Rivals or frenemies?
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Rivals or frenemies?

Marketing tech vs adtech: brands are using the latest technology to create new ways of doing business, often becoming less reliant on digital advertising in the process.

Inside companies, a struggle is taking place between customer relationship marketing and online advertising to capture their share of budgets and improve marketing performance. Can the two work together, or do marketers need to decide between them?

A new online service allows you to buy a car in three and a half minutes.

Rockar, which claims it is doing for the automotive sector what Amazon has done for book sales, offers customers the chance to buy a car without ever having to talk to a salesperson or even take the model for a test drive. The service allows customers to choose their monthly repayments on a sliding scale, choose a model and purchase.

The business was established with the insight that many people are put off buying new cars because they are wary of getting entangled with a clever salesperson. So offering the transparency and control of online shopping in the automotive sector is attracting buyers who otherwise may have bought second hand from friends or online.

Rockar has been created with the expertise of technology led online retail consultancy Summit, whose founder and Chief Executive, Hedley Aylott, says this is the kind of completely new venture that can be created through online technology. Finding ways of selling that bypass the traditional methods of advertising and sales is revolutionising marketing and creating a host of new business models.

He also points to work Summit does with Carpetright, where potential customers can order floor covering samples from the website without having to visit the store. Once they are on the retailer’s system, these customers can be sent emails to encourage them to place an order.

Amazon has led the way in transforming traditional approaches to sales through digital methods, developing deep customer relationships and offering customers product recommendations based on what users with similar profiles have bought. This keeps people coming back for more and means the company does not need to spend heavily on finding new methods of advertising its services.

So is using new technologies to engage with clients and customers on a number of levels more effective than just finding new ways to advertise online?

Summit’s Aylott says: “It is not one or the other – people have more choice than ever, there are loyal customers but there are also people who are very promiscuous. People buy carpets once every five years, so how do you retain their loyalty for that five years?” He says search term marketing and online display advertising are essential for targeting customers in such areas.

However, businesses are spending heavily on the new breed of cloud-based CRM systems as marketing automation becomes embedded in the sales process, and a battle for budgets is underway between marketing technology and digital advertising. Neil Evans, Managing Director of digital agency Occam, says companies should move beyond what he calls the old debate between marketing technology and digital advertising and ensure the two are integrated. But he accepts that many businesses have a long way to go to achieve that: “If the business is consumer-centric, not channel-centric, and has a head of customers, it is an easier debate to have,” he says. If the company is organised in silos, he says, there may be a conflict between the CRM manager and the head of digital advertising for a share of the marketing budget.

Online ad agencies insist that new technology is making it easier to integrate CRM with digital advertising. Martin Kelly, co-founder and Chief Executive of agency Infectious Media, which specialises in programmatic advertising, says: “One of the big things about programmatic technology is it makes advertising addressable, you have the ability to target audiences very specifically and show them tailored, personalised, addressable messages. So the principles that have underpinned CRM and one-to-one marketing are applicable to display advertising.”

He says technology is changing more quickly than many businesses can keep up with.

While the battle between CRM and digital advertising may seem old hat to some, many organisations are just starting to confront this question. Finding ways to transform the selling process through clever uses of technology will continue to upend some of the old certainties of marketing and call into question the effectiveness of digital advertising.

David Benady is a writer, journalist and editor specialising in media, technology and communications. His work has appeared in The Guardian, Guardian Media Network, Independent and Daily Express, as well as specialist magazines, corporate websites and printed publicity.

David Benady CPL Freelance Journalist
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