a man looking at his cellphone while walking past a colorful mural

Hybrid Marketing Marries the Online and Offline Worlds

7 minute read
Jonathan Moran avatar
Now is the time for marketers to lean in on hybrid marketing. Here's how to get started.

“Brands must reinvent their operating models to act in the moment. They need a holistic data and technology strategy that they can individualize at scale, customer journey capabilities that can adapt in real-time, and intelligent decisioning to automate the self–reinforcing cycle of tailored experiences.”

The quote is from a 2019 survey by Futurum Research that examined the evolution of customer experience. It was a plea to global brands to embrace digital transformation to help meet the ever-increasing customer experience demands from sophisticated consumers.

2019 seems so long ago. So much has changed in a short period of time. COVID-19 has forced all marketing activities to move to digital channels, whether organizations were ready to go “all in” on digital or not. All lead tracking, sales discussions, and ultimately customer conversions must now be done digitally. Unfortunately, many brands are coming to grips with the fact that they don’t have the necessary digital marketing skills and capabilities to quickly adapt.

However, digital readiness and advancement has been on marketers’ minds. A digital trends survey done by Econsultancy and Adobe asked marketers “What three digital-related areas are the top priorities for your organization in 2020?” The top three answers: customer journey management (36%), targeting and personalization (34%) and customer data management (30%).

Hybrid marketing improves organizational maturity in all three of these areas, as we will see below. But first, why is now the time to lean in on hybrid marketing and how can organizations get started with hybrid marketing today?

What Is Hybrid Marketing?

There are two sides to the marketing coin: digital and direct. Hybrid marketing is defined as the ability to merge direct and digital data and techniques to perform marketing that accounts for all digital (web, social, etc.) and direct (mail, call center, point of sale) channels seamlessly. We can probably agree that most brands have mastered the direct marketing side of the coin. Yet many brands still struggle to extract value from digital marketing activities. Why is this? 

At the risk of oversimplifying, many brands still view their website as digital signage, an online billboard of sorts. The reality is that branded digital channels aren’t just for pushing brand-to-consumer messaging but are now the key brand-to-customer interaction point and a goldmine of data and resultant insight.

Digital channels are a treasure trove of data that can be used for insight and improvement. Brands can collect data from these channels around individual customer visits, movement while onsite, search patterns, what page-level metrics like views and abandonment rates, content engagement, purchase patterns, cart activity and much more. If data is the new currency, then this data is gold. If you aren’t collecting this information and using it at a detailed level in your marketing efforts, you are missing an enormous opportunity.

Related Article: Customer Loyalty: Understated and Overestimated

How to Get Started with Hybrid Marketing

Getting started with hybrid marketing isn’t as overwhelming as it might sound. There’s a good chance that on the direct side you have a good portion of data in place. Here are some suggested steps:

  1. Educate yourself on the potential of hybrid marketing. My colleague, Suneel Grover, does a great job outlining the technicalities of hybrid marketing. You will want to be able to articulate the benefits as well as the reasons for a needed change.
  2. Conduct an audit to assess where gaps are in your data collection, analytics and marketing insight efforts. For instance, if you are only collecting channel-based digital data through traditional first-generation web analytic tools, and not collecting customer level digital data, now is the time to begin. Understand the possibilities of collecting more digital data, many of which are outlined here.
  3. Revisit your martech stack. With more than 8,000 marketing technology providers out there, it’s likely you can append, consolidate and improve. Many vendors today cover digital data, analytics, reporting, AI and other marketing technology components in a single suite.
  4. Start small with end goals in mind. Take the approach of starting at the data level, then moving to targeting and personalization, then into customer journey management. Basic use cases with clear success criteria often work best.

Related Article: Call it Online, Call it Offline, It's All Just Marketing

Learning Opportunities

The Benefits of Hybrid Marketing

True hybrid marketing offers many benefits and will impact almost every department within the organization. For now, I want to focus on what matters most to marketers: the three priority areas from the research cited above. How does applying hybrid marketing concepts to customer data management, targeting and personalization, and customer journey management benefit your organization today?

Customer Data Management

Your customers don't think or interact in silos, so your brand shouldn’t either. And yet organizations rarely merge the direct and digital data sources. If you haven’t done it, now is the time to create a merged view of offline and online channel data. By creating and managing direct and digital data via a single customer profile, downstream customer journey creation can span channels, including inbound and outbound touches across direct and digital channels. Organizations today are storing this merged customer view in solutions like customer data platforms (CDP). Keep in mind, these customer data platforms (or other data repositories) can be created in a hybrid manner, sourcing data from various on-premises and cloud-based locations with data privacy, governance and compliance in mind.

Targeting and Personalization

With your merged or hybrid customer data profile, the opportunities for targeting and personalization are limitless. A hybrid profile makes cross-channel analysis and insight on all levels much more powerful.

  • How does a customer’s past in-store behavior compare with their current digital behaviors?
  • Are they visiting and purchasing on digital properties with the same cadence as in the past?
  • What digital behaviors are they displaying that I can encourage with a certain offer or communication?
  • What actions do I take to create digital purchase levels that match past in-store purchase levels?

A complete hybrid customer data profile makes asking and answering questions like these possible. With a better understanding of customer activity and behavior, improved targeting and offer personalization naturally improves. Advanced segmentation, more detailed measurement and attribution, and reporting and forecasting can be viewed with a much deeper lens with the creation of this hybrid customer data profile.

Related Article: Why Gartner Thinks Most Marketers Will Abandon Personalization by 2025

Customer Journey Management

The third main benefit of hybrid marketing revolves around customer journey creation and management. With a complete customer view from every channel both direct and digital and now the ability to target and personalize against this data, marketers can create more advanced journeys. These journeys can merge inbound and outbound channels, real-time and batch data, ingest analytical and machine-learning-based model scores, and even integrate with adjacent applications that augment brand to customer interactions. With this hybrid customer data profile, marketers can create a much more complete journey, or engagement plan, for their customers. It’s no longer limited by the channels and data they can source.

Related Article: Agile Marketing Your Way Through the Next Recession

Navigate Your Future Course

To survive and thrive today, brands can no longer neglect digital channels and the wealth of information they provide. The concept of digital transformation has been forced upon most brands, finding some brands prepared, and others seeing their digital systems collapse. During this time, customer retention is top of mind for many executives. Exceptional customer experience is required to achieve this goal. If you are relying on siloed direct data or limited digital data as your business and operating models shift before your very eyes, your brand will fall behind on customer experience.  Now is the time to embrace hybrid marketing to help navigate today’s uncharted waters.

About the author

Jonathan Moran

Jonathan Moran covers global product marketing activities at SAS, with a focus on customer experience and marketing technologies. Prior to SAS, Jon gained over 20 years of marketing and analytics industry experience at both Earnix and the Teradata Corporation in pre-sales, consulting and marketing roles.

About CMSWire

For nearly two decades CMSWire, produced by Simpler Media Group, has been the world's leading community of customer experience professionals.


Today the CMSWire community consists of over 5 million influential customer experience, digital experience and customer service leaders, the majority of whom are based in North America and employed by medium to large organizations. Our sister community, Reworked gathers the world's leading employee experience and digital workplace professionals.

Join the Community

Get the CMSWire Mobile App

Download App Store
Download google play