Companies not joining up online and offline data will be left behind by their competitors

Linus Gregoriadis

The importance of effective multichannel marketing in the digital age is beyond dispute. For businesses wanting to integrate their marketing efforts effectively, it is becoming increasingly apparent that their activities need to be underpinned by effective collection and analysis of data.

The considerable hype around ‘Big Data’ has been hard to avoid in recent months, with IT vendors presenting this trend as a holy grail for business success, enabling marketers to understand and shape the customer journey to maximum effect.

But, according to research carried out by Econsultancy and Lynchpin earlier this year, many businesses are struggling to harness the plethora of data sources which are available from an ever growing array of marketing tools and databases.

Our research found that there has been no increase since 2011 in the number of companies performing attribution and tracking customer journeys both online and offline.

In fact, the proportion of companies who said they have a framework for analysing customer journeys that cross online and offline decreased from 22% to 19% in the past year. A quarter of companies (25%) said that they carry out attribution modelling, a figure which was almost the same as in 2011 (24%).

In a world where businesses leaders regularly profess their commitment to customer-centricity, these are worrying statistics.

When asked about the challenges that prevent companies from having a consistent framework for measuring online and offline customer journeys, the most commonly cited issues related to a lack of resources in terms of time, staff, knowledge and budget.

Problems were also often ascribed to internal organisational issues such as a lack of buy-in from senior management or a disconnect between different parts of the business, due to a ‘stove-pipe’ structure.

One persistent problem is that the growth of data available to companies exceeds the availability of in-house analysts who are able to extract insight from this ever growing volume of information. These analysts are in short supply because they need both the quantitative skills to analyse the data as well as an understanding of the commercial imperatives of a business and corresponding strategy.

One of the problems faced by organisations is the way that online and offline can operate in separate worlds, for example the challenge they face in connecting online data with business intelligence software which has historically resided in offline parts of the business.

According to the same Econsultancy / Lynchpin Online Measurement and Strategy Report, more than a third of companies (34%) said that web analytics are ‘not integrated at all’ into their business intelligence strategy.

Of course, web analytics tools are worthless unless they drive useful actions within a business. Our research found that only 22% of companies state that they have a company-wide strategy that ties data collection and analysis to company objectives, while only 23% state that web analytics definitely drive actionable recommendations that make a difference.

This represents a general lack of knowledge and awareness within companies as to how data can be used in a holistic and integrated fashion to drive recommendations that have an impact on the whole of the business.

As digital and physical channels converge, a more holistic view of customer behaviour is becoming crucial for businesses, rather than a ‘nice-to-have’. Companies who are not using offline data to inform digital marketing activity (and vice-versa) will increasingly lose out to savvier competitors.

Data from digital channels should no longer exist in a silo.

Linus Gregoriadis is Econsultancy's research director. Econsultancy’s JUMP conference about multichannel marketing in London on 10 October will feature four tracks, including ‘Analyse’.

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