Four essential elements for digital maturity.

2016 Adobe Digital Marketing Survey results.

A constant state of change.
 
It wasn’t long ago that digital marketing was in its infancy. But in the blink of an eye, it grew up. Today, digital marketing is marketing — influencing all kinds of people, and delivering all kinds of customer and brand experiences. 
 
For the past seven years, Adobe has conducted an annual survey to explore current trends and priorities in digital marketing and to understand where the industry is headed. Last year, we learned that the most digitally mature companies are seeing bigger payoffs across a range of tactics and setting the standard for staying competitive. 
 
This year, we wanted to dig a little deeper to learn exactly what these top marketers are thinking about and explore how the strategies they’re deploying differ from those of other firms. We reached out to 735 digital marketers in the United States and Europe to get some answers.
 
The forces at work.
 
Over the past few years, we’ve learned that most organizations have invested in content and experiences that span the spectrum of channels, and now they’re looking for these investments to pay off. They realize it’s time to up their game.
 
This past year, we’ve seen a 27 percent increase in the number of companies using mobile applications and a 14 percent increase in those using adaptive websites. We’ve also seen a 22 percent increase in automation for web content based on a person’s profile. Not to mention budget increases in multiple areas as well.
 
Marketing is no longer a pick-and-choose game. If you’re playing to win, you have to do it all — and do it well. The most advanced marketers are using a platform that integrates all of the processes, technologies, and tools necessary to move forward in a holistic way.
 
Momentum is slowly growing.
 
More than half of North American organizations we surveyed say they’re on the path to digital maturity. But it’s a slow, methodical process. Only 19 percent of North American organizations surveyed rate their digital maturity as “Advanced.” This echoes what we saw in 2015, when just 19 percent said they’d made specific plans and investments with their digital maturity in mind. In Europe, the progress is slower, with 52 percent classifying themselves as “Emergent” and only 7 percent as “Advanced.”

Digital maturity definitions.
 
Advanced: Data mostly integrated, best practices generally followed, automation common, strong technical skills
Focused: Data and processes somewhat integrated, automation common, solid and expanding technical skills
Emergent: Basic data integration, some automation, growing technical capacity
Nonexistent: Limited data in silos, no automation, low technical capacity

The three top obstacles to advancing digital maturity are resource availability, budget, and staffing to manage the testing strategy or process:
 
  • Resource availability: 41% very challenging, 43% somewhat challenging
  • Budget: 40% very challenging, 38% somewhat challenging
  • Staffing: 37% very challenging, 43% somewhat challenging

 

There’s energy around data.
 
We hear the term “big data” all the time these days. And for good reason. Data is big. In fact, it’s integral to delivering relevant content. Half of all organizations are now using data to drive their digital marketing decisions and help them deliver relevant content. 
 
Our study shows that digitally mature organizations are quite a bit further ahead in their use of data. In North America, almost half say they have a companywide, holistic approach to testing, while globally, the number is closer to one-third.
 
Breaking down maturity into four essential elements.
 
This year’s survey identified four key areas that are essential to the strategies of the most digitally mature companies — the earth, fire, water, and air of the digital marketing world. And like the essential elements of the ancient Greek philosophers, no one of these four elements is more or less important than another. They all need to be in balance to sustain the online existence of any given company:
 
  • Data-driven marketing
  • Customer experience
  • Mobile
  • Cross-channel marketing

 

Data-driven marketing: Understanding the many layers of customer behavior.
 
We all need grounding — a foundation for the things we do. That’s why the first essential element for digital maturity is data-driven marketing. 
 
Analytics is a core discipline for any company seeking digital maturity. It takes the guesswork out of the equation and lays the groundwork for smart and effective marketing. 
 
Digitally advanced companies are making bigger investments in learning how customers are consuming their content and what gets them to interact. Both Advanced and Focused groups intend to employ even more measurement and optimization tactics in the coming years. European organizations are using more tactics than their North American counterparts by a slight margin, but overall, digitally mature companies plan to increase their measurement tactics by 41 percent over the next 3 years.
 
Putting money where the data is.
 
Analytics is absolutely core to increasing maturity. So it comes as no surprise that it’s one of the two areas in the survey most likely to see budget increases. The research shows an increased focus on data-driven capabilities over the next 3 years, with 96 percent or more of mature companies ranking whole customer view, predictive marketing, and attribution modeling as somewhat important or very important.
 
Learn more about whole customer view, predictive marketing, and attribution modeling.
 
Looking beyond websites and mobile apps.
 
Digitally elite companies are also gathering data outside their websites and mobile apps to enhance the customer experience, using an average of 5.2 different tactics to augment their data-driven marketing efforts. 
 
Sixty-nine percent of all organizations surveyed say they’re using CRM data to enhance their customer profiles. In North America, real-time data from analytics is second to CRM, while in Europe, audience definition (advanced segmentation) is more widely used.

Best practices for grounding your digital marketing in customer intelligence.
 
  • Use customer-driven data to understand each individual’s journey and to deliver relevant experiences.
  • Invest in analytics that predict your customers’ next moves.
  • Centralize your data so insights are easily accessible throughout your organization and across your channels.
  • Integrate outside data to augment your segmentation, personalization, and audience management efforts.

Customer experience: The key to igniting brand loyalty.
 
Like the element of fire, the customer experience can create energy and ignite a passion for your brand. But if the experience is negative, it can just as easily extinguish any further engagement. 
 
An overwhelming percentage (92 percent) of all organizations rank the importance of investing in or improving capabilities in content marketing — a pillar of good customer experience — over the next three years as very or somewhat important. And even more (94 percent) say the view of the customer is very or somewhat important.
 
In this new world of customer experience, top marketers are working to deliver an experience related to what customers’ needs are at any given point — instead of promoting what is top of mind for the business. Automated personalization is working for those who are doing it. Seventy percent report that automating the delivery of personalized content for web has improved KPIs, and 71 percent say it has improved KPIs for mobile sites and apps.

Best practices for igniting brand loyalty.
 
  • Think of every touchpoint as a chance for customers to make a connection with your brand.
  • Develop content with the customers’ needs in mind.
  • Work to develop a rich customer profile — using your data as well as outside data — and then use that to make your content highly personalized and relevant, wherever your customer finds you.
  • Automate the delivery of your personalized content.

Mobile: As essential as the air we breathe.
 
Mobile has become a must for marketing. And “mobile first” is the new mantra.
 
It used to be that companies would design their websites without a lot of concern for how they appeared on mobile devices. Now, things have flipped completely upside down. Companies have started prioritizing mobile over desktop. 
 
The reason is simple: Smartphones are the primary devices for 92 percent of users. As a society, we’re constantly on the move. And like the element of air, we expect our content to be everywhere we go.
 
Mobile is the top area most likely to see budget increases in the next 12 months. Fifty-one percent of all organizations surveyed say they’re increasing their budget for mobile sites or applications, and 34 percent say it’s staying the same. More than 70 percent of organizations report that it’s very important or somewhat important to improve mobile capabilities in the next 3 years.

Best practices for breathing new life into mobile.
  • Make mobile a priority. Invest in mobile channels and applications.
  • Create dedicated mobile sites and apps that feel as if they were born for mobile, not retrofitted.
  • Use data to determine if your mobile channels are serving specific purposes for customers.
  • Use data to understand how your customers are interacting with your mobile content, and invest in areas that create a continuous experience.

 


Cross-channel marketing: Ensuring your message flows freely across all devices and platforms.
 
A great marketing experience is as fluid as water. It goes wherever your customers go, finding its way into all channels. 
 
More and more companies are starting to get the importance of engaging with customers across all channels — website, mobile, email, apps, wearables, and countless other connected devices. People don’t just go to one channel and stay there. They surf, which creates multiple opportunities to reach them — or lose them. 
 
Almost 90 percent of survey respondents rank creating a connected experience and campaign orchestration as a top priority. Similarly, 88 percent say they’re focusing on journey management, helping them meet customers where they are at any given moment. And 57 percent say journey analytics is one of the customer-centered optimization tactics they will invest more in over the next 3 years.

Best practices for a more fluid customer journey.
  • Invest in technologies, processes, and tools that help you deliver relevant experiences at any given point in the customer journey.
  • Take the strengths of each channel, adapt your message for each one, and weave them all together into a cohesive story.
  • Get all your systems and channels working together, sharing data as well as content and assets.
  • Invest in tools to understand the customer journey and better manage individual experiences.

Where digitally mature organizations are investing.
 
Digitally mature organizations have recognized the need for more sophisticated tools in their marketing arsenals. Even more important, they’re seeing the benefits of using integrated marketing solutions so their customer profiles, content, assets, analytics, and more can be shared across all channels and all departments, rather than residing in separate information silos. 
 
Organizations with strategic digital marketing plans are committing more budget dollars to improvements in a wide number of areas. In fact, 66% of digitally mature organizations plan to invest in all areas of structure, people, processes, and tools.
 
That’s because more organizations are realizing that you need to have maturity across a broad spectrum. And your capabilities have to work together.
 
Putting it all together.
 
There are challenges to achieving digital maturity, but you’re certainly not alone. No company that participated in this survey has achieved total maturity — and they never will because the target is constantly moving. But they do have a well-defined plan that’s already beginning to pay off.
 
Core to their strategy is an intention to improve in all areas across the digital maturity spectrum. In other words, they’re focusing on all four essential elements:
 
  • Grounding everything they do in data
  • Igniting a passion for their brands with a relevant customer experience
  • Making mobile an essential element of their marketing efforts
  • Creating a customer journey that flows across all channels

Analyze where you are on the digital maturity spectrum.
  • Do you have a strategy for digital maturity?
  • Are your digital marketing efforts being done by just your marketing team, or are they a companywide effort?
  • How do your marketing efforts compare to those of the most digitally mature companies?
  • Where are you with the four essential elements: data-driven marketing, customer experience, mobile, and cross-channel marketing?
  • Are you using data intelligently to provide deep insights into your customers and to ground your strategy?
  • Are you igniting passion for your brand through a consistent customer experience that reaches the right customer at the right time?
  • Have you made mobile a high priority in your marketing strategy?

 

Are you engaging with your customers across all possible channels, and are you doing it in a seamless, coherent way?

1. Adobe Digital Index, Mobile Benchmark Report, 2015.