Jonathan Moran on the Future of MarTech: AI, Data Privacy, and Emerging Trends

Q&A with Jonathan Moran, Head of MarTech Solutions Marketing at SAS

Jonathan Moran, Head of MarTech Solutions Marketing at SAS, shares insights on the rapid advancements in marketing technology over the past two decades, the ethical considerations of AI in marketing, and emerging trends that will shape the future of digital marketing.

In the ever-evolving landscape of marketing technology and customer analytics, few individuals have had as profound an impact as Jonathan Moran, the Head of MarTech Solutions Marketing at SAS. With over two decades of experience in the field, Moran has witnessed and contributed to significant advancements that have shaped modern marketing practices. His expertise spans designing, developing, and implementing analytical software solutions for Fortune 500 clients, navigating complex regulatory environments, and pioneering responsible marketing in the age of AI.

In this interview, Moran shares his insights on the transformative changes in marketing technology over the past 20 years, his unique challenges in the industry, and the ethical considerations companies must navigate when leveraging AI for marketing. He also explores the future impact of generative AI models, the benefits of transitioning to SAS from traditional marketing clouds, and the implications of the decline of third-party cookies on customer experience.

As we delve into the rise of MadTech and emerging trends in MarTech, Moran provides a forward-looking perspective on how companies can prepare for the future of customer engagement. His advice for newcomers to the MarTech field is strategic and practical, emphasizing the importance of long-term vision and the value of mentorship.

Join us as we explore these topics and more with Jonathan Moran, a visionary leader whose contributions continue to shape the future of marketing technology.

Excerpts from the interview; 

With your extensive experience in marketing technology and customer analytics, what significant changes have you observed in these fields over the past 20 years?

The main change I’ve seen over the past 20 years has been the rapid advance in marketing technology solutions. When I first began, data warehousing, segmentation, and marketing channel activation were limited to several channels and use cases. Today, hundreds if not thousands of advanced use cases that use and incorporate technologies and activation channels that weren’t even considered in the early 2000s. At times, this technological advance can seem overwhelming, but grounding yourself in the basic tenets and processes that form the foundation for marketing technology allows you to make sense of this rapid growth.

Can you share your unique challenges in developing analytical software for Fortune 500 clients and how you overcame them?

Sure, I will share some challenges that stand out as perhaps unique. 

With one customer, a regulated tobacco manufacturer, I learned about customer data protection and the importance of following local, state, and federal regulations regarding marketing and certain types of products. This gave me a deep appreciation for truly understanding your customers before engaging with them. By implementing complex segmentation techniques and business rule development, we created campaigns that engaged with the proper customer sets at the time. 

A second example of an interesting situation where technology advancement and marketing technology intersected was with a customer that distributed media via postal mail. This was before the days of streaming media programs that so many consumers are accustomed to today. Helping this business understand customer engagement timelines while optimizing distribution was a complex use case. Through trial and error, we eventually created customer journeys and campaigns that encouraged media consumption, prompt return, and distribution optimization so that the business was successful. This business no longer distributes media via postal mail but delivers media via smart TV in mobile application interfaces. 

Also Read: The Future of Retail is AI: Personalized, Efficient, and Customer-Centric

Can you elaborate on the ethical considerations companies should consider when using AI for marketing?

Certainly, all brands want relationships with their customers that are built on a foundation of trust. When using AI for marketing, there are many considerations to account for. Not only must you responsibly use customer and marketing data, but you must also use technology such as artificial intelligence responsibly. When artificial intelligence is not used properly for marketing, consumers can receive biased, irrelevant, and even offensive brand messages. This automatically erodes not only the trust that the individual consumer may have but can also impact the trust that other groups of consumers have when dealing with that brand. Not having consumer trust leads to significant brand health and financial impacts.

How do you see generative AI models impacting modern digital marketing?

Generative AI models will empower digital marketers to be more efficient and effective in the short term. In the long term, we will see generative AI create immersive experiences for digital marketers working on behalf of brands to set up customer engagement strategies and initiatives. Generative AI will move beyond content creation into orchestrating customer journey creation, design, and execution. It should be very interesting to see how marketing technology vendors continue to embrace this technology over the next three to five years.

You’ve discussed transitioning from marketing clouds to SAS. What are the benefits and impacts on marketing operations?

Many brands are undergoing data transformation projects, moving data out of legacy data warehouses and stores into cloud data platforms, such as Snowflake or Google Big Query. Once brands have this data in cloud platforms, they want to avoid replicating it into a marketing cloud. Many marketing cloud providers require data duplication into their environments to use that data for marketing and customer engagement purposes. 

The unique thing about SAS is that we do not require data duplication; instead, we connect directly to cloud data stores to perform customer engagement activities. This is valuable to brands from a time, cost, privacy, and resource perspective. Additionally, SAS has many data management and analytic capabilities embedded into our marketing technology solution that many brands will look for as customer data becomes more varied and complex.

How do you think the decline of third-party cookies will affect the customer experience?

Data deprecation, or the demise of the third-party cookie, will force brands to become reliant on zero, first, and 2nd party data. Developing a strategy to engage customers without the tracking data that third-party cookies provide will be a challenge for some brands. Still, we have seen from research that many brands are already accounting for how they can use zero to second-party data more effectively. I think the customer experience will improve as brands become more adept at using zero to second-party data. Consumers will no longer be followed around the Internet, with offers pushed to them based on browsing history alone. Given that brands can correct this new data strategy, we will see offers and engagements that are more personalized and contextually relevant than before the comma.

Can you share your thoughts on the rise of MadTech and how companies can prepare for it? 

As data deprecation occurs, capabilities previously siloed into either the marketing technology or advertising technology camps will merge. This will happen not only at the engagement level but also at the data and insight levels. As this merge progresses, brands will increasingly rely on created customer profiles that serve both marketing and advertising use cases. Companies can and are already preparing for this by creating data stores, such as customer data platforms and data collaboration platforms, in cloud data stores (walled gardens and data exchanges) that can be used for marketing and advertising. Creating an audience that can serve marketing and advertising use cases sourced from a single data store will be the future of customer engagement. I think it is prudent for companies to consider how they can account for the merger of two previously separate disciplines as they transform their data infrastructures.

What are some of the emerging trends in MarTech that you believe will shape the future of marketing? 

With the rise in marketing technology vendors, I believe that becoming more open and easily integrated into an ecosystem will perhaps be the largest. Vendors that do not provide the openness and extensibility to perform well in the new type of marketing ecosystem will be left out of conversations.

Additionally, we will see artificial intelligence used much more for front-end customer experience use cases than ever before. Traditionally, artificial intelligence was used on the back end to perform sentiment, text analysis, and machine learning model creation. In the future, and we already see this, AI will be infused more deeply into conversational marketing capabilities and other immersive customer experience use cases. This will include voice and visual recognition, biometrics, and other consumer privacy and security-related use cases. Consumers are very protective of their data. Brands must continue to account for this and how they integrate and deploy artificial intelligence into marketing and customer engagement use cases.

Also Read: Mastering First-Party Data in a Privacy-focused Era

What advice would you give someone just starting their career in MarTech?

My main advice is twofold: keep the long view in mind and don’t get mired in the tactical. Take time to think about how you can strategically impact your business and where you want your career to take you. It’s easy to let other people and things take control of your career – and get bogged down in tactical day-to-day activities, but at the end of the day, it’s yours to own and manage effectively. With that in mind, network and focus on relationships where you can be both mentored and serve as a mentor to others. Having trusted advisors to balance both work and career ideas is extremely valuable.