eCommerce is a highly metrics-driven industry. Marketers take into account a host of KPIs before investing in a tool: ROI, ROAS, Customer Acquisition cost, Conversion rate, Retention rate, Bounce rate, Lifetime Value … the list is long. These are all tangible metrics that provide marketers with an accurate picture of how a tool will fare in the marketing world. However, there is one intangible metric that acts as a common denominator for all the tangible ones: Time.

Time is money in today’s highly-competitive eCommerce market, as customers want to see a return on investment in the shortest time after making a purchase. If it doesn’t happen, they might churn. This makes Time to Value (TTV) a critical intangible metric. TTV is the time a new customer takes to gain value from a product. With this metric, marketers measure the duration time to success. If you are the Head of Digital of an eCommerce company, you would prefer 1.5 times improvement in overall conversion rates in 3 months’ time over a 3 times improvement in 2 years. If you are the CMO, you would want to show 2x ROI from marketing spend in 6 months’ and not in 2 years time! The shorter, the better.

Time To Value in Marketing

In simple terms, TTV is the time it takes to see the results following a specific action. 

The primary value that marketing tools provide is to increase revenue. Every activity that the tool performsbe it releasing a new product, onboarding multiple channels, launching a new ad campaign, or automating marketing activitiesare aimed at increasing profits, after an expected time lag. This lead time is defined as Time to Value in Marketing (TTVM). For a MarTech tool to be effective, the time between purchasing a tool and results coming from it should be minimal (faster TTVM).

TTVM is the time gap between purchasing a marketing product and when the product begins yielding results. TTVM has become a critical metric for choosing the right marketing tech for eCommerce businesses. Marketers prefer tools that minimize TTV, giving the best results in the shortest possible time.

Measuring Time To Value

Being an intangible metric, measuring TTV can be mathematically complicated. One, the method to calculate the metric varies, depending on your product, service, or business model. Two, there are different phases of measuring the TTV of a marketing technology product. These are:

Phase #1: Time to Immediate Value

This is the time a product takes to show immediate delight. In layman terms, it’s a case of instant gratification – you buy ice cream and immediately savor it. Example: the time you take to trial and integrate a marketing technology solution.

Phase #2: Time to Basic Value

This is the time when your solution starts delivering the minimum value promised. However, your customer has yet to realize its value on a larger scale. For marketing tools, it is when you customize a tool for usage and start running campaigns that deliver primary results.

Phase #3: Time to Exceeded Value

This is the time when the larger values start becoming visible. This is the time when a tool’s value has exceeded a customer’s expectations, prompting them to continue doing business with you. At this stage, the customer is accustomed to the tool, has tested most of its key features, and is running advanced personalization campaigns that are delivering results as per pre-defined metrics.

Phase #4: Time to Longer Value

This is the time when a customer realizes the full potential of a platform. Going forward, they invest further in the solution – in terms of new advanced features, integration with other tech-stacks, creating automated workflows, and investing more resources to manage the solution.

A marketing solution should be capable of minimizing the time to reach each of these four stages of value-creation.

The Bumpy Road To Faster Time to Value

We’ve understood TTV and its different phases. The next step is to find the right marketing tech stack that ensures the fastest time to value for marketers. Most MarTech platforms available in the market come with similar features and functionalities, promising fast time to value as well. But that’s not always the case. If we plot the promised path to value vs the real journey, we usually end up with a bumpy picture.

TTV bumpy road visual

Let’s consider a possible scenario with a MarTech solution: if the Time to Immediate and Time to Basic Value were to come at a very late stage, then the pressure for the tool to perform would have already started building by the time the tool enters its later operational stages. It may also be possible that these promised values are not delivered at all. This is the primary reason why marketing teams end up getting disappointed with a product.

Before going shopping for a right-fit MarTech tool, it’s important for marketers to understand the factors that affect TTV and analyze some of these challenges.

Challenges in Optimizing TTV

Integration 

The time taken to integrate your marketing tool is one of the most important factors in determining TTV. As you know, integrating a new marketing tool into your eCommerce system and marketing channels has various steps.  You can face challenges in any or all of these steps and it’s important to evaluate your solution against each step. 

  • Basic Integration

Most marketing platforms integrate in two ways:

– Directly: using a javascript code placed in your digital properties.

– Indirectly: using tag managers.

Using javascript code can be complicated, with exclusion scenarios, and would need the support of IT at some point. To avoid IT delays and impact on your immediate TTV, go for a tool that supports your preferred tag manager.

  • Customization

Once the basic integration is completed, you will need to customize the tool as per your systems and requirements. This process needs to map your events and attributes in a way that the marketing software understands, and usually requires heavy engineering/IT effort. This affects basic TTV. Modern marketing platforms come with the ability to map business rules easily. A few even have automated business rules mapping. These help lower Time to Value. 

  • DataLayer Mapping

Once your marketing software is customized, you have to ensure it has enough data to act upon. Most of this data will be stored in your product catalog and content management system. This data has to be mapped correctly so that it can be analyzed and processed efficiently- also called the data onboarding process. However, this process can take a lot of manual effort, in terms of creating unique XML or CSV feeds. If your marketing platform is unable to automate the data integration process, you will end up with a longer Time to Value. 

  • Channel Integration

We live in an omnichannel world, where a number of channels are used simultaneously for running marketing campaigns. Ensure that your marketing software works with your website, mobile web, app, email, SMS, and every other channel in your kitty. The solution should be able to integrate seamlessly with these channels, with ready to use connectors and APIs. 

Data Training 

If you integrate and customize your marketing platform in a short period of time, you ensure faster Time to Basic Value. To get to the next step – Time to Longer Value – needs more than just tools, data, and channel integration. For this, the data needs to be trained, to help you perform actions. -Marketers might want to know what action their user will perform next or find out what user segment might churn.  AI-powered platforms, that use complex machine learning algorithms, can predict future user behavior, giving marketers the foresight to act on these suggestions. Any tool that does not employ machine learning on its dataset will delay your TTV.

Personalization 

In order to derive value from a tool for a longer time period, you would need to act on the data intelligence on a continuous basis.  Drawing a personalized roadmap to make maximum use of the software is critical. Investing in an after-sales service package, along with the software, can help marketers implement new ideas and scenarios. Failing to do this will delay the Time to Longer Value.

Choosing A Marketing Platform With Faster Time To Value

There are some specific capabilities to look for in a marketing platform that minimizes TTV:

  1. Integration with Tag Managers: Your platform should be able to integrate with your existing systems directly, or by using any tag manager.    The process should be instant. It shouldn’t require extra resources or time, to avoid a negative impact on Immediate Time to Value.
  2.  Cut out IT Involvement in Customization: You should not be dependent on IT teams for customizing the platform for your needs. The vendor customization team should be able to utilize your existing data points to automate the system’s rule mapping.
  3. Crowd-Sourced Product Feeds: Check if the platform automatically generates product feeds from your website covering all fields, including product name, price, color, brand, customer reviews, product image, etc. This reduces your Time to Value and makes it easier for you to go live with personalizations.
  4. Machine Learning: Check if the platform has adequate machine learning algorithms to predict the future behavior of your customers, including their likelihood to purchase, churn, lifetime value, etc. The AI algorithms should also be able to predict custom conversion events faster to give you an AI-head start.
  5. Industry Templates: Check for industry-specific templates for your unique personalization use-cases; for example, eCommerce-focused user segments, conversion templates, and personalization suits. Ready to use templates lower the Time to Value,  when compared to a generic marketing solution where you have to start from scratch.
  6. Systems-Interoperability: Most enterprises have existing systems like CRM, DMP, CMS, analytics tools, etc which are expected to work with your choice of marketing technology. The marketing platform should be able to operate seamlessly with other tech-stacks either directly or using API-integration. Look specifically for SLA-based integration timelines for specific interoperability scenarios.
  7. Inbuilt Omni Channels: The platform should provide direct connectors to all major channels including web, mobile web, app, email, SMS, RCS, web push, app push, and more. Also, look for flexibility in terms of adding custom channels without delays or extra resource requirements.
  8. Dedicated Customer Success Managers: To make sure you derive long term value out of your investment in the new platform, look for professional after-sales services and support packages. The team should be able to handhold you in the early adoption stages starting from the idea generation, campaign creation,  tracking results, and making necessary tweaks on an everyday basis. 

Conclusion

Time to value is one of the most important factors to consider before making any marketing investment. The path, however, can be bumpy and unpredictable, if every factor isn’t carefully considered during the tool evaluation stage. Several challenges can crop up on the way to minimizing Time to Value. Marketers need to be mindful of these barriers and should look for specific features in their choice of a marketing platform to achieve faster TTV.

Insider’s AI-powered Growth Management Platform helps you to deliver impactful marketing experiences with the fastest time to value.  Request your demo today.