This week we launched Econsultancy’s fourth quarterly intelligence briefing, produced in partnership with Adobe, which highlights developing trends within digital marketing.

Social engagement was found to be the top priority for the next year, alongside content strategy and mobile optimisation. With our annual state of social study showing in December 2011 that 64% of businesses have matured beyond basic use of social media, that desire for a deeper connection was no surprise.

One area that the briefing did happily highlight however is the the growing importance of connection between digital activity and offline marketing. Though integration is often on the lips of marketers from all walks, actually connecting the two in reality is still an arduous task.

As the study highlight, most commerce (95% in the US, and roughly 90% in the UK) takes place offline. At the same time, product and store research is increasingly a digital activity. Consumers’ mobile devices give them ready access to information while out in the world, but we’re only starting to understand what this means for the customer journey.

Econsultancy research director Linus Gregoriadis explained that marketers have only begun to scratch the surface for what they can do to bridge the online/offline gap.

They know it’s a priority, with the overwhelming majority of marketers describing the need for cross pollination between digital and terrestrial information as ‘very’ or ‘quite important’”

But what do those activities look like? Based partly on a survey of 600 businesses, the briefing highlighted several activities that brands and agencies are using to put this into action.

  • Customisation of the website, based on offline triggers, such as using a mobile device to scan an in-store product. 
  • Proactive customer service using online channels for products purchased offline. 
  • Optimisation of mobile sites/apps for online research, location identification and purchasing 
  • More personalised digital communications (social, email, etc.) based on offline location, experience, purchasing and preferences. 
  • Increasing use of offline stores as showrooms for products that will be purchased online but in-store, with the help of sales people as necessary, with services like free shipping, delivery and such.

This is good news, but talking isn’t really good enough. Doing, applying and improving the connections between digital and offline activity is the real challenge – but it’s something we expect to see a lot more evidence of throughout 2012.