The timeline* traces three categories: marketing channels; tools used by marketers to manage those channels; and data available to marketers. The yellow areas represent the volume of technology available during each period. Again skipping over my beloved details, there are two main points:
- although the number of marketing channels increased dramatically during the industrial age (adding mass print, direct mail, radio, television, and telemarketing), there was almost no growth in marketing technology or data until computers were applied to list management in the 1970’s. The real explosions in martech and data happen after the Internet appears in the 1990’s.
- the core martech technology, campaign management, begins in the 1980’s: that is, it predates the Internet. In fact, campaign management was originally designed to manage direct mail lists (and – arcana alert! – itself mimicked practices developed for mechanical list technologies such as punch cards and metal address plates). Although marketers have long talked about being customer- rather than campaign-centric, it’s not until the current crop of Journey Orchestration Engines (JOEs) that we see a thorough replacement of campaign-based methods.
It’s not surprising the transition took so long. As I described in my earlier post on the adoption of electric power by factories (more arcana!), the shift to new technology happens in stages as individual components of a process are changed, which then opens a path to changing other components, until finally all the old components are gone and new components are deployed in a configuration optimized for the new capabilities. In the transition from campaign management to journey orchestration, marketers had to develop tools to track individuals over time, to personalize messages to those individuals, identify and optimize individual journeys, act on complete data in real time, and to incorporate masses of unstructured data. Each of those transitions involved a technology change: from lists to databases, from static messages to dynamic content, from segment-level descriptive analytics to individual-level predictions, from batch updates to real time processes, and from relational databases to “big data” stores.
It’s really difficult to retrofit old systems with new technologies, which is one reason vendors like Oracle and IBM keep buying new companies to supplement current products. It’s also why the newest systems tend to be the most advanced.** Thus, the Journey Orchestration Engines I’ve written about previously (Thunderhead ONE , Pointillist, Usermind, Hive9 ) all use NoSQL data stores, build detailed individual-level customer histories, and track individuals as they move from state to state within a journey flow.
During my Tel Aviv visit last week, I also checked in with Pontis (just purchased by Amdocs), who showed me their own new tool which does an exceptionally fine job at ingesting all kinds of data, building a unified customer history, and coordinating treatments across all channels, all in real time. In true JOE fashion, the system selects the best treatment in each situation rather than pushing customers down predefined campaign sequences. Pontis also promised their February release would use machine learning to pick optimal messages and channels during each treatment. Separately, Optimove itself announced its own “Optibot” automation scheme, which also finds the best treatments for individuals as they move from state to state. So you can add Optimove to your cup of JOEs (sorry) as well.
I’m reluctant to proclaim JOEs as the final stage in customer management evolution only because it’s too soon to know if more change is on the way. As Pontis and Optimove both illustrate, the next step may be using automation to select customer treatments and ultimately to generate the framework that organizes those treatments. When that happens, we will have erased the last vestiges of the list- and campaign-based approaches that date back to the mail order pioneers of the 19th century and to the ancient Sumerians (first customer list, c. 3,000 BCE) before that.
*Dates represent commercialization, not the first appearance of the underlying technology. For example, we all know that Gutenberg’s press with moveable type was introduced around 1450, but newspapers with advertising didn’t show up until after 1600.
** This isn’t quite as tautological as it sounds. In some industries, deep-pocketed old vendors with big research budgets are the technical leaders.