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THINK Contributor

Acxiom: Why marketing will begin connecting at the data layer in 2017

By , March 1, 2017
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Many marketers are all too familiar with the supergraphic that shows the ever-expanding sprawl of the marketing technology landscape. In just the span of five years, the number of marketing technology solutions increased by more than 2,000 percent, from approximately 150 in 2011 to more than 3,500 in 2016.

While we await the 2017 update, we know one thing for certain — the number will be larger yet again. For marketers, this rapid evolution is a double-edged sword. It provides best-of-breed solutions for individual channels, but it also creates fragmentation across the marketing stack that makes it difficult to assemble all these interactions into a single view of the customer.

In 2017, I see marketers taking a meaningful step to get this fire hose under control: building integrations at the data layer. You may ask, “Why unite at the data layer? I currently see tremendous value and positive results using APIs to make integrations at the application layer.” You are correct that there is great value. For example, your CRM instance can push data to your marketing automation solution, or your campaign solution can push data to your customer analytics solution. This is a fantastic way to connect at the application level. But marketing data has some unique nuances. 

For example, each vendor on the supergraphic collects data tied to a different identifier – like an email address, a cookie, or a mobile device ID. Your ability to integrate at the application layer is greatly hindered if you don’t know when pieces of information collected through different systems relate to the same consumer.  

And as your systems multiply and your technology stack becomes larger and more complicated, the integration “spaghetti” becomes harder to manage and maintain. The benefits of having so much available data are wasted because the various silos constructed prevent you from understanding how to make sense of customer data. And, at this point, you’re now losing control of your data and giving it to your application providers.

So, how can you break this virtual data wall and create data integrations across any applications? The key is to connect your marketing ecosystem at the data layer. When you connect at the data layer through an identity graph, you can create consumer portraits centrally – in a data environment that you control – ingesting data from each system (for analysis, modeling and segmentation) and publishing data back to each, as needed (for activation and engagement). This seemingly small difference is the key to people-based marketing on any channel or device. It makes a world of difference to your agility and transparency, and your ability to deliver relevance everywhere, every time.

This shift from application to data layer will not be an isolated occurrence adopted by a handful of forward-thinking companies. Instead, I believe it will power a broad movement across the industry called Open Garden. The unceasing fragmentation and siloization of today’s marketing environments is simply not sustainable. The Open Garden movement is the market’s response to this, and uniting the marketing ecosystem at the data layer is the crux of this movement. To truly develop a successful Open Garden, data, technology and services must come together in a privacy-compliant manner.

Learn more about this movement – download Acxiom’s ebook on “How to Grow an Open Garden.”

I hope we’ll look back on 2017 as the year marketers began to take back ownership and control of their ecosystems and enjoyed increased reach, revenue and return.

Jeremy Roberts is director of partnership marketing at Acxiom. Acxiom provides the data foundation you need to make everything in your marketing stack work together better.

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