As marketing becomes more centered on digital technology, decision makers across all sectors—from consumer brands to B2Bs to law firms—must focus on younger, more digitally savvy audiences.
As far back as 2014, Gartner reported that 81% of advertisers were filling chief marketing technologist (CMO) roles. Soon, CMOs are expected to spend more on technology than their CIO counterparts.
The shift is already underway: Gartner's 2015 survey found marketers had allocated one-third of their budgets to tech, and 61% expected larger budgets for 2016. Those figures represent a significant investment in marketing technology and mean that such issues as mobile device compatibility, privacy and accessibility compliance, website performance, security, and data analytics can no longer be considered "IT's problem."
Web Development Tech 101 for Digital Marketers
Driving this trend is the rapid evolution of digital marketing. From mobile-optimized Web design to a continual focus on user experience, these and other advances require marketers to roll up their sleeves and continually learn.
To excel at those new responsibilities, marketers should hone their overall understanding of the following aspects of Web-development technology.
1. Performance and UX
Website performance drives engagement, and engagement drives value and ROI for digital marketing initiatives. The idea that a website should load in fewer than 10 seconds is ancient; today, visitors will switch tasks after just a few seconds.
Because each additional second a page takes to load decreases customer satisfaction and conversion rates, websites across all sectors increasingly use tech like content delivery networks and advanced Web engineering teams to focus on website security, optimization, and improved UX.
Optimal site performance and UX make brands stand out in a crowded marketplace. For example, the new Virgin America site is the first responsive airline website. It focuses on just a few really important use cases and iterates through those to achieve best results.
Part of the refinements that Work & Co designed and engineered for the site included a fastest-in-class load time: two seconds. The new site was so user-friendly that Web-related incoming call traffic dropped more than 20%. Even better, the airline saw a 10% improvement in conversion rates. Apparently its strategy worked; Virgin America has been snapped up by Alaska Airlines to form the fifth-largest US airline.
As digital marketing evolves toward personalization and automation, international privacy regulations demand careful balancing acts by digital marketers. The FBI vs. Apple iPhone-hacking case illustrates how marketers must understand the policy issues and the technologies that threaten privacy.
Many sites are moving to encrypted HTTPS communications to increase privacy and security for site visitors and their personally identifiable information, not just credit card info. Ad revenue-driven properties on marketing websites can suffer as European Union cookie laws require compliance banners and consent, and as browser add-ons block content including ad banners.
Privacy-invasive technologies (such as cookies and related user-tracking protocols, encryption, and privacy-by-design methodologies) enable marketing tools, such as personalization and site-visitor tracking. Marketers must realize that, when those tools are disabled, many investments in marketing tech may be rendered worthless.
Security, which has been top of mind for CIOs in every sector, now also falls within the purview of CMOs, who must protect their websites' and digital properties' content and data from constant hacks and attacks. Firms using inappropriate technologies and failing to properly maintain their security enabled the recent Panama Papers data leak.
To that end, tech and services exist for testing website security, protecting sites via Web application firewalls, and resolving issues. And Web-based software needs regular updates and maintenance to prevent website defacement.
Marketing teams must integrate these demands with their own internal data security and privacy policies to identify and shore up vulnerabilities and possible leaks. Increasingly, these costs come out of CMOs' budgets, with guidance on rules coming from CIOs.
Privacy and security wins are hard to measure because they involve exercising caution with client and consumer data as well as capturing information on the data breaches that didn't happen. Forward-thinking CMOs have security analysts perform scans and penetration tests across their Web properties.
In fact, researchers at Forrester found that reducing the probability of a data breach can potentially save companies in the realm of $400,000 annually, with positive returns of about 38% after the first year.
4. Accessibility and Inclusive Design
Accessibility is quickly emerging as table stakes for many firms, and not just for SEO reasons. It’s estimated that 1.3 billion people globally live with disabilities, representing a combined disposable income of $1.2 trillion. Embracing inclusive design means creating equal accessibility for all users, regardless of their needs.
Moreover, all US government agency websites now must satisfy accessibility standards for visitors with vision impairments and other disabilities, and the same compliance requirements extend to their suppliers. For many organizations, standards governing brick-and-mortar locations also apply online.
Therefore, marketers must understand the accessibility requirements within their sectors to ensure they meet design and branding standards. Certain fields, such as healthcare, have more prominent mandates to provide highly accessible websites to their audiences. Tools for meeting these standards include CMSes that allow the management of accessible content for all visual elements; third-party compliance scanners like AChecker and screen readers such as JAWS may be used to conduct website accessibility testing.
Online firms have faced numerous lawsuits for failing to achieve that accessibility. Depending on audience demographics, website visitors can range broadly. Designing a website that works for all potential uses not only limits possible legal exposure but is also just good business.
Marketers need at least a systems-level understanding of these technologies and how they apply to their digital marketing initiatives. Most will need to consult a technology partner to gain an unbiased understanding of how to best address these issues. Having a "marketing technologist" on their teams will help them navigate the labyrinth of tech solutions gracefully.