MarTech Interview with Hannah Stewart, VP Marketing at Zeotap

Hannah Stewart, VP Marketing at Zeotap comments on the need for marketers to capitalize more on first-party data while sharing a few best practices on what it takes to improve how marketers collate and manage their business and customer data:

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Welcome to this martech chat Hannah, tell us more about Zeotap and its growth journey over the last few years…

Zeotap has undergone a major evolution over the past few years. The business started back in 2014 and built a very successful strategy as a provider of high-quality, privacy-compliant targeting data across Europe and India. In the course of doing so, the team realised that there was an even more pressing need among marketers: a way to unify, enhance and fully activate their data in order to effectively leverage it. 

That led to the launch of the Zeotap Customer Intelligence Platform last year – this is the next generation of Customer Data Platforms, providing marketers with a future-proof solution to managing their customer data. We’ve now raised over $60 million in investment to take this to enterprises across several markets. 

All this comes against an important backdrop: the upcoming demise of third-party cookies, which takes place at the end of this year. As one of the few companies in our space to be headquartered in Europe, we’re no stranger to customer data privacy – the issue that’s at the heart of this fundamental change in digital marketing. That puts us in a great position to provide solutions that not only allow marketers to fully utilise their data, but that enable them to maintain addressability in a privacy-first world.

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How according to you should marketing leaders be focusing more on customer intelligence and what are some best practices that you’d suggest they follow?

The key to real customer intelligence is in first-party data. In years past, marketers have been able to rely on a lot of third-party solutions – like cookies – to give them addressability in their marketing activity. But with all of that about to change, it really shows how important it is to make first-party data a priority. 

There a couple of really key considerations when it comes to getting this right: 

  • implementing a CDP, obviously! 
  • don’t leave privacy and consent as an afterthought – you’re dealing with PII, so you need to have consent mastering and orchestration baked into all of your processes
  • think about scalability – real customer intelligence at scale means incorporating machine learning into your processes, so consider how you and your team can best achieve this 

How according to you will marketers start looking at customer- and related intelligent points differently to plan better company campaigns in the future? Can you talk about a few top marketing technologies that are driving this trend today, from the global marketplace?

With the disappearance of third-party cookies, things are going to get interesting in the programmatic space in particular. It’s here that marketers are going to have to interrogate their approaches along two different axes: scale and quality. 

On the one hand, they’ll be able to look at solutions like contextual targeting or cohort-based targeting (Google’s FLoC being the best-known) that deliver at scale but with tangible limitations on quality and accuracy. On the other hand, we have ‘premium’ methods of addressability – using your own first-party data or going through Universal ID based audiences – where there’s less scale, but quality and consent locked down. 

There’s a lot of upheaval to deal with here, and navigating this new world of addressability isn’t going to be easy. However, a diversification of solutions is no bad thing, particularly when they’re helping restore the consumer trust and consent that was jeopardized by third-party cookies. 

We’d love a deep dive into your thoughts on the future of customer data platforms and related tools and how you feel these platforms will evolve further to meet changing marketing needs?

Customer Data Platforms have become crucial to marketing success, mostly because they are able to combine data that would otherwise be sitting in silos across the organization. They do a great job of this, but this is just the beginning of the story. 

The big problem that many of them have is keeping up with the ever-evolving challenges of data privacy and security. Particularly for those users based in Europe, these are complex constraints that many US-based CDPs aren’t built for – but they’ll have to. 

Secondly, there’s more to be done in terms of the completeness of the Single Customer View. Nobody’s data is perfectly complete, and that’s particularly true when we’re talking about website visitors – very few of these visitors authenticate, so they remain invisible to the CDP that relies on PII. That’s one of the reasons we build third-party identity resolution into our solution to complete this picture (increasingly critical for digital-first customer engagement). 

The next area of growth and development for CDPs is in how data is used at scale. When we launched Predictive Audiences on our Customer Intelligence Platform in May, we wanted to create a machine learning solution within a CDP, empowering marketers to create smart audiences themselves (no need for a Data Scientist). I think this will be a critical component of CDPs – addressing the challenge of not just having a Single Customer View, but making it easy to apply that to solve marketing problems.

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What are some of the core marketing technologies that you feel marketing teams should not be doing without, today, at least in the B2B and tech marketplace?

A CDP of some kind, of course! 

As a B2B marketer, I’d also say that one of the things that I’ve found huge value in getting stuck into is actually not in the martech stack at all – it’s the sales tech stack. I’m a great advocate of Outreach.io, and have found immense value and success in getting to know its functionality inside-out so that marketing and sales signals speak fluently to each other. There are huge potential wins for both teams here. 

A few predictions that you have for the future of martech as a whole? Can you talk about some top martech providers you have been following in the recent years from the global market and why you find them innovative?

If the usual lumascape of martech is anything to go by, the sheer number of solutions in martech isn’t going to stop growing anytime soon. However, I do think that we’ll start to see more convergence – particularly at the enterprise end of the market – and the winning solutions will be the ones that have customer data at their core. The race for a Single Customer View is only going to become more important. 

That’s why we’ve seen plenty of interesting things coming from former Email Service Providers like MailChimp or Klaviyo, who have successfully expanded on their core role to reposition themselves at marketing automation platforms. 

A few takeaways for marketing leaders and CMOs/CEOs before we wrap up…

If anything’s to be learned from last year, it’s that nothing is so established that it can’t be challenged. 

Speaking as a B2B marketer, I think that the way we do business really needs more critical thought as we return back to some semblance of normal. While I think we all pivoted pretty well last year when we had to, I still think we need to do a better job of asking ‘why?’ when we look at the strategies we roll out day-to-day. There’s often a tendency to resort to an established ‘playbook’ of how B2B marketing works, and it’s time that we questioned it better.  

For example, virtual events are constantly happening all around us, but should we continue to try to deliver them at this level of velocity? We know that they don’t serve the same purpose as a real-life event where face-to-face time (and time out of the office) is the real value, so we should pause before trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I look forward to seeing more challenging of the status quo as we get back to normality. 

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Zeotap is a Customer Intelligence Platform that helps brands understand customers and predict behaviors.

Hannah Stewart is the VP Marketing at Zeotap

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