Every retailer wants to make the right decision when selecting a marketing platform. Unfortunately, as comprehensive as they want the selection process to be, many organizations still end up with platforms that don’t meet their needs.

We talk to retailers every day and see hundreds of platform evaluations every year, so we see a lot of the same issues emerge repeatedly. The overarching problem? Marketing solution providers make promises about their capabilities, but then the actual solutions don’t back up those promises.

To help retailers select the platform that works best for their business, we’ve highlighted 10 key factors to consider during the selection process.

1. Point Solution Results vs Single Integrated Platform

Point solution providers promise to deliver dramatic results in a very specific area. Unfortunately, when you use multiple point solutions in tandem — often paying too much for each — each vendor keeps their data and workflows separated. 

So if you have one provider for email, another for SMS, and yet another for identity resolution, you end up with disparate data and platforms that don’t integrate seamlessly — which results in disjointed customer experiences.

The future of marketing is true cross-channel orchestration. For that, you need a single, integrated platform that gives you performance and results. 

2. An Acquisition or Merger Doesn’t Build Seamless Technology

You’ve probably seen this recently: A marketing company that focuses on one marketing component will acquire another company (or multiple companies) to help them broaden their capabilities. Then they package the companies together as an “integrated solution”.  

However, when you pull back the curtain, you’ll still find largely disconnected systems. A shared logo and invoice is not, in and of itself, an integrated platform. And it won’t deliver the seamless technology to get your marketing where you want to take it.

3. Features with the Same Name Don’t Always Have the Same Functionality

If your team has assembled a checklist of must-have features, it’s tempting to simply check boxes when you see features listed among a platform’s capabilities. But beware — features from different platforms with the same name aren’t always created equal.

One example is Product Recommendations. Many platforms advertise this feature as part of their platform, but they don’t all have the same level of functionality. For some vendors, the product recommendations feature is a “one-size-fits-all” black box that often generates recommendations that are simply taken from New Arrivals and Best Sellers. What you want is a more sophisticated AI/ML-driven algorithm that can be adjusted based on specific criteria for your unique business (margin, category, etc.). 

Our recommendation: Have use cases for features and functionality, ask how key features work, and ask for reference client data on actual results and impact.

4. Think About How Your Solution Provider Will Support You

Today’s marketing teams are under enormous pressure and stretched incredibly thin. That’s why it’s important to factor in the level of support and expertise you’ll get from your provider.  Having a company with active support and collaboration is every bit as important as the technology you choose. 

Questions to ask providers: 

  • Do you have dedicated account managers?
  • What is the account manager to client ratio? 
  • What is your client NPS Score? 
  • What does support look like? 

Remember, premium “white glove” service should never mean “live chat”. 

5. Pay Attention to the Last Mile

You’ll want to choose a provider that controls the last mile of each engagement channel. 

Many email providers tout a strong front-end but utilize a third-party send engine (e.g. SendGrid, etc.). So these vendors have little control over critical features like inbox placement and deliverability, and you have no support when issues arise. In email, where every percentage point has a major impact on revenue, a provider with a native send engine will provide the best results.

The last mile is an important factor with your SMS/Text Message Marketing provider. Your provider should be working with a Tier 1 aggregator (with direct connections to the carriers). Any other configuration causes a degradation in control, reliability, and ultimately, performance. 

6. Be Aware of Pay-to-Play Rankings

Many decision-makers in the platform selection process will depend on rankings from major industry analysts and review sites. However, many companies aren’t aware that solution providers often pay for inclusion into annual rankings or listings. 

That’s not to say these rankings don’t have value, but retailers should be aware that the analysis is not always entirely objective.

7. Don’t Be Fooled with “Feature Bait”

A common ploy for some vendors is to highlight “differentiators” in the form of innovative features that sound compelling, but don’t ultimately impact results. 

You’ll want to ask for reference clients who can substantiate the engagement and revenue impact that those features have provided. Ask for the specific use cases that those innovative features address, and then ask the other vendors how they address those use cases.

8. Where is Your Data Stored and Shared?

Data privacy will be an increasingly important issue for marketers. How will a vendor ensure the security and privacy of your data and that of your customers?

Here are a couple of vital questions to ask:

  • Where is your customer data stored?
  • Is my data being shared as part of a co-op or other inter-client exchange?

In this environment, exchanging data privacy for improved results is no longer a fair trade-off.

Even though data privacy is essential, there are many other things to look at when deciding the platform to use for storing your data. What would happen if someone managed to access this data or used it to destroy your business? Fortunately, you can employ certain measures to ensure you are on top of things even when under attack.

This is what makes an observability solution important. It helps you to monitor and observe your marketing platforms for any issues and address them even before they affect the performance and security of your marketing platforms. This way, you can ensure that your data and the platform’s performance meet your expectations.

9. Every Minute of Downtime Costs You Revenue

When your site or systems are down, you can’t convert on any of your traffic. Uptime literally equates to revenue dollars — especially during the holidays — so downtime shouldn’t be tolerated.

Rather than asking vendors about how reliable and scalable their platform is, you should check it yourself. You can review actual uptime data across vendors at resources like StatusGator.com.  

10. Don’t Let IT Tip the Evaluation Scales  

IT is essential to any retailer, but they have fundamentally different goals, objectives, and priorities than marketing. They want ease, simplicity, and status quo. You want growth. 

While IT should be involved in the process — and alert you to any vendor red flags that emerge — they don’t have responsibility for revenue metrics. So take their input, but make the final decision based on how the platform helps your organization meet its marketing and revenue goals.

Don’t Settle for Status Quo

While the points outlined above are important considerations, they shouldn’t dissuade you from making a change to a new marketing platform. Instead, they should help you make the right decision for your organization’s short-term and long-term goals.

Listrak’s integrated platform provides solutions to many of the issues reviewed here. Our retail-focused solution gives you the flexibility, security, and bottom-line results — all together in a unified platform. 

If you’d like to see how Listrak can give you everything you want in your next marketing platform, request a demo today.

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