If I had to sum up the Shop.org Annual Summit 2013 in just five words, it would be: “It’s about the customer, stupid.” It was a theme uttered more than a few times in Chicago, but what does it really mean? Read on.

It’s not about the channel—it’s about the customer.

This year, we’ve seen phrases like omni-channel and multichannel give way to terms like customer relationship and customer relevance. For years, online marketers were driven by transactions and conversions executed and measured at the campaign level. The problem with this line of thinking is that even if these campaigns may be successful for the marketer, one-off campaigns that aren’t consistent or tailored to individual preferences aren’t sustained, winning experiences for the customer.

Shop.org Annual Summit 2013

If the shop.org event was any indication, the tide seems to be turning. Gone are the days of coincidental marketing. Today, the focus is on using data to create consistent, personalized experiences for the consumer, across channels, in the moment, and throughout the relationship with the brand.

Wow, there sure are a lot of CFOs here.

CFOs at a show for marketers and ecommerce executives? Yep. Lots of them. They heard much about how actionable data enhances the customer experience, and how an enhanced customer experience is critical to maintaining a sustained competitive advantage in the online retail market—especially since ecommerce grew at a slower rate in 2012 than in previous years.

A key to accessing that customer data is through technology, which traditionally was part of the CIO’s tech budget, not the marketers’ purse. What better place than shop.org to lobby for a marketing tech spend? We bet there were a few CFOs who left Chicago lighter in the wallet.

Beware of the Frankencloud.

Frankencloud you say? What the heck is that? It’s a pain point that’s so acute that a name had to be put to it. Relating back the the previous point, the emergence of the Frankencloud is directly correlated to the urgent need for marketers to connect knowledge about the customer (or data) with the ability to take action.

Unfortunately, many products only address a sliver of the data-to-action solution that brands really need to serve their customers. Marketers end up buying multiple solutions, tossing them into a cloud, and hoping it will spit out an efficient solution. Or worse, they purchase something that’s marketed as a single, seamless solution, only to find that they’re really disparate software programs, derived from separate code sources and developed in different decades. In other words, a Frankencloud.

What did we hear over and over again this week? The Frankencloud doesn’t work without a laborious arrangement of people, processes, and time that marketers simply don’t have. Like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, a good idea in theory, but disastrous in practice.

Retro cartoon frankenstein monster image courtesy of Shutterstock.