If you wanted to buy an iPhone 10 years ago, you were required to visit several different stores-and reach deeply into your wallet. The equivalent of an iPhone back then was a suitcase containing a Palm Pilot, a mobile phone, a laptop (hope you like dial-up), and a Sony Discman. Man, was that inconvenient, or what? Fortunately, Apple came along and consolidated all of those important features into the iPhone. It is the perfect example of how technology markets-whether consumer or business to business-naturally evolve. What once seemed impossible not only became possible, but it also has become a good user experience.
The market for the iPhone, as described above, is virtually identical to the direct digital marketing software market of today.
"Reasonable skepticism about how it is even possible to achieve iPhone-like on-demand marketing software is understandable. In truth, however, a modern service-oriented architecture, and two basic elements, is all that is necessary to make it happen."
The disparate software vendor partnerships and redundant databases, and the resulting need for multiple system integrations, are a function of how the marketing software marketplace naturally evolved over the past 15 years. As technology advanced, a specialist e-mail marketing company, for example, entered the market trailing competition behind it. Then content targeting on Web sites, then mobile marketing software, and the list could go on and on. Each technology is siloed from the perspective of the buyer, forcing them into an inefficient system, just like the evolution of the smartphone market where the iPhone has found success.
However, rather than purchasing a bunch of different devices like in the iPhone example, the direct digital marketing software market often requires integration. Integrating multiple systems is incredibly expensive and time-consuming not only for the buyer, but also for software companies trying to expand their product focus beyond its original core capability. One popular byproduct seen from some technology vendors to try and meet demand is to use third-party providers to fill in the gaps created by a singular core product. However, using third parties for a stop-gap capability does not make sense for the direct digital marketing software buyer. With this integration-first approach, each additional layer of functionality-if it is not core to a platform-is hard to manage and expensive. Guess who those additional expenses are passed along to? The end result is longer timelines on projects that are more costly and difficult to control. There is no doubt that greater efficiency is possible, and the iPhone example in consumer technology industry provides a nice blueprint.
Reasonable skepticism about how it is even possible to achieve iPhone-like on-demand marketing software is understandable. In truth, however, a modern service-oriented architecture, and two basic elements, is all that is necessary to make it happen.
First, the desired feature set must be present, and organically developed, within the same software platform. That means no costly, time-consuming integration. When it comes to direct digital marketing software, for example, it means building an e-mail marketing platform, an onsite testing and targeting platform, and a mobile marketing platform together in one spot. Each platform on its own has market-leading features and could compete independently, but it simply makes more sense for them to exist together in the same platform, with the same UI, and the same user experience. It is an arrangement that captures the necessary marketing functionality and convenience of one efficient partnership without the overhead and cost of multiple integrations.
Uniting the desired feature set around a common link-like data-is crucial. Therefore, the second basic element is a commitment to rework data capture and use. A universal profile management system is ideal for connecting the direct digital marketing feature set together. It has the ability to store and capture the two types of data points necessary for successful targeted marketing-known customer attributes and online behavior. A universal profile management system must exist within the same software platform that delivers marketing communications, too. The result is a central spot for data where it is possible to create sophisticated segments and attach those segments to e-mail, Web, or mobile content in one location.
Many software vendors are focusing on integrating a staggering number of disparate systems with the intent of selling the "whole direct digital marketing product." Progressive marketing and software professionals are seeking a single software partnership where the primary database and multi-channel communications capabilities are organically developed together. The operational and budget efficiencies are obvious.
The iPhone-or any smartphone-works because it is efficient. Sure, it is less expensive than buying up all of the different devices necessary to achieve the level of functionality the iPhone offers. But its inherent efficiency also adds to the value consumers place on the user experience. The same truths about efficiency-and the need to avoid wasteful integration-are present in the direct digital marketing software industry today.
Josh Gordon is the Editor-in-Chief of the popular direct digital marketing blog The Lunch Pail and Director of Marketing at Knotice, a direct digital marketing solutions company. Contact Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org.