Today’s customers are more demanding than ever. They want the right information, at the right time, on any device of their choosing. Due to this high level of customer empowerment, marketers’ jobs are becoming increasingly difficult. For marketers to succeed in this environment, online experiences need to be personalized, relevant, and engaging to capture customers’ fragmented attention. As the number of channels that marketers coordinate continues to grow, success requires seamless execution of omnichannel (also sometimes called cross-channel) marketing.
This trend is driving marketers into a frenzy to better understand their customers and more accurately anticipate their needs. Combining first-party data with third-party data in order to predict customer behavior enables contextually relevant, value-driven engagement. Programmatic ad buying, now a mainstream component of digital marketing, further makes real-time measurement of campaign effectiveness a vital requirement. Although this continuous cycle of data ingestion, campaign execution, and success measurement holds a lot of promise for marketers, it also leaves them seeking help to automate at least part of the process.
In March 2015, Neustar commissioned Forrester Consulting to evaluate the stages of omnichannel marketing maturity in terms of marketers’ ability to meet their customers’ needs. In addition, Forrester developed a hypothesis to test the assertion that marketers are unprepared for omnichannel marketing due to organizational, data management, campaign execution, and measurement challenges. These obstacles prevent them from delivering seamless, contextually relevant experiences that deepen engagement across channels and platforms. Furthermore, the success of omnichannel marketing hinges upon the ability to develop a “complete picture of the customer” regardless of channel or device.
This is where we found most firms are failing. In conducting an in-depth survey and interviews with omnichannel marketing professionals, Forrester found that mature omnichannel marketers integrate more descriptive data (behavioral and attitudinal) and have more robust measurement capabilities in order to deliver on their omnichannel marketing goals.
Forrester’s study yielded three key findings:
- Marketers understand the need to increase their omnichannel marketing capabilities. In the age of the customer, marketers are increasingly aware that they cannot act in isolated channel siloes. Surveyed marketers understand that in order to capture customers’ increasingly fragmented attention, they must execute seamless, consistent, and personalized experiences across devices and online and offline channels.
- Measurement and data quality challenges hinder omnichannel growth. In order to execute across channels, marketers must first understand how their customers are currently engaging with them. Without insights into behaviors, preferences, and attitudes, campaigns will continue to fall flat. Marketers will overcome this roadblock by stitching together disparate data sources to gain a more complete view of the customer to create contextual experiences.
- There is a path for marketers to evolve with time. Although the gap may feel wide, it is not impassable. By prioritizing areas of growth based on their customer needs and company maturity level, marketers can begin developing processes and implementing technologies that will help them collect the right data, share it across channels, and measure effectiveness. The key is not implementing too much change so quickly that it becomes overwhelming. Instead, gradually guide the company along the steps of successful omnichannel marketing execution.
Marketers Continue To Strive For Seamless Delivery Of Omnichannel Experiences
Forrester Research defines today’s consumer empowerment as the age of the customer. That means customers are now more mobile, consume more information, and buy more online than ever before.
They follow their own purchase paths, crossing back and forth between online and offline channels. With shopping opportunities open to them 24x7, customers no longer adhere to how marketers want them to engage with messaging.
In order to capitalize on this transition, marketers must build capabilities that engage customers on customers’ terms. To accomplish this, coordinating and delivering personalized experiences consistently across channels is imperative. This evolution from channel-specific to omnichannel campaigns provides marketers with the opportunity to improve relevance and deliver sustainable competitive advantage.
To aid in creating more contextual experiences, marketers are implementing marketing technologies, including data management platforms (DMPs) and customer analytics, to identify, engage, and understand customers across channels. However, in order for these technologies to function efficiently, they must be carefully implemented and treated as a core competency instead of as an appendage to existing marketing processes — instigating the culture change required to compete in the age of the customer. Therefore, marketers must drive the business technology (BT) agenda that will integrate systems and processes to win, serve, and retain customers.
Achieving omnichannel success enables firms to:
- Drive profitability. Marketers who identify themselves as mature omnichannel marketers are more likely to achieve their revenue plans and see growth than those who identify themselves as transitioning
- Address key initiatives. Marketers understand that omnichannel marketing has the potential to have a high or extremely high impact on their key drivers of success: increasing online sales (62%), increasing customer satisfaction or similar metrics (59%), and increasing profitability (55%)
- Deliver engaging customer experiences. Omnichannel marketers use data and analytics to make informed decisions regarding customer strategies, regardless of industry or audience. Measurement is a key component to take customer engagement to the next level. In fact, 94% of marketers are trying to either always or sometimes unify cross-channel measurement to understand the holistic experience of the customer across devices.
Inability To Execute Keeps Marketers From Reaching Full Omnichannel Potential
Although omnichannel marketing is a primary goal for the majority of marketers, executing on that strategy is proving to be a challenge, based on our survey of 96 marketers across industries.
According to marketers surveyed, the success of omnichannel continues to hinge on “the customer” and the ability to deliver seamless, contextually relevant experiences that deepen engagement. Omnichannel capabilities, such as rich audience profiles across multiple channels of engagement, are critical for success. Mastery of these capabilities is imperative for building a foundation that will allow marketers to execute effectively moving forward.
MEASURING OMNICHANNEL MARKETING MATURITY
In order to understand the current state of marketers’ ability to execute successful omnichannel programs, Forrester examined their omnichannel maturity across four dimensions:
- Organizational structure. A collaborative environment with executive sponsorship enables marketers to act upon their omnichannel initiatives, including common goals and the ability to measure them.
- Contextual understanding. Leveraging CRM and third-party data to deliver contextually relevant customer experiences to target audiences is critical, including the ability to incorporate preferences, actionable recommendations, and predictive determination of value.
- Customer identification. Recognizing customers based on their interactions across devices and channels is necessary to deliver personalized experiences. This is inclusive of browser (cookie) and mobile device data to construct a single view of customers.
- Measurement and attribution. Collection, integration, and normalization of interaction data should be optimally leveraged for measurement and attribution analysis. This unified measurement approach helps marketers understand their customers’ holistic experiences, including the ability to close the loop from online to offline interactions.
The ability of a company to execute across these four dimensions translates into one of four levels of omnichannel maturity. The model provides marketers with a clear understanding of where they stand and how to build capabilities to increase omnichannel maturity (see Figure 3). Key factors to evolve across layers include gaining leadership buy-in and setting customer experience as a companywide goal. The four levels of omnichannel maturity are:
- Level 1 — operate channel-specific silos. These marketers need to advance their siloed capabilities. They never or rarely are able to execute omnichannel campaigns, and they use rudimentary tools like spreadsheets to manage customer lists and channel specific response metrics. Their marketing efforts depend on separate teams who leverage disconnected technologies and services for email, web content management, or social media listening. To move to the next level, they need to begin stitching data together to understand customer interactions and break down organizational silos. To accomplish this, they should invest in customer data management to apply deeper insights to both inbound and outbound communications.
- Level 2 — integrate data across channels. These marketers are beginning to build more mature capabilities, but still have a long road ahead. At this level, though they have invested in cross-channel campaign, marketing resource, and marketing asset management tools for automation and greater efficiency, they rarely or only sometimes deploy consistent campaigns across all channels. They realize the importance of regular updates to synchronize CRM and audience data and have begun modeling high-value audiences with insights derived from offline and third-party data. To move to the next level, they need to integrate all digital and offline channels, and analyze the resulting data for insights to understand high-value customers. To accomplish this, they should leverage their investments in enterprise marketing technologies to enable consistency across all digital and offline channels.
- Level 3 — leverage insights to optimize marketing. These marketers have established a cross-channel practice, and they are beginning to optimize their marketing strategy. At this level, they begin to deploy predictive analytics for propensity, churn, upsell, and cross-sell, and they use a value-based approach to measurement (e.g., customer lifetime value.) Because they take a more comprehensive approach to data management and audience modeling, they have begun to explore programmatic ad buying. To move to the next level, they must operationalize analytical processes and align customer metrics with business key performance indicators (KPIs). To accomplish this, they need to continuously apply and refine technologies that focus on increasing data capabilities and personalization. This includes data mining, modeling, and predictive analytics along with online testing and targeting to optimize performance.
- Level 4 — orchestrate real-time contextual marketing. These marketers are leading the pack and are almost always executing on unified, customer-centric capabilities. At this level, they have become customer-focused (rather than channel-focused) and are able to leverage continuously refreshed data to automate contextually relevant real-time offers across inbound and outbound channels, both digital and offline. They align technologies that support direct marketing campaigns and content with data management and demand-side platforms that drive digital advertising and media content. Advanced measurement capabilities such as cross-channel attribution and marketing mix modeling enable them to calibrate marketing investments aligned with customer demand and business objectives. To continue to differentiate, they should focus on more seamless integration to deliver consistent experiences across the entire customer life cycle. Deploying real-time interaction management will balance messaging across appropriate customer touchpoints.
MARKETERS CONTINUE TO MATURE THEIR OMNICHANNEL CAPABILITIES
As omnichannel marketing continues to evolve, marketers continue to play catch-up with their capabilities. Only 40% of marketers in our survey feel they are mature, with another 40% feeling they are transitioning to omnichannel marketing. This evolution leaves plenty of room for growth.
The key challenges marketers need to overcome are:
- Mastering cross-device identification. Customers leverage the Internet anytime, anywhere, and Forrester’s research shows that 41% of US online adults access the Internet on their smartphone several times per day. Due to the growth in mobile Internet access, both mature and transitioning companies reported that creating a consistent cross-device experience is their top challenge.
- Measuring performance across channels. Even though marketers are reporting some success, measurement continues to be a key challenge. Only 4% of marketers reported having a unified measurement strategy, with 14% reporting an optimized strategy (see Figure 4). This is also reflected in understanding customer omnichannel interactions, with 35% of marketers indicating it is one of their top three challenges.
- Turning data and analytics into insights and actions. Even when marketers are able to collect cross-channel data, they don’t always use it to have an effective impact on the omnichannel customer experience. Although 82% of marketers claim to track customer interactions across channels, only 60% know how to engage their high-value customers, and 51% will distribute the same content to all customers.
- Centralizing the organization around omnichannel goals. In order to execute on omnichannel marketing goals, company alignment is integral. Mature companies are more likely (45%) than transitioning (29%) to have integrated teams across marketing and technology to quickly react to customer preferences. Transitioning companies will continue to face challenges unless they centralize marketing goals on audience engagement, rather than on channel metrics.
To Achieve Omnichannel Success, Wisely Leverage Customer Data
In order to overcome these omnichannel marketing challenges, marketers need to leverage their data assets to personalize experiences based on customer needs. Simple segmentations based on demographics and high-level preferences will no longer suffice. Instead, marketers must merge traditional customer data with third-party data to uncover behavioral and attitudinal insights to better engage high-value customers. To achieve omnichannel success, marketers must:
- Leverage behavioral and attitudinal data across channels. In order to create engaging, personalized messaging, you need to know what your customers are doing, where they are doing it, and why they are doing it. Behavioral data, such as a customers’ purchasing habits, channel usage, and click-through rates, can help marketers understand where customers are interacting across channels and what is most relevant to them in terms of content. Attitudinal data — what customers think is important and how they feel about the brand — provides the “why.” Mature marketers are more likely to track behavioral and attitudinal data across channels than those who are transitioning — 19 and 47 percentage points more, respectively (see Figure 7).. Those who are transitioning are more likely to be in the planning stages of tracking this type of data. Linking behavior and attitudinal information to more traditional demographic information helps marketers customize communications to a customer’s inferred preferences.
- Recognize and target customers across touchpoints. Seventy-nine percent of mature marketers today said they are able to track user behavior across channels in regards to their omnichannel targeting programs. These marketers’ ability to understand omnichannel engagement enables them to better predict and adapt to customer needs regardless of touchpoints.
- Centralize analytics to more quickly turn insights into action. Figure 5 shows that cooperating with other parts of the business is the fourth biggest challenge for marketers looking to create an omnichannel experience. In order to streamline data from insights into action, mature companies are more likely to always have integrated teams across marketing and technology. They are also more likely to sometimes or always provide actionable recommendations based on the performance of marketing and media initiatives.
- Combine marketing technologies to maximize data-driven capabilities. Mature marketers create sophisticated data and analytics environments to derive actionable insights. They further implement identity resolution/linkage, marketing attribution, and multiple demand-side platforms (DSPs) to effectively leverage these insights to orchestrate omnichannel marketing. In particular, mature organizations are 23% more likely to implement three or more DSPs.