There has never been a more exciting time to be an online consumer. We can do more things online than we ever imagined: watch the latest episodes of our favorite TV shows, listen to virtually any album ever released, buy a car, plan a trip, pay taxes, get financial advice, or plan a wedding.
But all of the things that make this a great time to be a digital consumer also make it an incredibly challenging time to be a digital marketer. Mobile raises the stakes for everyone concerned with communicating online and measuring the results.
In the old days of online marketing, messages were mostly static. A single web site on a single platform could serve your broader marketing needs, while email was sufficient for more targeted messaging. Marketers were in control of the speed, the timing, and the platform.
But the shift from PCs to smart phones, tablets, and wearable devices has turned everything on its head. Now we, the consumer, get to decide how, where and when to communicate with brands. We expect things to happen in real time and we expect the experience to be personalized. We demand a constant stream of new content that is consistent across platforms and devices. We expect to start a transaction on one device and finish it somewhere else.
As a result, all companies that do business online must adopt multi-channel customer communication efforts – as reflected in customer experience management research, which showed that 100% of respondents reported using at least two or more channels.
This creates enormous creative and staffing challenges for marketers. How many marketers have the resources to create this much content – while maintaining quality, relevance and timeliness?
But this is just half the story. Our mobile behavior is also pushing marketers to be increasingly technical and innovative. Every time we use our networked devices, we are generating and sharing (sometimes involuntarily) an unprecedented amount of data. All of the needs to be collected and analyzed – often in real time – so that marketers can deliver the right experience to the right person on the right device, at precisely the right moment.
This requires sophisticated software and advanced real-time processing hardware. But most marketers are not themselves proficient in the intricacies of informational technology. They rely on experts to pull the technical strings, and that relationship is often not as responsive as it needs to be to keep up with the accelerated pace of digital innovation. In fact, according to Aberdeen Group research, only 40% of Best-in-Class firms currently report that their customer behavioral data is used to determine factors that drive cross-channel customer traffic.
As a result, digital marketers are pulled in opposite directions. On the one hand, they are expected to be more creative and productive – creating more content for more people on a growing number of platforms. On the other hand, they are expected to be more technical and data-driven – parsing information in real time and adapting it on the fly for different technical platforms.
Finally, they are under increased pressure to make sense of it all and to justify their budgets. This makes accurate attribution and measurement more critical than ever.
How can marketers simultaneously be more creative, more productive, more technical, and more accountable? There are at least 4 ways to tackle to this challenge:
1) Organizational Evolution: The primary way to resolve this dilemma is to redefine the structure and role of the marketing organization. Marketers can no longer operate in isolation from other teams – particularly IT.
2) Integrated Systems: But the change must be more than organizational. It must also extend to the IT systems that marketing relies on. They can no longer be isolated from other systems. Marketing needs to be able to access IT resources and data as a service.
3) Real-Time Content Creation and Publishing: Business users must be able to use intuitive tools to access content from multiple sources and combine it in real time to creative engaging experiences that can be simultaneously published across multiple global channels – in multiple languages.
4) Outsource When Possible, But Keep Your Differentiators In-House: Tasks that can be outsourced, must be. Unfortunately, as content becomes more targeted, it becomes harder to produce it outside of the core team. This means that marketers need to have a laser focus on the things that require the deepest levels of customer understanding.
The main point, however, is that it has become way too easy for marketers to get distracted from their primary mission – to understand the customer at every point in their journey and help deliver the best, most relevant, experiences possible. The only way that marketers are going to be able to survive and thrive in this environment is by eliminating unnecessary tasks, integrating and consolidating their supporting technology services, outsourcing or automating repetitive tasks, and by focusing on their core audience – the consumer.
About the Author: Doug Heise serves as Global Director of Product Marketing for CoreMedia. Doug has over 17 years of experience as a digital media strategist and marketing specialist. Doug began his career as a co-founder and Senior Analyst with The Content Group, a San Francisco-based consulting and professional services firm that was one of the first companies to focus exclusively on the field of digital media management.
Following The Content Group, Doug served as Director of Strategy for iXL’s global Digital Media and Broadband Solutions practice where he managed teams of digital media consultants and led the development of new solution offerings for the practice. He subsequently served as Head of Strategy for BBC Technology’s North American digital media team and led product marketing efforts for Hewlett-Packard’s Digital Media Platform and Digital Content Services offering. Doug has extensive experience developing and marketing on-demand solutions and recently served as VP of Marketing for Panvidea, a New York based digital video software service and Global Product Marketing Director for CoreMedia AG, a leader in enterprise Web Content Management.
As an independent consultant, Doug has worked for a range of Fortune 100 companies including Visa, Microsoft, and Cisco.
Doug holds a Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University and a Master of Philosophy degree from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.