If anything typifies the ambitions of modern marketers, it’s the “O” word — omnichannel. We give much lip service to this common goal of engaging customers in seamless and timely experiences across touch points. But, in reality, it’s not so easy to enable these types of ubiquitous experiences across a large marketing technology stack, much less enhance it.
What’s required is a sophisticated use of data that reveals the attributes of real people along with the ability to take action on behaviors in real time. If you’re still focused solely on cookies or visitors, you are missing the larger opportunity to connect with customers and deliver the most relevant interactions.
Forrester forecasts that cross-channel sales will reach $1.8 trillion by 2018. Yet, under 40 percent of companies surveyed in another study (registration required) by Forrester and Ensighten (my employer) said they could link “the majority” of their email data to customer activity in other channels — “and the situation deteriorates with websites, point-of-sale systems, display advertising, etc.”
Furthermore, only 44 percent of respondents applied uniform segmentation across multiple touch points. That means these companies are not tracking customers across channels, nor do they have data integrated to support an omnichannel strategy.
We may be dismissive of “omnichannel” as just another marketing buzzword. But customers make no such distinctions. More and more, they expect relevant, timely and coherent interaction with brands, regardless of whether they are navigating their smartphone, sitting at a desktop or cruising the aisles of a local store.
Data and the marketing funnel
Enterprise marketers need to be able to collect, own and act on consumer data across channels and distribute this data in real time to the marketing technologies that deliver personalized user experiences, and they need to provide the insights and analytics to measure and optimize each engagement.
Consider this challenge through the lens of paid, owned and earned media and where they sit in the traditional marketing funnel. What’s clear is that the lion’s share of marketing investment and the biggest areas of omnichannel growth have occurred by using paid channels to increase brand awareness, engagement and ultimately new customer acquisition.
By paid channels, I’m referring to the upper end of the marketing funnel, where brands invest in search and display advertising, Google AdWords and the like for improved awareness and engagement.
However, to support omnichannel marketing, marketers need to integrate these upper-funnel activities with owned media that reside down-funnel. This is the realm of a brand’s websites and mobile apps, social media sites, content marketing, lead generation activities and campaigns.
Here is where the marketing team needs to integrate not just digital data from the obvious online sources, but also customer information from internal systems, like CRM (customer relationship management), call centers, loyalty programs and the voice of the customer.
Marketing teams need to break down these traditional data silos by creating an efficient way to collect and share data across touch points. This becomes the user-level data required in personalized omnichannel marketing.
It’s also where enterprise tag management becomes the core, intersecting system to collect and integrate online, offline and offsite data that collectively represents a customer journey. (Disclosure: I work for a company that provides enterprise tag management and omnichannel data collection services).
Building an omni-strategy marketing capability
Let’s look at four key elements required to enable omnichannel marketing from the perspective of data requirements:
• Integrate paid and owned channels. It’s critical that marketers understand as many customer interactions as possible as these consumers move from one channel to the next, across devices. For that, you need enterprise tagging capability with the agility to manage a multi-faceted journey.
You need to be able to deploy tags and collect data across every channel in the marketing technology stack. Enterprise tag management gives marketing teams full ownership and control over that data, including both first-party data from the web and mobile channels and data generated by your third-party marketing vendors — everything from display advertising to analytics.
• Double down on mobile apps. Forbes calls mobile the “solution to an omnichannel world” because of the way these devices create the bridge between in-store and digital worlds. A case in point is location-based data generated to support communications with customers as they move about in their daily lives.
Mobile data must be integrated into the omnichannel view of the customer. Your mobile tagging and data collection, however, cannot be dependent on mobile app developers. They are too valuable and scarce to be tasked with updating tags, defining new data and tweaking the user experience.
The optimization of mobile apps and the updating of tags need to be done using the technology that allows marketers to do the work in real time — without the hard-coding required by a software developer.
• Activate high-value customer records in the CRM. Many brands have the benefit of long and rich customer relationships, with the most valuable data housed in customer records owned by the enterprise. It is this data that can drive advanced modeled segmentation, propensity and RFM scoring and next-best offer strategies.
But more often than not, it’s the hardest data set to access and leverage for marketing, especially in real time. What’s required is the ability to integrate CRM data with the first- and third-party data generated digitally.
This, again, should be the role of the enterprise tag management system. Advanced systems create common rules and definitions to combine offline, offsite and online data in a customer data layer, including the CRM.
• Grow with the Internet of Things (IoT). The next big wave of data about consumers will come with platforms created within IoT channels, including point of sale, kiosks, set-top boxes, wearables and so on.
Consumer device proliferation has left our industry scrambling to find ways to measure and market to these users as they continue to adopt new devices. The enterprise data and tag management platforms will need to be open as a foundation for growing with these emerging IoT use cases.
• Build customer profiles. You can create the foundation for customer-centric marketing by building user profiles based on digital data integrated in real time with your CRM and other offline systems — then stitched together across touch points.
This rich customer profile can be made actionable across the martech stack. That’s the heart of omnichannel marketing.
When all is said and done, omnichannel is about people. Knowing about them requires ownership and integration of the many sources of data supporting modern marketing. It’s the key to marketing that focuses on the person and his or her evolving journey, not on siloed interaction points.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.