As 2014 drew to a close, I reached out to analytics leaders and practitioners for their insights on trends shaping omnichannel marketing, as well as the obstacles standing in the way of our ability to optimize it. I also read the predictions of many respected authors. What I found as interesting as the commentary were the emerging patterns – especially vis-a-vis the commentator’s vantage point. But the most important question I came away with is, “What do we do about it all?”
That’s why I focus this first column of 2015 not on macro and micro trends influencing our world, but on what we can control. What do businesses and marketers need to do differently to take advantage of these omnichannel marketing trends and overcome the obstacles? Here is my take:
Unify Your Data
The difficulty of bringing together first-, second-, and third-party data across channels, vendors, and devices remains the number one challenge for omnichannel marketing. This appears to be the universal consensus among analytics experts and industry leaders. Unifying data, to date, has been easier said than done, as there are some critical questions you must first ask of your platform to ensure it will indeed deliver on the difficult task at hand:
- Can you dynamically bring together both online and offline data?
- Can you maintain the necessary visitor/consumer level granularity to ensure you are building rich omnichannel profiles on your customers and prospects?
- Do you have complete ownership of ALL your data as you switch vendors?
Jim Sterne, co-founder of the Digital Analytics Association and eMetrics summit, nailed it when he said, “In 2015, companies will get to work on reorganizing their data to be truly customer-centric.” So, make 2015 the year you tackle the data unification issue, because the effectiveness of your marketing actions can never be better than the data they are based on. (See the recent ClickZ column, “Marketing Optimization: It All Starts With Data.”)
Invest in Open Platforms
ZenithOptimedia’s senior vice president of analytics Rudy Grahn aptly states the core issue with closed systems: “So far, too many tech stacks are bad integrations of mediocre stand-alone solutions − but that hasn’t really stopped anyone yet. Worse, no stack can innovate as fast as the best of breed around them… The notion that any vendor believes they will succeed in a soup-to-nuts proprietary approach, which will end the need for any vendors outside that ecosystem, is a fiction.” The rate of innovation (and vendor consolidation!) in new analytics technologies for marketing has never been faster. So, don’t be held hostage by vendors – and keep your options open.
Act at the Speed of the Consumer
There is clearly immense promise in reaching out to consumers on their own terms and building personalized experiences at the individual level. Consumers have been demanding a rich contextual experience that follows them across devices, sites and channels for some time. (See the recent ClickZ column, “Acting at the Speed of Customers.”) However, as Stratigent chief executive (CEO) Bill Bruno explains, “When trying to build a visitor-centric data store, many of the attributes clients would like to leverage exist in offline systems. These offline systems were not built with the idea of providing a real-time response to a digital customer touch point.” Make sure that marketing optimization platform you are about to invest in is flexible enough for multichannel/device data integration and analysis. Just as important, determine how you can integrate with marketing automation tools and content management solutions for effective 1:1 targeting both on and offsite to deliver “more adaptive content and offers based on user habits and past behavior.”
HP’s Kevin Bolden, head of customer and marketing analytics, is right on when he states, “2015 will be the year that marketers think mobile-first … and many customer journeys are going to start first on mobile platforms and then expand to other digital an social channels.” Keep this thought in mind as you (re)design your digital and social content to perform effectively for the mobile user. As mobile stops being relegated to an afterthought, determine if you have the right tech infrastructure to collect, integrate, and analyze the data from the mobile experience to drive right-time action across all channels and devices of engagement.
Stay Current on Marketing Tech
2015 certainly promises to be very interesting as we explore the intersection of opportunities and the countervailing obstacles that marketers must confront. Given the enormity of the task at hand, this puts the spotlight squarely on the skills and capabilities of the people at the helm. However, as Rahul Todkar, Intuit’s global marketing analytics and optimization leader, observes, “This is the year big data comes of age… but talent gets even more scarce.” So stay current on your digital marketing and analytics skillsets. Keep up on emerging technologies and platforms.
And, as for that big career advice to your college age kids, friends, or relatives? Tell them this is the best time to concentrate on digital marketing technology and take up relevant coursework in analytics or data science. There is no better antidote to youth unemployment!
Image via Shutterstock.
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