As human beings, we share the basic belief that anything we create can be improved upon. We tinker and tweak, invent and occasionally revolutionise how things are done. In marketing, we think of these steps forward as being either innovation or optimisation. The first introduces the “new” while the second attempts to understand and use it to best advantage.
Of course, marketers have been optimising their craft since the beginning. But digital has changed the field of play by not only giving us a thousand new channels and platforms to play with, but also affecting the terrain we thought we had already mapped.
One of the most fascinating and important areas of marketing moving forward is also the least understood; optimising the marketing mix across digital and offline channels. With the constant and chaotic development of digital tactics, it’s easy to forget that the vast majority of commerce and advertising happens in the offline world, though it’s increasingly influenced by what happens online.
Online retail is responsible for an increasingly large proportion of online sales. But this pales in comparison with the percentage of the economy that is affected by digital channels. Some products and categories see online research and marketing influencing 50% or more of all purchases, especially among younger and more affluent customers.
Understanding that influence is the key to harnessing the shift online rather than being digitised out of existence. The companies and agencies that will excel at true multichannel marketing will be really good at understanding and optimising the customer journey.
For most companies, the ways in which customers find and research their products has changed completely in just the last decade. The most common shift is the addition of digital research elements to processes that used to be entirely offline. To properly allocate budget and to maximise revenue, companies have to know where and when consumers interact with the brand across different types of media, and how they move between online and offline sources.
Of course, optimising the customer journey is easier said than done and it requires at least three rare components (and that’s not including the technologies to track customers, interact with them and manage the marketing itself.)
Most marketers deal with multiple databases and channel-specific solutions, each one creating or storing data in its unique way. Being able to standardise these disparate sources to produce reliable data is the first step for almost any digital marketing effort, and customer journey analysis is no exception.
Data is worthless, information is invaluable. Getting from one to the other takes analysis and inspiration in equal parts, and those skills aren’t easy to find. Many organisations already find themselves overwhelmed with the volume of their marketing data. Analysts with the ability to carve out what’s really meaningful and make those insights useful may be the core skill area in marketing (digital or otherwise).
“Content” doesn’t just mean blog posts or new site pages…it’s interactive, mobile and multi-media. Marketing organisations need to be able to make things that are useful or compelling, educational or entertaining. This creative and technical expertise that might live with an agency or inside a marketing team, but it needs to be accessible to marketing in large amounts.
The marketing to tomorrow is a potent combination of pull and push, digital and analog, math and magic. Optimising across the multichannel isn’t easy, but it isn’t optional either.
Stefan Tornquist is Econsultancy’s Vice President for Research, based in New York. Econsultancy’s JUMP conference about multichannel marketing in London on 10 October will feature four tracks, including ‘Optimise’.