In the long-running debate over suite versus best-of-breed solutions, marketers are divided down the middle, according to a recent study by Winterberry Group, cross-channel marketing technology firm Signal, and the IAB. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

Regardless of how they build their technology measures up, marketers feel that neither model solves the key challenge of how to gather, merge and activate their cross-channel data.

The study, entitled 'Marketing Data Technology: Cutting Through the Complexity', found that marketers are increasingly demanding interoperable tools that will help them reach the holy grail of seamlessly harnessing and deploying customer engagement data across devices and channels.

"Marketers are on a journey to unlock the power of their data by unifying it across desktop, mobile, CRM, email, point-of-sale and more. Their vision is to create a seamless experience for customers, but many brands are stuck in first gear because of the complex and difficult task of connecting massive amounts of fragmented data," said Signal's CEO, Mike Sands.

Among the key findings from the study:

  • Complexity is the norm
    Enterprise marketers on average use more than 12 distinct toolsets to support data-driven marketing efforts. A notable minority (9%) regularly work with 31 or more.
  • Platform integration is a key hurdle
    More than 60% of marketers said better integration of existing tools would help them derive greater value from data.
  • Marketing technology is data-dependent
    The most commonly used toolsets - such as analytics platforms powering audience segmentation and predictive modelling - rely on a constant feed of consumer data to perform well.
  • Cross-channel marketing is an unrealised goal
    Less than half of marketers are leveraging data and technology for key cross-channel initiatives such as targeting, engagement and measurement.
  • Organisational siloes hinder integration
    Within the typical marketing organisation, five stakeholder groups - including digital, analytics, media-buying, loyalty, and direct marketing - utilize different tools.
  • Interoperability has become critical
    Along with scalability and real-time processing of big data, it's a top criteria driving future technology purchases.

"This study confirms that marketers are in early stages of their evolution toward a cross-channel future. They've invested significantly in an expanding array of sophisticated toolsets, but there's a maturity gap," concluded Signal's founder and CEO, Marc Kiven. "Regardless of whether marketers choose suite, cloud or independent solutions in their stacks, fuelling these technologies with cross-channel data requires an integrated data layer as the foundation."