The State of Martech 2018: Maximizing Value

In early April, my colleague and I sat in eager anticipation for the latest Martech Supergraphic at the Martech conference in San Jose. If this sounds exciting to you, you clearly know something about the space, which is centered around enabling marketers to better connect with their customers via technology.

At Walker Sands, we’ve been eagerly watching the number of available marketing technology solutions grow from under 200 in 2011 to nearly 7,000 with the latest Supergraphic release.

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This year, we once again partnered with the Supergraphic’s creator and martech thought leader Scott Brinker to survey marketers on their attitudes, perceptions and beliefs regarding their own use of technology and thoughts on the future.

Our 2018 State of Marketing report shows that, as in the past three years, marketers remain eager and invested (emotionally and financially) in the tools that they’re using. In 2018, however, we discovered that marketers have abandoned the “set and forget” mentality and the desire to make one major purchase. This is a natural evolution from our findings last year, which found that marketers are forgoing all-in-one cloud-based suites in favor of comprehensive stacks. According to Brinker’s Martech keynote, these stacks contain an average of 91 different SaaS solutions.

How are they managing those solutions? Our annual survey of 300 marketers found:

Adoption Isn’t the Challenge

When it comes to the use or concept of martech, marketers are all in – so much so that they’re evaluating their stack every six months to a year. Twenty-four percent of respondents said that they evaluated their tech at the half year mark; the same proportion evaluated solutions annually.

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This indicates that solutions are so plentiful that marketers have myriad options to meet their needs – and are content to play the field. As Brinker stated in the report: “Marketing technology is evolving faster than most marketing organizations can absorb it.”

Agility Follows Adoption

Nearly half of marketers feel that the space is evolving rapidly, which is not a surprise. The largest proportion of marketers, however, feel that their company is one step behind in the space. Thirty-seven percent of marketers say their company’s use of marketing technology has evolved steadily, but only one-fifth of marketers say their company has kept pace with the industry and evolved rapidly.

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The discrepancy isn’t universally due to budgets, however: over half agree or strongly agree that their companies are investing the right amount in martech. Internal resistance to change may be the culprit: after cost and implementation struggles, it’s the factor most often cited as a hurdle to martech success.

Optimism is on the Rise

Along with budgets, marketers’ willingness to embrace change means that vendors will have big potential in 2018. Forty-one percent of marketers say they have the tech skills to elevate their entire department. That optimism, however, is tempered by the additional challenge in ensuring that martech stacks are up to date and sufficient. Fewer marketers felt that their tech was up to date and sufficient to help them do their jobs (63 percent this year vs. 69 percent last year).

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Download the latest version of Walker Sands’ State of Martech 2018 here, and check out past studies here to view the evolution of marketing technology and marketers’ attitudes toward it over the past three years. If you’re interested in learning more about how Walker Sands can elevate the awareness around your solution and drive leads, check out our martech capabilities here.

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Retail and Logistics Experts Discuss the Future of Commerce at Walker Sands Panel

On Wednesday we hosted a panel of experts to discuss key findings from our 2018 Future of Retail report at Walker Sands’ HQ in Chicago. The panel, titled The Future of Retail Is Beyond Retail, featured a group of retail and logistics experts, including Scott Webb, President of Avionos, a Chicago-based digital experience company; Lauren Freedman, Founder of the e-tailing group, focused on research in the retail and logistics space; Jim Okamura, Partner at McMillan Doolittle, a retail consultancy; and Erin Jordan, Senior Account Director, Partner at Walker Sands and author of the annual Future of Retail report.


The panelists kicked off the night with a discussion on where they have seen the biggest changes in the industry over the past five years. Some of the most notable changes mentioned were the mobile takeover, consumers’ comfort level in giving out personal information and the increasing desire for convenience in shopping. In addition to the changes we have already seen, here are some highlights from the night about the direction retail is moving in the near future:

  • Online vs. In-Store Experience – The perception of saving time and money is one of the major draws of Amazon. However, Scott Webb stated “It wasn’t Amazon that killed retail – it was the existing in-store experience that killed retail,” highlighting the inconvenience and effort it often takes to go to a physical Audiencestore. An audience participant argued that the experience people look for when buying online and shopping in-store are very different and, in the future, the most successful stores will be able to marry the two.
  • Amazon Go Stores – The new cashierless Amazon Go stores are fascinating to consumers as they promise more convenience and speed with little to no human interaction. However, retailers were warned of trying to copy this model because Amazon is a tech company and doesn’t follow the same retail economy rules. At the very least, it was predicted that the existence of Amazon Go stores will push retailers to figure out ways to make their in-store experiences faster and more convenient.
  • Voice-Controlled Devices – 39 percent of people who own a voice-controlled device now own at least two, showing that people are becoming more comfortable relying on these devices in many different areas of their lives. Erin Jordan and Scott Webb Erin:Panelbelieve that voice-controlled devices are acting as a transitional stepping stone that will lead us to higher efficiency, without the physical device, in other ways of life. They predict a future where voice technology is integrated into every aspect of our homes, making purchasing commodities and other everyday tasks much more efficient.
  • Recommendations – The general consensus was that the retailers who will continue to find success are the ones with high quality in-store experiences with employees who are fully educated on the brand and knowledgeable about the value of their product. Service is important because it helps to build trust which then leads to an increase in brand loyalty. Specifically cited as examples of companies currently doing this exceptionally well were REI, The North Face and Glossier. Lauren Freedman’s advice to consumers who don’t want to see the retail world go completely digital is to “support the people [and companies] that know the product.”Lauren Freedman2

The discussion predicted a future where brands will try to take control of the purchase channel and go directly to the consumer. However, Jim Okamura pointed out the difficulty brands will face in this feat as they haven’t had experience navigating the complex world of retail on their own. And while Erin Jordan anticipates advancements in voice commerce providing a more fluid way of life when buying commodities, she and Lauren Freedman believe a split will happen between consumers who will still be looking for the classic, but elevated, in-store experience.

Mirroring the discussion from the panel, our 2018 Future of Retail report revolves around connected lifestyles, the expansion of Amazon, the dramatic rise of voice and the need for supply chain optimization, essentially showing that the future of retail goes beyond retail. You can download the report here for a more in-depth look.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this event! We enjoyed discussing how factors beyond retail are shaping the future of commerce with the brightest industry leaders in Chicago, and we look forward to seeing you at another Walker Sands event soon!

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Walker Sands Welcomes Three Agency Veterans as Newest Partners

2018 has been an incredible year of growth at Walker Sands. So far, we opened a brand-new office in Seattle, won multiple awards for client work and office culture and our headcount is quickly approaching 100 full-time digital and PR experts. With all of this exciting progress, we are thrilled to announce that our leadership team is growing once again with the appointment of three company veterans to partners!

Walker Sands’ newest partners are Chicago PR leaders Allison Ward and Erin Jordan, along with Seattle team lead Annie Gudorf. All three have given so much to the agency over the years and truly exemplify our core values of learning, supporting and getting things done.

New Partners

At Walker Sands we are proud to have created a culture of constant learning where employees have numerous opportunities to advance their careers. Each with 5+ years of experience at the agency, these three incredible women have climbed the ranks  two from interns all the way to partners  to become true leaders in their respective practice areas.

Annie Gudorf joined Walker Sands in 2012 and worked her way up through media relations and account management roles before heading to San Francisco, then Seattle, to expand Walker Sands’ west coast presence. With client experience that includes CompTIA, Owler and Nintex, Annie and her team are responsible for some of the agency’s best campaigns  work that regularly receives recognition from the Public Relations Society of America, among others.

Erin Jordan joined the firm in 2012 and has grown to lead the agency’s retail technology practice. In addition to her experience with brands including CloudCraze and Globant, Erin leads Walker Sands’ annual Future of Retail research, now in its fifth year. Erin is a board member at PRC Next, a small group of rising leaders within the PR Council.

Allison Ward joined Walker Sands in 2013 as an account manager after prior experience in both agency and in-house PR roles. As a senior account director managing a book of business across FinTech, electronics and other areas, Allison’s client experience includes work with Newark element14, Worldpay and Billtrust. She also serves as the PR partner for the Illinois Technology Association’s Women Influence Chicago initiative.

By including senior leaders in the agency partnership, we are excited to not only be investing in our employees, but also in the continued success of the company. We are so incredibly proud of these three partners and can’t wait to see where the future takes us!

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Walker Sands’ 2018 Future of Retail Report – The New Age of Voice Commerce

Amazon dominates today’s retail landscape. If you’re like most U.S. consumers, you probably order regularly from the marketplace. The 2018 Future of Retail report reveals that 42 percent of consumers receive 1-2 packages per week, and that number rises as high as 57 percent for those ages 26-35.

And our research reveals that Amazon leads the charge in another area significantly reshaping how customers interact with brands: voice commerce. As more users adopt voice assistants, they expect more from these devices than the ability to quickly play music or ask for the time. This means retailers must adapt to a zero UI model of e-commerce — one that operates with no visual interface — sooner rather than later.


In our blog series about this year’s Future of Retail report, we continue to examine Amazon’s lasting impact on customer expectations. Here’s what our research reveals about voice commerce and the implications for retailers:

  • Digital assistants will become household staples. Twenty-four percent of U.S. adults (nearly 39 million consumers) own a voice-controlled device. And typically once consumers purchase their first device, they’re eager for more. Of those who own a voice-controlled device, nearly two in five (39 percent) report having at least two devices, and 7 percent report owning four or more devices. Sixty-four percent of consumers who own a voice-controlled device use it at least once a week and nearly one in five (18 percent) use it at least three times a day.
  • Voice-controlled assistants are everywhere (yes, even in the bathroom). The most popular places consumers use their voice-controlled assistants in their homes include the living room (57 percent), kitchen (33 percent) and master bedroom (27 percent). They are open to keeping Images within the study-3these devices in more private places as well, with 14 percent of consumers placing them in their bathrooms. The normalization of voice-controlled devices over the past year means consumers are more comfortable interacting with voice assistants in many different ways throughout their homes.
  • Customers aren’t using devices to their full potential yet. Voice assistants are popular, but most owners use them for basic tasks only. The most popular function? Playing music. Fifty-seven percent of consumers identify that as their go-to task. Our study shows consumers use voice-controlled devices more often as an assistant, rather than a commerce device. Forty-eight percent report using a voice-controlled device to answer a question, 38 percent check the time and 27 percent create a shopping list. In the past year, more people used Amazon Alexa to tell jokes than to connect to their smart home (25 percent vs. 20 percent).
  • Voice commerce is on the rise. As consumers become more comfortable integrating voice into their daily lives, commerce is set to grow in popularity. But barriers to adoption still exist. When asked what might prevent them from shopping via voice, consumers note concerns about security (45 percent), privacy (42 percent) and a lack of visuals like images and videos (35 percent).

Voice-controlled devices are making major impacts on consumer lifestyles in a very short time.Walker-Sands-Cover-530x430 Retailers that understand how customers interact with voice assistants now may be more likely to overcome barriers to adoption down the road. To learn more about voice commerce and what it means for retail, download the full Walker Sands 2018 Future of Retail here. And follow along for the last installment of our three-part blog series.

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Code Conference – Some Thoughts on Big Tech Companies and the Government

Walker Sands had the opportunity this year to join a relatively small group of tech leaders at Recode’s flagship event, Code Conference. Over the course of two days, Recode’s Kara Swisher and Peter Kafka grilled CEOs and founders over a handful of tricky topics. IMG_0969

This year’s show started by looking back. In 2001, Microsoft lost its huge antitrust lawsuit to the U.S. government – marking the symbolic end of the first “tech boom.”

For the tech leaders onstage at Code Conference 2018, it appears we’re at at a similar inflection point. The negative impacts of the 2010s technologies continue to emerge, and leaders who have enriched themselves on their unbridled growth are being held accountable both by the public at large and our government.

Fake news, smartphone addiction, lack of privacy and data free-for-all, cyber security, sexual harassment and #MeToo dominated the lines of questioning and the conversations at Recode’s annual tech leader conference.IMG_0975

From Snap CEO and founder Evan Spiegel to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, every speaker hit a note of contrition. While Snap apologized for its ugly app redesign, Facebook said sorry for losing billions of data points to such shady data brokers as Cambridge Analytica.

Federal action seemed to be a consistent thread in Microsoft’s early 2000s court date and today’s reckoning. Brad Smith who lived the Microsoft slapdown in 2001 said this:

“If you create tech that changes the world, the world is going to want to regulate and govern you. You’re going to have to get used to it.”

But, when federal lawsuits challenge a tech company’s dominance, there come potential opportunities for smaller players to enter the fray and take larger competitors by surprise.

Because Microsoft was preoccupied with divesting its many businesses, Smith continued, Google could rise and dominate the Search category. That opening has allowed Google to innovate without the press of a direct competitor and grow to define an entire category.

For Walker Sands’ part, we’re keeping our eyes peeled for a new class of tech company that brings to market social conscious technologies that adhere to a more strict regulatory environment.

Maybe there’s a company that can create a social network that can’t be used for voter manipulation and fake news, or a transportation company that pays its employees competitively. As Brad Smith said, our government can “oxidize the market.” Companies that support, work with, or invest in a new class of socially conscious company will participate in the third technology boom.

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