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Held every year in cities across the world, Digital Cream brings marketers to a selection of exclusive invitation-only roundtables, each with a different theme.

Last month, it was London’s turn. One of the roundtables focused on cross-channel marketing, the findings of which have just been released in our free-to-access Cross-Channel Marketing Trends Briefing, sponsored by Responsys.

The speed of change means that companies are finding it difficult to keep up.

Full details are available in the free report, but for a quick summary, read below…

Data, analysis and attribution difficulties prevent integrated cross-channel marketing

One of the core challenges highlighted at Digital Cream by B2C marketers was that understanding the customer journey has become much more complex, meaning that it is far more difficult to gain the insights to plan and execute an integrated cross-channel marketing campaign.

Some particular difficulties were highlighted:

  • Gaining data when working through partners and resellers.
  • The duplication of customer data across devices, brands and services.
  • The difficulties in moving beyond a last-click attribution model.

Jon Stanesby, Associate Director of Strategic Services at Responsys said:

The first step towards a solution is to establish what data you need in order to deliver on your long-term goals. Making this decision will help you to narrow down the technologies or providers which will help you deliver on that vision.

Technology and disconnected systems are major barriers that B2C marketers face

With Software-as-a-Service and cloud technology being taken up eagerly by companies of all sizes, it may seem strange that technology and disconnected systems are still a cause of major headaches for marketers. However, with the results of our Email Marketing Census showing this still to be the case, it was no surprise that the marketers at Digital Cream also faced similar issues.

Key areas of difficulty that were mentioned included:

  • Re-platforming can cause major headaches, not just in terms of the technology but also in the need to train and upskill the people who will need to use the new systems.
  • Acquistions can cause problems as two formerly separate companies look to bring their technology and processes together.
  • Different and disconnected sources of customer acquisition can result in the collection of different types of data with different levels of quality.

Diverse customer groups hinder effective segmentation and integrated marketing

Many businesses have a diverse range of customer bases. Even away from the level of ‘personas’, a business may have many hundreds of different ways in which customers can engage with their products and services.

Issues concerning many on the table were:

  • Long and variable lead times made it difficult to tailor cross-channel marketing activities accordingly.
  • It can be difficult to reconcile the impact of face-to-face marketing with that stemming from other forms of communication, whether digital or offline.
  • For sites that rely heavily on coupons and first-time customer promotions, customers that use new emails for each transaction can reduce the quality of data and insight gained from customer analysis.

Politics, cultural legacies and organisational structures can prevent the adoption of best practice

As well as technology, the other two commonly cited ingredients for success in today’s digital companies are people and processes, with a messy child of the two often being ineffectual politics. 

Problems in this area included:

  • In larger organisations, internal structures and a lack of communication between sub-brands can prevent effective upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
  • Some brands find it difficult to move away from a history of television and print advertising, despite decreased effectiveness.
  • Ownership of data outside of marketing can make it difficult to gain quality insights.

The future?

With customers now moving seamlessly from channel to channel, tracking and optimising marketing efforts can be a challenge, with data from Google last year showing that most multichannel journeys begin on a smartphone.

There is therefore a strong reason for companies to make progress in this area. However, the size of the challenge should not put marketers off. As Jeremy Wilson, COO at Practicology, stated:

A key question to answer is ‘How wrong do we want to be?’ Perfection is not an achievable goal.

Have a roadmap that answers where you want to get to in manageable steps.

What are your views?

What challenges have you faced with your cross-channel marketing? Is your company ahead of the trend? What do marketers need to do next?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below…

Andrew Warren-Payne

Published 19 April, 2013 by Andrew Warren-Payne

Andrew Warren-Payne is a Senior Research Analyst at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or Google+

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