iPaaS — integrated platforms as a service — is a relatively new term in the martech space, but it has been quietly gaining traction over the last several years. According to chiefmartec.com, the martech landscape has grown by 13.6%; as the number of solutions continues to expand, marketers are increasingly challenged to connect the data from different systems and platforms and automate the tasks related to those different tools.
With thousands of solutions in the martech space, marketers are turning to iPaaS as a potential solution in their automation sequence. In uncertain times, startups and larger, more established businesses are viewing iPaaS as a way to cut down on manually entering data, sending emails and phone calls to third-party logistics vendors to remain competitive and keep costs manageable.
According to Colin Reid, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner, marketers are looking for more integration services as their tech stacks become more complex.
While iPaaS is still relatively unknown, it is often referred to as a CDP and may be useful for B2B marketers who are looking to connect apps and automate campaigns. In certain situations, the solution can help marketers deliver more personalized experiences. But midsize companies that could stand to benefit from an iPaaS system and see its value need to see more applicability for their own purposes before committing to such a large infrastructural investment.
Orchestrating The Martech Stack Around iPaaS Streamlines Activities, Promotes Personalization
Just as the number of solutions has expanded, so have the go-to-market strategies marketing teams are now supporting. At the core, most B2B organizations are integrating data and reporting between their CRM and marketing automation systems. More recently, many companies have adopted ABM in and have dedicated tools to support those initiatives. With each new technology, Reid said marketers are leaning toward best-of-breed solutions.
“In our most recent marketing technology survey, we saw a big swing towards best-of-breed,” he said. “Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they prefer a best-of-breed approach, and in order to make that effective, you need to have an integration solution. The need for an effective iPaaS or AI SaaS solution is something that is critical to success.”
Reid stressed it is important to have strong integration between all point solutions because marketers have less time to plan out their technology roadmap than they did in the past.
“More than 94% [of marketers] aren't planning their marketing technology roadmap more than two years in advance,” Reid said. “Early planning 24 months (or less) in advance is needed to get stuff up and running, integrate it and have some fairly accelerated time to value. And AI technologies like AI SaaS and iPaaS are certainly enablers of that.”
Jon Russo, CMO and Founder of B2B Fusion, a martech consulting company for B2B organizations, put it succinctly when discussing the current state of iPaaS. “Everybody has all these islands of martech that they're trying to connect,” he said. Elaborating on his point, he stated that many companies have successfully initiated marketing automation platforms and are ready for the next step — which is orchestrating all these apps to coordinate with each other.
“We're probably in a more mature market with a lot of companies that have adopted marketing automation anywhere from two to seven years of age,” Russo said. “They're now integrating basic applications … webinars would probably be the most relevant example — that’s phase two.
“In phase three, you're talking about multiple different technologies,” he continued. “An email signature [solution provider], such as Sigstr, Terminus’ banner ads and LinkedIn ads getting pushed by marketing technology. Then, you’re connecting them all back into one central location that can push and pull information based on the activity of a person or an organization. It's a very complex integration of systems to move data back and forth.”
Russo explained that one possible benefit of iPaaS is personalization, particularly when it comes to target accounts. Instead of manually triggering campaigns and hoping that the data between apps stays consistent, iPaaS allows the campaign to kick off automatically with the most accurate data available, allowing the marketer to track it in real-time. He also noted that iPaaS can be another term for orchestration.
Experts noted that not having iPaaS as part of a marketing strategy would result in marketing having to manually connect disparate segments of data to reach a target account or individual without truly knowing if they engaged with their product.
“The alternative of not having orchestration, in that case, would be disconnected islands of information,” said Russo. “Let’s say I spent all sorts of money trying to advertise to a VP of Marketing at a company, and I wouldn't know if they’re interested in my product. A benefit of iPaaS would be rather than all leveraging all of these manual different campaigns, we’re now able to automate it. If you set iPaaS up so that the systems talk with other systems, that’s where I see the streamlining of campaigns both as a LinkedIn piece, as well as a marketing piece.”
Incorporating Unstructured Data Noted As Common Challenge Of iPaaS Implementation
While some end users are aware of the potential benefits of iPaaS, they pointed out that there are still realities to applying it in more complex use cases. Corey Livingston, VP of Marketing at OneNeck, noted iPaaS has some challenges when it comes to extracting, transferring and loading unstructured data.
“I think it's a lot more developed than it was and in previous years, I believe that the use cases for integration platform as a service are growing,” said Livingston. “But I think that there's still some maturity that needs to happen in this area. The solution that we're using right now that I think would fall within iPaaS is Lattice Engines as a CDP, and a place to put all our unstructured data.”
Livingston also noted that iPaaS is structured with marketing automation platforms to work with leads, not account data.
“Our biggest challenge right now with the unstructured data is that many of our systems are built around leads, not around accounts,” she said. “We go in and extrapolate the data from some of these systems and then prepare it to what we would call “ETL” (extract, transform and load) into our iPaaS system or CVP system. It gets really challenging in terms of how to really standardize that data.”
Michael Green, Director of Marketing Operations at OneNeck, has concerns that the level of sophistication that comes with an iPaaS system are not yet accessible to midsize companies. Unable to take advantage of a fully developed iPaaS system, he writes his own code, which can be error-prone and incomplete when trying to access the data he’s looking for, particularly when looking to target accounts.
“It seems to me that [iPaaS] is more geared toward the emerging enterprise and enterprise businesses,” he said.” It’s not really geared toward mid-market [businesses] yet.”
Still, Green insisted that iPaaS does have a place in the midsize company’s martech stack.
“Everybody assumes that you start with their tool that everything is self-contained inside that tool, and you're going to use it for in the end. And nobody does,” said Green. “I don't use it that way. I don't use a single tool to do my entire job. There's no one-size-fits-all option so that's always been the challenge. How do I make these tools talk to each other? I do think there's something there for these integration services; it is needed. I just don't know if it is necessarily dialed in to [midsize businesses] yet … I haven’t found one that works for me yet. I still have to write my own.”
Pivoting To iPaaS To Achieve Digital Transformation
Experts emphasized that companies will have to pivot quickly to leveraging integrated online platforms in order to meet the growing demand for digital experiences. Rico Andrade, VP of Marketing at Celigo, an iPaaS solution provider, said that the company witnessed a real-time surge of customers adopting iPaaS to grow and stabilize businesses.
“We're seeing a lot of people making adjustments [to include iPaaS],” Andrade said. “For example, people who depend a lot on selling in person, all of a sudden they have to adjust to being able to sell online. This means they have to adopt these processes pretty quickly. We’re seeing an acceleration of customers who are going through their ‘digital transformation’ and all of a sudden, it becomes existential. iPaaS is becoming a basic infrastructure element of any digital transformation. And right now, there is no choice but to be digitally transformed. This has really become a forcing function for a lot of companies.”
In 2020, there are simply too many processes and too many cloud-based apps to not have some sort of integration in place to connect data across multiple platforms. iPaaS may not be the perfect solution for some organizations, but companies that depend on selling need to pivot quickly. iPaaS is one way to do that in a cost-effective, streamlined way that reduces errors and simplifies the ever-shifting martech landscape.