How do low code/no code tools impact marketing?
Digital technology is transforming business, but the shortage of trained coders and programmers is hindering further transformation. However, emerging low code/no code (LC/NC) platforms and tools are helping to bridge the gap and turn some marketers into “citizen developers.”
The developer landscape
Canada is home to one million technology industry employees, including approximately 47,000 software engineers and 104,000 computer programmers. That translates to only 151,000 developers for the 1.2 million Canadian businesses.
The software developer talent shortage has been one of the largest barriers to growth. In Canada, 55 per cent of entrepreneurs are struggling to find talent.
Fortunately, the LC/NC technology trend is creating a boom in martech innovation and is creating opportunities to fill coding skills gaps.
It is estimated that 80 per cent of programming tasks will be delivered without code by 2024. GitHub co-founder Chris Wanstrath predicts that “the future of coding is no coding at all.” So, what will the impact be on marketing?
NC is a visual approach to programming, which allows non-technical workers to develop computer code using simple visual drag and drop interfaces. LC involves adding a small amount of code. Non-technical marketers typically enlist a developer for guidance and assistance when it comes to coding.
Fundamentally, LC/NC is about empowerment. In an ideal scenario, marketers can create a custom app to fix process bottlenecks themselves, or gather a cross-section of data using connector tools to better understand campaign impact.
NC platforms are focused applications for a specific task, and companies are tied to the NC platform. Adopting LC offers the ability to customize and add other functionality later on.
Driving forces behind the trend
The pandemic propelled significant digital transformation, innovation and adoption, and many business models evolved to become more flexible and digitally enhanced. As marketing has become more technical with data and digital, marketers are looking to become more connected and automated. Martech now accounts for 26 per cent of a CMO’s budget. According to WARC, most marketers are not skilled coders. Only seven per cent know basic coding, 47 per cent can do a bit of HTML and 24 per cent have no coding skills.
Today’s modern marketers are expected to execute with speed and precision, however this requires technical programmers and specialists who are in high demand and low supply. LC/NC allows marketers to create technical solutions and manage them within their own teams.
“Content management solutions allow technical users to move around pieces of content quickly and seamlessly without having to know HTML code,” says CMA Martech Council member Michael Annett. “In the era of 24/7 on-demand media, time to market and speed is expected. Marketers can now easily update great looking content in real-time."
Opportunities and potential drawbacks
A LC/NC approach can level the playing field and allow traditional marketers to create new capabilities in short timeframes. From a resource efficiency perspective, more applications can be built by junior developers, which frees up experienced developers for more complex coding and advanced applications. Reallocating “discipline and domain experts” on complex builds is a smarter strategic allocation.
Transforming more marketers into “makers” is an attractive value proposition that could help solve the tech talent bottleneck. Chiefmartec editor Scott Brinker predicts that turning marketers into power users and coding creators will accelerate the production rate of new technology.
There are technical considerations and context that all creators need to be mindful of, including privacy and security. A digital inventory system should be in place to allow for IT to troubleshoot if needed.
Marketers having the ability to create solutions themselves is empowering, and fostering ideation and innovation is good for team morale and helpful for attracting talent. However, one drawback is that scalability can be an issue and new solutions bring added complexity to the tech stack. The true effort to maintain and support these new tools is unknown. Since today’s marketers already manage 50-100 martech tools, adding more ad-hoc apps can create unnecessary complexity.
Patrick McQuaid, VP Marketing Technology at TD Bank, sees the benefits of enhanced capabilities for marketers in certain sectors and companies: “In highly regulated industries and those companies with a low risk tolerance, like banking, DIY programming innovation by business units is often actively discouraged,” he says. “But our martech teams see the value of enhanced and user-friendly user interfaces in our core platforms that bring more advanced capabilities into the hands of marketers. For instance, with our newly integrated CDP, we have empowered our marketing business team to perform simple analytics themselves without having to engage analytics specialists."
In general, there is lots of potential for LC/NC in marketing, but it depends on your company’s martech needs and appetite for innovation and risk.
A key to success for new innovations will be governance and adhering to rules and regulations. Before beginning with LC/NC, mature companies should proactively create an internal policy around acceptable use, outline clear guidelines and have documentation in place to build process and continuity.
When exploring LC/NC projects, select something low risk to start with, stick with the established toolset and ensure your staff receives proper training to maximize the opportunities that this trend presents.