"Why the fragmented ecosystem in the first place?"
Historically, most companies have been logically segmented around functions and channels, each fighting to position their message in front of the customers.
Each team, respectively in charge of an individual channels (Paid, direct, web, etc) or in charge of a specific function (eg: content creation) will work towards certain KPIs vastly different from one another. The creative team will focus on budget, quality and achieving timeline. The Paid Advertising team will focus on filling in the top of the funnel while the optimisation team will focus on the bottom, more specifically on conversion rate. Finally, direct marketing will likely be in charge of customer’s retention/renewal.
Each of those teams are partially in charge of the customers experience.
Each will apply a different lens and flavour to it.
Each will have budget and a certain autonomy to decide what product they need to deliver their specific KPIs without necessarily looking at the bigger picture.
The result is series of non integrated point solutions being implemented across your channels to deliver your customer experience.
This internal fragmentation naturally translates into a fragmented customer experience with customer feeling the bumps when being handed over from one team/platform to the other.
"Your brand's digital touch points"
So let's get started and have a look in more details at the the various points of interaction between your brand and your customers.
Starting from the left, first is your brick'n mortar physical agencies/shops where you would most likely have digital signage in place displaying either product, promotion or even better, allowing for an interactive experience.
Then comes your public website, your secured portal, your IOS/Android App(s), your outbound, paid and social channels. I haven't represented the rising channels like VR or Voice but feel free to add them to get a full picture of your ecosystem.
In the next few paragraphs, I will illustrate through that framework the typical gaps (in white) and the fragmentation (different colours) of a brand's digital ecosystem across its different touch points and the different supporting components (analytics, optimisation, segmentation & targeting, automation, content governance).
"How do analytics silos work for your marketing attribution?
Almost every company we talk to have an attribution challenge. Each and every point solution handling a specific channel has an element of analytics and reporting on customers' behaviour. It is however limited to their own perimeter. To work it around, brands run expensive BI projects to process exported data from those silos and try to tie the customer journey together more or less accurately. This has of course many loopholes as it suggests having matching IDs across all channels, not that easy when your customer is anonymously interacting with some of those same touch points.
Implementing of a cross channel digital analytics solution, one that can be deployed across all channels would go a long way to solve this.
Note that when selecting the right solution for you, make sure they don't only support the common Web/Email/Paid/Social channels but IOS/Android/Voice/IOT/DigitalSignage devices as well.
"Can you scale your testing efforts?" Most customer nowadays are doing some element of A/B testing on their website to optimise their path to conversion and various CTAs (Click through action). Emails and paid medias are the next in line to be prioritised while mobile or secured channels are not always addressed. Reality is that not every optimisation tool is truly multi channels and running test campaigns across various clunky tools can be very resource consuming. It also has a dependance on content production and on the design team to implement the variations of experience. Hence, it is crucial that your optimisation platform is somehow connected to your content workflow. I'll touch on that at the end of this article in more details.
"People vs device targeting"
Effectively targeting customers audiences requires 2 components: an (ideally) real time delivery platform and a segmentation engine.
The delivery component and the need for real-time will vary according to the channel and the use case (inbound vs outbound). When you hit a webpage, you expect the personalised experience to be resolved within 200ms, which means in the background: passing some customer information (ID, traits, etc) to the server, resolving the customer to a segment, resolving the right experience and displaying the selected content itself. Again, all within 200ms.
On the other hand, a personalised email can either be assembled on the fly when being sent or computed upfront for a later batch send (preferred method when you deal with high volumes). Pre-processing scenario wouldn't work in a real-time interaction use case where the email needs to be sent in response to a specific event within a limited timeframe (e.g.: cart abandonment). So again, very depending on the use case.
Audience segmentation is where we see the biggest challenge for brands. You can't talk to your customer in a consistent manner across your digital touch points unless you identify him/her as the same person across those same touch points. For that you first need a common segmentation engine across all your delivery platform to ensure consistent communication across all marketing channels.
The second problem you need to solve is how do you recognise your audience across the many devices they use? Especially that they might not authenticate necessarily on some of them...
So you need some "Profile stitching/merging" capabilities that can link the devices IDs of a same individual together and form some kind of device graph in the back-end. This will ultimately allow a brand to market people as opposed to market devices.
Note that Big players in that field like Google, Facebook, Adobe or AppNexus have invested in device co-ops data platform to allow for companies to benefit from the anonymous sharing of those device graphs.
The fundamental piece of technology behind all that are DMPs (Digital Management Platform). DMPs also allow you to enrich those audiences with 2nd or 3d party data giving you access to customers'travel habits, intent to purchase, demographic data, etc.
Reality is that today most brands are in the process of building their DMP capabilities in order to provide this common "audience hub" but still with the vision depicted above in mind.
Last point to close the loop on this topic, the integration of the DMP with your delivery components will of course be crucial to deliver a true real time personalised experience regardless of the channel. This can sound obvious but can represent quite some effort if they are not natively integrated from the start.
"Can you converse with your customers across channels?"
Putting consistent content out there on your channels is a great first step but will not help to have a "conversation" with your customers. To have a conversation with them, you need to be able to respond in a timely manner to explicit or implicit inbound signals. This goes beyond sending an email when a customer click on a button on your site (=explicit). You typically need to be able to trigger communications based on any customer's online behaviour via his/her preferred channel. This implies an element of integration, a live connection between your analytics and your various delivery platforms.
Now, beside improving the richness of your customer interactions portfolio, you also need to be able to orchestrate various sequences of interactions and this automatically. This orchestration is usually delivered by campaign management systems allowing the automation of complex interaction workflows with your customers. The decisioning is still rule based but there will be a time when AI will allow for a much more dynamic compilation of steps and decisions. Chatbots are are an example of that but just the tip of the iceberg of what the future holds IMHO.
Now coming back to where customers are on this part of the journey. Because it's an expensive piece of the puzzle, only the large brands have walked down that path yet. However, modern marketing automation platforms integrated natively with digital analytics along with more marketer's friendly UI, should help democratising this use case in the near future.
"Why you need a Content Hub to centrally feed your channels"
Generally speaking, brands have a very segmented way to manage content across their channels.
They will usually have:
"The journey ahead" In an ideal world, your digital ecosystem is this beautiful rainbow with stripes that span uniformly across all touch points. Reality is: it's a journey and somehow a race, that will be drastically accelerated by modern and integrated marketing cloud platforms most certainly. Meanwhile, if you are to prioritise anything, I'd suggest to build your audience hub and content hub as they'll be the foundation supporting your cross-channel customer engagement.