When asked what areas they consider most crucial to their future success, marketers rank the ability to work across multiple channels and better utilisation of data as their top priorities. In Adobe’s 2016 Roadblock study, more than 1,300 European marketers pointed to big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) as the biggest technology forces that will shape the future of marketing over the next three years.
These forces create two clear drill-down priorities: omnichannel integration and data analysis. While many marketers recognise the importance of both these factors, they report that the relevant departments in their organisations are underequipped and understaffed to handle the challenges on the horizon.
Here’s how these two factors are poised to transform marketing—and why many companies are in serious need of new thinking in these areas.
The omnichannel challenge
Channels continue to multiply and interrelate in fascinating ways. Take, for example, the Pokémon Go phenomenon, which combined the physical and digital worlds on a scale we’ve never seen before. Meanwhile, emerging technologies like VR and wearables are enabling whole new ways of interacting with brands—and giving consumers more choices than ever about how and when to engage. And the IoT, as I’ve pointed out before, is opening up whole new channels for marketers to engage creatively with customers—and is now increasingly becoming a reality.
We’re only beginning to grasp the magnitude of these changes. However, two things are already abundantly clear: these growing channels create enormous challenges for brands to consistently deliver compelling experiences across a dizzying array of customer touchpoints; and the omnichannel challenge will only continue to grow in complexity as more new channels appear.
Yet even as new channels proliferate, many companies still struggle to integrate data from just two or three existing channels. In Adobe’s 2016 Digital Intelligence Briefing, Succeeding in the Omnichannel Age, only 12 percent of European marketers say their organisations can integrate online and offline customer data—and only 5 percent say they have a single platform that manages data across multiple channels. The majority report that none of their marketing campaigns are integrated across technologies and channels.
However, the appetite for change is growing. A full 75 percent of marketers say omnichannel marketing is supported at the senior level of their organisations, while only 5 percent report active opposition to it. Meanwhile, 49 percent report that the pressure to keep up with consumer expectations serves as a key driver for omnichannel integration, and 35 percent say they’re pursuing omnichannel with the goal of differentiating their customer experience from those of their competitors.
While omnichannel will continue to present a challenge in 2017, this increasing awareness of its importance has already begun to drive new thinking and investment. And let’s not forget that an omnichannel world, despite its challenges, is also a huge opportunity for marketers: Marketers who demonstrate a good of balance of both creative and data-oriented capabilities are best place to capitalize on it.
The data challenge
Data remains the connective tissue of the customer experience. Harnessing the power of connectivity will enable marketers everywhere to gather data and insights on their target audience and customers, as well as offer new methods to serve them efficiently.
But few companies have sufficient data to meet their customers’ needs. According to a recent Adobe study, only one in five companies combine different data sources to obtain a 360-degree view of individual customers.
The 2016 Roadblock study revealed that despite the importance of data science, measurement remains one of the biggest perceived technical challenges for marketers. One in three cite shortages in data analysts in their organisations as a challenge; and the majority of marketers cite data science as a critical area in which they’re underperforming relative to competitors.
Another key problem is the ability to make data sources work together—in other words, to eliminate data silos. Two-thirds of companies have been found to restrict their data from all forms of centralised access—preventing most departments from understanding and acting upon customer insights gathered by others. But for companies that hope to compete effectively in the omnichannel world, data must not remain the sole privilege of CRM , IT, or any other individual department within the organisation. Data visibility throughout the whole business is a fundamental driver of continuous, consistent, and adaptive customer experiences.
Thus, the data challenge boils down to simplifying the availability and interpretation of data so organisations can derive actionable insights rapidly and dynamically. Everyone within the organisation should be a guardian of the customer experience—which means everyone should have access to data that can enable them to help customers more effectively.
As new channels continue to appear, and more companies begin to leverage centralised data to serve relevant, personalised communication to their customers, the importance of the omnichannel and data challenges will only become more apparent for companies that lag behind. Where does your organisation’s senior leadership stand on these two challenges?