2013 could be viewed as the year of the multichannel arms race.
It was incredible to watch the competition between some of the biggest names in technology to buy or assemble a complete multichannel marketing solution in one place. Mega-vendors worked to stitch together the uber-marketing suite, bringing channels together through countless acquisitions of lightly integrated technologies to fill in the gaps of their platform stacks.
These suppliers now possess a pile of munitions of multichannel destruction.
Most of these innovations exist as siloed, one-off or bolt-on solutions that are not part of a truly connected technology platform. As demanded, companies can now buy everything from one vendor, but true integration still eludes. As a result, there is tension building; the cracks in the industry’s technology armor are starting to show. Marketers are taking notice and becoming frustrated.
Drowning in Data
Because the truth is, marketers are overwhelmed. They are still struggling to make sense of masses of unrefined and disjointed data. It’s not that marketers dislike data, but that they are getting buried in it. They appreciate the insight that data can provide — but they rarely get to use it. Marketers understand that their job is changing and they want to evolve with it, but they are spending way too much time on the parts of the job that don’t make a difference. The collateral damage in this omnichannel war is the marketer, and in 2014, they will say, “Enough!”
As a result, in 2014 marketers will demand simplicity and connectivity. This is the year that marketers, tired of buying discrete siloed channel tools, demand ease-of-use. The secret path to the customer experience Holy Grail has been unveiled, and it is technology cohesion. Marketers have received a thin slice of integration from the big vendors — the ability to plug technology A into technology B — but it isn’t enough. It is about truly connecting customer data, and these systems, however robust, are not yet truly connected, and are totally unactionable. Marketers want systems to actually speak to each other and share information. They want the ease-of-use and efficiency gained through connecting the customer data and putting it to work.
This has become a priority because for the first time marketers have lots of data at their fingertips. Advances in technology — drawn in part from the advertising industry — have shown the marketing industry how to collect masses of new data from customers. Marketers can now use similar strategies and want to look at that data as a whole. Connecting this data will enable marketers to gain a 360 review of each individual customer.
Finally, marketers can track the behavior of “Customer Joe” across channels; he will be the same Joe on the web, as he is in email marketing, on Facebook and when he calls in to the call center. The data that represents Joe has to be cumulative — and the view of Joe has to be the same no matter where Joe connects. This will be the year that marketers make sense of the data — and so make sense of “Joe” — by connecting that disparately collected customer data together. Because after last year’s escalation, marketers have realized that until data is connected, it is not meaningful.
The Year of Connected Customer Data
2014 will be the year of connected customer data.
Connecting customer data is the biggest challenge that marketers face. Data is helping companies to better understand and improve overall customer experience. The limitation is that data is not all in one place; they cannot take action on it. Frustrated marketers are still sharing information across systems manually.
Marketers need true integration and automation to power data-driven, predictive, multichannel marketing programs that lead to real results. A connected, intuitive platform that provides actionable data insights enables marketers to deliver on both the art and science of marketing. Then marketers get to be marketers again. They will spend less time doing data management — currently as much as 80 percent of their time — and spend more time taking creative action using that data. They will finally be able to deliver one unified, dramatically improved experience for the customer, solidifying the customer’s long-term relationship with the company. That's where marketers move the needle on the business; it’s where the magic happens. And it is why they got into this line of work.
For the most highly advanced in the industry, this is already happening, but for most this level of effectiveness is still unattainable. Next year, that will all change.
Marketers finally will be able evolve in a way that lets them get back to their strategic roots. 2014 will be the year that we lose the "adhocracy" of marketing. The elusive goal of integrated customer data will finally be met, enabling that data to be used far more effectively. With connected data, channels will be able to mutually reinforce each other, creating exponentially greater customer marketing and sales impact. As marketing automation begins to reach its potential as a truly disruptive force for business, companies that embrace this disruption will lead the way in customer experience management.
And vendors who can’t fulfill this connected vision will be left behind on the scarred multichannel marketing battlefield, as the customer experience management industry moves on without them.
Title image by Africa Studios (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: How did Darren do with his predictions for 2013? Read and find out: 2013: The Year of Customer and Rise of the Data Driven Marketer
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