Digital marketing has become increasingly complex over the past few years.

In addition to email, SEO and paid search, digital marketers now also reach consumers via social media, display programmatic, messaging apps and chatbots. To manage campaigns across all these channels, marketing professionals must now be familiar with a dizzying array of marketing technology.

But are these new channels and technology platforms helping marketers improve performance? And what challenges are marketers facing when researching and adopting new marketing technology?

To find out, Econsultancy, in association with Oracle, recently held roundtable discussions with client-side marketers in Bangkok. At the Harnessing Technology table hosted by Claire Ngamvilaidee, Digital Marketing & eCommerce Consultant , attendees discussed how they use marketing technology now , the struggles they face when evaluating and adopting new marketing platforms and how they have been able to overcome some of these obstacles.

Below is a summary of the main points covered in the discussions.

Trends

1) Marketers are using more channels than ever to reach target audiences

The first technology trend raised by participants was that reaching consumers online now requires them to use more channels than they had previously. Attendees mentioned that their standard digital channels included search engines, email, every major social media platform, messaging apps (LINE in particular) and even SMS.

The result of this proliferation of marketing channels, said one delegate, was that having the right marketing technology to manage messaging across channels was more important than ever. Whereas marketers were, in the past, able to assemble their own systems to handle marketing campaigns, they now need an integrated solution to manage all the digital channels they now rely on to reach consumers.

2) Collecting consumer data is becoming increasingly important for brands

Brands, said one participant, are facing more competitive pressure online now than they were even a few years ago. B2C brands are now competing with marketplaces for traffic and B2B brands are finding it more difficult to get the attention of the people they need to reach.

In response to these challenges, marketers are now focused on collecting consumer data so that they can better understand consumers and deliver more personalized messaging than the competition.

Marketers, participants agreed, need to both be able to use marketing technology tactics in their campaigns such as remarketing and location-based targeting and capture behavioral data generated by these techniques.

3) Many companies have experimented with AI chatbots

Another challenge faced by brands now, according to attendees, is that they struggle to respond to all the enquiries from consumers and support requests from customers across social media and messaging apps.

To help manage the overwhelming amount of customer support requests, several delegates said that they are trying AI chatbots. Chatbots are a relatively new marketing technology which monitors customer queries on social media and messaging apps and attempts to provide helpful replies. The ultimate goal of using chatbots is to reduce the number of people required to provide ‘always-on’, cross-channel customer service.

Participants said, however, that they are still testing chatbots and have not yet used them at scale.

Challenges

1. Marketers are overwhelmed by the amount of data they collect

Attendees said that while they were able to manage campaigns across all the channels they use, they often struggle to use channel performance data to help make decisions. The main reason for this problem is that each channel provides large volumes of data and they were unable to manage the data effectively.

One participant felt that the reason for this issue was that most companies did not have a single platform for collecting, organizing and analyzing channel data. This means that marketers often rely on manual processes to extract data and build reports, both of which are time-consuming and make it more difficult to analyse the data.

Delegates also felt that most marketers lack the skills to combine data from multiple sources and ‘mine’ it to gain insights.

2. Most companies have not mapped the customer journey

Delegates agreed that even if they could analyze channel data, they would still struggle to use the insights to improve consumer touchpoints.

The reason for this, said one attendee, is that many companies have not yet mapped the customer journey and so they do not have a good understanding about what consumers are seeking at each touchpoint.

Without a better understanding of the consumer’s needs as they move toward the purchase, marketers cannot use data effectively to improve the journey.

customer_journey

3. AI chatbot technology lacks the ‘human touch’

Marketers who had tried AI chatbots found that chatbots are not yet able to process emotions in a support request and are not sufficiently empathetic when offering solutions.

As a result, the feedback marketers received from their customers was that they still want a person to respond to their inquiries and that chatbots are an unnecessary obstacle.

Additionally, chatbots have not yet been sufficiently trained to use many foreign languages and so they were not able to manage conversations in Thai very well.

Solutions

1. Marketers should invest in integrated marketing platforms

Attendees agreed that they were spending too much time trying to manage data and felt that the solution to this problem would be a platform which could automate many steps of the data analysis process. This tool would, ideally, integrate with channels, capture performance data and automate data management, analysis and insights.

Delegates agreed that with such a platform they would get more value out of channel data and have more time to focus on other critical tasks such as aligning campaigns with marketing objectives, managing budgets, and reviewing segments.

2. To better leverage technology, marketers need to map the customer journey

Participants felt that in order to derive more value from consumer data, they needed to map the customer journey and better understand consumer objectives at each touchpoint. Additionally, marketers needed to identify the most popular paths to purchase so that they could focus on improving the most important channels.

Without a solid grasp of the customer journey, marketers would struggle use data-driven insights to improve messaging, promotions and the customer experiences.

3. Marketers should spend less time on AI chatbots

While chatbots had the potential to help marketers manage communications across channels, participants felt that the technology did not work well enough to provide a high-quality experience for consumers.

Instead, attendees agreed, marketers should focus on mature technologies such as CRM systems, marketing automation and marketing analytics which other brands have been able to use to improve marketing performance.

Finally, everyone agreed that marketers should look to integrate these technologies and find ways to automate data analysis so that they had more time to find ways to apply insights to improve their marketing effectiveness.