It’s Time to Demystify Decisioning

Note: This is a slightly modified version of an article that first appeared on TheCustomer.net. I was a member of the research team and one of the primary authors of the report discussed in this post.

While marketers have spent years focused on understanding the customer journey and thinking about customer experience across the enterprise, power long-ago shifted to consumers.

Consumers interact with brands in more places, using more (and different) devices and channels than any time in history, yet they expect brands to know the history of their interactions, and to quickly solve theirs needs at the moment of interaction. And, they will punish a brand that fails—either by publicly calling them out, or simply by taking their business elsewhere at a moment’s notice.

The concepts of decisioning and orchestration are not new to marketers and advertisers. We have been hearing the still elusive “right message at the right time to the right consumer” promise for years now. Yet, effective omni-channel decisioning is simultaneously more complex and more important than ever.

A team of colleagues at Winterberry Group and I recently published research, “Demystifying Decisioning & Orchestration” which reveals that only 14% of marketers and advertisers are satisfied with their company’s decisioning technology – the so-called “brain” of the marketing tech stack.

The fact that every organization is at a different point in its decisioning and orchestration journey—and has a unique set of considerations – is reflected in the bespoke nature of most company’s solutions. Meanwhile, a confluence of misaligned processes, political and organizational issues, and fragmented approaches to technology impact the ability of many organizations to successfully implement and evolve its approach.

Decisioning is rarely discussed without mentioning its partner, orchestration, referring to the coordination and delivery of next-best actions determined by the decisioning engine. Orchestration moves analytics outputs and insights through the martech and adtech stack to inform activation in the application layer. This function enables marketers to leverage data and insights across disparate technology platforms and solve for real-time, cross-channel customer journey execution. If decisioning is the brain, then orchestration is the central nervous system within a marketer’s technology stack.

Reflecting these challenges and divergent approaches, our research identified three levels of sophistication among brands – and categorized the levels as those employing a channel-based, multi-channel, and omnichannel approach. Within the most sophisticated firms, marketing decisioning engines solve for decisions both at a macro level – centralized across applications and channels – and at micro levels – at points of customer interaction based on behavioral and environmental triggers.

The research, which is based on contributions from more than 50 senior executives representing marketers, advertisers, publishers, decisioning and orchestration platforms, agencies and data providers, is available for free download here.

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