To state that marketers continue to be challenged by the ever-expanding digital marketing ecosystem is neither pejorative nor insightful. Indeed, the marketplace is aggressively evolving, as evidenced by both the sector’s growth—20%+ growth last year (IAB) and its prediction to overcome TV advertising this year (eMarketer)—and the number of vendors rushing to get in on the action (the ad tech market increased to more than 3,500 in 2016 from about 2,000 the previous year, according to Scott Brinker at ChiefMarTech.com.
Marketers are spending more than ever on the digital channel, and there are a plethora of vendors competing to ostensibly help these marketers spend their budgets more efficiently. Thus, as the saying goes, “If you aren’t confused, you aren’t paying attention”.
But it’s the job of think tanks like Forrester Research to help their clients sort through marketplace complexities and make smart decisions to help their organizations succeed. And it’s with this goal in mind, the firm recently published “The Forrester Wave: Marketing Measurement & Optimization Solutions, Q4 2016”. Chock full of recommendations for B2C marketing professionals, who are seeking to stretch budgets to the limit and outmaneuver competitors, this study provides analysis of companies that provide analytics and measurement solutions. The report is based on an examination of 10 vendors and surveys with 77 marketing professionals.
Here are some key takeaways, organized into two groups of findings: undisputed and to be determined (TBD):
- Undisputed: Consumers are interacting with brands in varied ways. The report emphasizes this new market reality by explaining “Empowered consumers easily absorb information from all forms of media and multiple devices, and hey comfortably straddle the digital/traditional media divide”. While this new reality presents marketers with many new channels to engage with prospects and customers—a good thing—it also makes performance tracking increasingly difficult—a big challenge.
- Undisputed: Marketers are under more pressure than ever to be accountable for their budgets and demonstrate ROI. The rise of digital advertising, which will account for nearly 50% of total marketing budgets in a couple of years, has mostly been a boon for marketers, with one glaring exception: scrutiny. Since its very early days, major industry players have been touting digital marketing for its ability to be “100% trackable”. So it comes as no surprise that “today’s complex marketing environment challenges marketers to meet the C-suite’s demands for accountability.” And the right measurement solution can solve this potentially massive headache for CMOs.
- Undisputed: Marketers require strategic advisory partners that can help them make sense of data and act upon the analysis in meaningful ways. Translation: while vendors need to be able to tout quality technology and toolkits, it’s more important for them to be able to offer consultative support, to help clients “interpret model results” and to “provide recommendations” based on the analysis.
- To Be Determined: The Realistic Viability of Unified Marketing Impact Analytics (UMIA). The UMIA methodology—coined by Forrester in this study for the first time—involves combining traditional techniques such as marketing mix modeling and digital attribution into a single technique. While Forrester reports high customer satisfaction from this study’s survey respondents that manage such an environment (about 40 in total), we think the sample size is too small today to make a blanket judgment about the approach. Though the concept is certainly appealing, many industry experts consider it to be at best too raw, and at worst not applicable: “It’s like using the same assessment metrics to measure the performance of a jet plane versus a row boat…it just doesn’t make sense”.
- To Be Determined: The Impact of New Entrants, Big Players & Market Consolidation. It’s notable that the only widely-known brands included in the Forrester study are the result of acquisitions: Google/Adometry and AOL/Converto. In the face of rapid growth over the past decade, brands have been racing to adopt and integrate the digital channel, not necessarily optimize its performance.The reality is that for all its real and perceived flaws, the digital channel remains more cost effective than alternatives in most industry sectors. As more and more dollars are allocated to digital, and more attention is given to performance optimization, it’s likely that new entrants will impact the sector—think Facebook, Adobe, etc.—and given the dearth of any category killers today, the marketplace could look very different in 24-36 months.