pulled.

Instead of being able to plan strategically, marketers are being trapped in a whirlpool, which is only getting faster as automation, machine learning and AI become commonplace. The more technology available to us today, the more complex it can be to manage.

So, what does this mean for marketers?

To get an idea of where all of this is heading, let’s look at what happened with cloud computing. Twenty years ago, many businesses had server rooms with physical machines in. These days that’s a rarity. Now most organisations rent capacity from a cloud provider on demand. There’s no lead time to build the servers, or the server room for that matter. Everything is ready to go almost instantly. Today the same is happening to marketing technology. 

Managing, configuring and operating technology stacks should never be a core competency of marketing departments. The result is that, in an effort to implement each successive piece of technology, marketing teams have become focused on execution over strategy.

We’ve become absorbed with ‘doing things right’ in favour of ‘doing the right things’. The prospect of standardised marketing technology architectures and operating models will change all of that, and the race to differentiate marketing effectiveness will move from who has the most up to date tools and tech, to who is best able to leverage them with the best strategy and operating model.

There will be less and less need to own your martech stack, but to have access to a robust and reliable ‘experience factory’ that can take marketing initiatives from idea to reality, backed with end-to-end workflow, governance and analytics.

Welcome to Experience-as-a-Service (EaaS)

This is where the ‘Experience as a Service’ model comes in. With this cloud based experience factory, marketing effort will move from the time consuming and expensive building of their own marketing stacks to continual delivery and continual optimisation. In the EaaS model, the differentiator is not the technology but the process and the intelligent automation, meaning it’s possible to execute at the scale and speed demanded for personalisation across any channel.

As a marketer you will no longer need to specify every element of a piece of marketing activity. You will be free to focus on the audience experience and the overall outcome.

The difference with the as-a-service model is that the workflow, governance, and measurement are built in and transparent, and many parts of the process are automated (accepting that, for the time being, creativity is still often a human endeavour).

You gain the benefit of a best practice operating model that’s being continuously optimised. You also have the option to plug your own internal teams or third-party agencies into the same model without breaking the process.

Marketing as a service should make marketing faster, more automated, and more effective in a way that throwing bodies at the problem doesn’t today.

Does this experience factory exist today?

There’s a little way to go before a fully automated marketing machine becomes a reality, but it’s not far away. All of the requisite parts are already largely available, what’s missing is for them to be brought together. Composable CMS approaches are evidence of this approach in action and the rapid advances in AI and machine learning will help to make automation of many processes more feasible.  Technology is just part of the picture, however. Bringing together technology, data, people, skills and operating models is required to bring marketing as a service to fruition. 

However, if you are thinking about investing in an enterprise stack today, you should be considering how your investments may fit into a future as-a-service model. You should consider to what extent you want to own parts of the process and how it might be integrated into an as-a-service model.  More importantly, you should be considering how your data, people and business processes should be optimised for greater automation and how your marketing teams might be set up to make best use of them.