Marketers regularly come to Gartner for help in understanding the increasingly complex web of marketing technologies. And with good reason — when evaluating a significant martech investment (a “big rock,” as we like to say) — they want to know that they’re making the right choice for both now and the future (at least as far down the road as they can see). Purchasing a big rock for their martech stack is a decision they will hope to stick with for as many as three years, comprising ramp-up time and optimization of whatever solution they choose.
Tangled Martech Webs
But unraveling the complex web of overlapping big rock martech tools is harder than ever. Consider three markets Gartner has evaluated in recent Magic Quadrant reports — multichannel marketing hubs (MMHs), mobile marketing platforms (MMPs) and personalization engines (PEs) (Gartner client subscription required for all three). If you were to create a venn diagram of these three markets, you’d find increasing convergence around customer data and profile management, support for multiple marketing channels and delivery of personalized experiences to customers. Of course, increasing convergence is not to say that they have completely converged, although there are a number of vendors that satisfy the criteria for and hence are evaluated in more than one market.
The closest overlap is between MMHs and MMPs, where five MMH vendors are also included in the Magic Quadrant for Mobile Marketing Platforms, which distinguishes between multichannel marketing hubs that have native mobile marketing capabilities and purpose-built mobile marketing (PBM) platforms that link to other marketing platforms to support email and social marketing. The twist is that in some cases, PBMs offer native email marketing capabilities as they eye execution channels that are complementary to their mobile-specific expertise in mobile websites, applications, messaging, push-notifications and wallet cards .
A key distinction between MMHs that support mobile marketing and PBMs is “generational.” As my colleague Ben Bloom points out, the heritage of MMHs draws from an assemblage of often discrete channel-specific execution capabilities into “marketing clouds.” PBMs, by contrast, tend to be newer platforms with data structures that are unburdened by legacy email-centric architectures.
When speaking to clients, I try to simplify the distinction in approach between MMHs and PBMs as existing along vertical vs. horizontal axes. With the former, mobile is one among many verticalized execution channels that multichannel marketers can incorporate into their customer engagements. However, as we learned from our reference survey for the Magic Quadrant for Multichannel Marketing Hubs, anywhere from one-fifth to one-third of respondents rely on other providers for mobile marketing functionality spanning push and in-app notifications, mobile messaging and mobile app analytics. This is echoed in Gartner’s 2019 Multichannel Marketing Survey, which found that more respondents use both a MMH and a MMP than use either type of solution in isolation. On this note, see my colleague Charles Golvin’s research note, “Survey Analysis: Multichannel Marketing Hub, Mobile Marketing Platform or Both?” (Gartner subscription again required). With PBMs, marketing execution is mediated entirely through a mobile lens. Again, one way to look at it is generational, the difference between what Gartner has classified as “mobile-centric” organizations vs. those that are “mobile-extenders.” Marketers need to determine which classification best fits their organization, a task facilitated by Gartner’s research on the topic (client subscription required).
Depth or Breadth?
A key finding in the Magic Quadrant for Mobile Marketing Platforms is that where vendors trade mobile marketing functionality depth for overall breadth in execution capabilities, it comes at the cost of diminished satisfaction among marketing end users. PBM vendors’ customers express significantly greater levels of satisfaction with their mobile platform choice than do those of MMH vendors. This is not only the case for overall experience — it is uniformly true across every category of client satisfaction. The greatest differences in satisfaction levels are in “ease of deployment” and “service and support” — not a surprise given the greater complexity of the MMH products and supporting organizations.
As convergence and consolidation continue apace within and across the MMH, MMP and PE, markets, expect martech webs to grow more tangled, and to require more flexible interconnection points. Marketers looking at one or more of these solutions need to maintain a future focus and understand a prospective partner’s ability to keep pace with advancing customer profile management, channel execution and personalization needs. Above all, carefully evaluate the solution set(s) on offer — both native and third-party capabilities — against ongoing needs to avoid acquiring functionality that gets underused or abandoned altogether.