At this point in the natural evolution of digital marketing practices, most companies have identified the need to be able to gather, analyze, segment and report on their marketing and visitor information. This is the required first step in the process of creating a successful digital marketing practice, but this step is one of many, not the destination. My colleague Ben Gaines evolved into this realization in his most recent blog post.

In order to truly leverage digital marketing data in meaningful analysis and actions, you must be able to identify your customers and how they are engaging with your brand. This is not limited to one channel or medium of data. Customers interact with brands in many different ways; they can go online, they can call you, they can visit your stores, they can attend a sporting event you sponsor, and the list goes on. The reality is that customers engage with brands in ways that most marketing departments do not account for in their typical analyses. This means that marketing decisions, intended to be made on customer interaction and user behavior is being made on partial data. How can you make decisions that determine the whole strategy when you only have half of the story? Additionally, because the interactions which in part or whole are attributable to marketing efforts are not known and analyzed by marketing, the associative revenue and return on marketing effort is omitted from performance analysis and reporting. Why are your efforts not being credited in your company’s performance?

Customer Analytics, the ability to understand customers as they understand brands regardless of the medium for specific customer interactions, is quickly becoming fundamental requirement for all best-in-class marketing departments moving forward. Marketers can usually identify the same customer in different “Channels” of data, but typically this requires a separate query per channel of data. The relationship between data sources or customer interaction points is unknown. This in turn creates a naturally divisive nature of not only interpreting but also taking action on data. This also has a significant impact on how companies align budgets, personnel and resources. Typically, vertical alignment within organizations based on individual customer interaction medium is what we see. This means that the call center may be interacting with customers in a foreign, competitive or redundant way as the company’s email marketers.

It’s time to embrace the idea of treating your customers as they treat your brands. A customer is not consciously deciding to jump from one interaction medium to another when they research in store, comparative shop online and purchase via a coupon received via email. Customers are migrating through paths beyond just online, because they are integral steps of a seamless purchase and or repurchase process. In addition to the acquisition perspective, customers also migrate from low cost to high cost interactions freely in order to gain information, overcome challenges and ensure proper support. These interactions are directly attributable to the marketing acquisition and retention efforts and thorough analysis should reveal frictionless and high friction points that exist for the customer. These points of friction, or areas where process improvements and efficiencies can be implemented, are only recognizable if the analyst is able to witness the entire customer interaction from day one.

Customer analytics is not a new concept. The ability to leverage customer analytics for marketers, the speed at which that can be enabled and the opportunities it presents have the capacity to propel marketing departments forward is delivering on a long awaited vision. Here at Adobe, we are squarely focused in this space. Enabling marketing to be able to witness customer interactions from initial brand or product exposure for a prospect, through the engagement process and then discover and leverage the data signatures which enable retention efforts, repurchase and other marketing objectives is where we have chosen to deliver the solutions required.