Marketers are getting lost in the emerging technologies that now consume our day-to-day lives. We are thinking about martech constantly – trying to brainstorm ways to introduce new solutions in to our product lineup and customer experiences. But the thoughts of today’s consumers (with many of them being Digital Natives) aren’t even concerned with technology. While, yes, it is a fundamental part of their lives, it’s not always a conscious one. They just assume that it’s there and working for them.

While leading a recent CMO Club Virtual Roundtable, my peers and I discussed how marketers can navigate technology disruption to understand which ones drive brand initiatives and which ones are, honestly, just adding to the noise.

The Technology Obsession

We are celebrated for being tech-obsessed today, and our stacks are more complex than ever (frequently much more than they need to be, but that’s a conversation for another day). The purchasing isn’t the hard part here, but rather the effective execution that solves a customer’s emotional needs and desires and, in turn, points back to great ROI.

First and foremost, brands need to understand that an emphasis on the tech we use and deliver doesn’t always move the needle forward. We need to ask ourselves if we are really changing lives for the better, or if we are just changing technology and processes. Internally, technologies cannot be isolated as stand-alone assets that belong to one team or one part of the customer journey. To treat each one as a separate entity would only contribute to broken customer experiences. This is a common side effect of tech fragmentation and one that is solved by paring down, not ramping up, your tech stack.

An example of how this fragmentation surfaces is the communication (or lack thereof) between your call center and CRM data management. Let’s say you have a customer that calls the customer service center and is upset. Your customer service representatives will need to handle the situation with tact at the interpersonal level; But, if data isn’t properly recorded in a system that talks to your CRM, the customer might still get the automated coupon or sale that is to be sent out tomorrow. That touch point would seem impersonal after the customer just voiced their unhappiness, creating more friction in the relationship and likely sending them running.

Integration isn’t something that can be done overnight, but it does yield large results in the way of seamless experiences, while not spending additional resources on the latest and greatest.

When you do decide to adopt new technology, focusing on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ is critical. Why do you need it? Why do your customers need it? How do you measure its success and value? Can you create these outcomes with the technology you already have? Quite often, brands invest in the next shiny new product and then see where it fits in the mix. However, marketers need to bring it back to the customers’ pain points and the company’s internal weak spots. Understand what problems you have first, then identify what your solution might look, and then seek out the tech to deliver on that solution.

It’s not always the trendiest solution, but it will be the one that provides the most value.

The Human Obsession

On a fundamental level, it’s not the technology that disrupts our world, but rather the people. We win as brands when we create a new behavior in people. In my experience, the only way to do this is to match our love of technology with an obsession to understand the people using it via a holistic approach – not just by data channels. This requires digging far past spreadsheets and into the emotional and functional needs of our everyday users.

For example, there was a retail brand that wanted to add tech to their shopping carts so customers could use them to find things, record shopping lists, etc. However, after qualitative research and interviews, they found that shoppers already relied on their phones for these things and weren’t likely to use another platform or device for them. What did they really want? A cell phone holder. Such a simple solution (no tech required) that was only found when candidly asking customers what would add to their experience!

At the end of the day, I say there are five C’s of creating effective consumer-obsessed brand experiences: Consumer, Context, Content, Commerce, and Convergence. Finding a solution (like the above example) that aligns with each of these is the sweet spot for creating loyal brand advocates.