It’s been suggested that the average person sees anything between 500 and a mammoth 4,000 brand messages per day.

From a marketing perspective – that’s a hell of a lot of noise to cut through.

In order to stand out, marketers are increasingly recognising the benefits of a customer-first approach, where the main goal (above brand-centric aims like ROI) is to offer an experience that exceeds consumer expectations, and that truly surprises and delights.

Econsultancy’s report – The State of Consumer-First and Omnichannel Marketing – states that 91% of advertisers recognise the importance of putting the customer first. But despite this fact, 51% say they aren’t able to put it into practice.

So, what’s holding marketers back? For lots more insight, subscribers can download the report in full. Meanwhile, here’s a bit of analysis on the key challenges marketers are facing.

An overwhelming majority of advertisers agree with the importance of putting the customer first – yet a majority admit they don’t fully do so.

Getting the right mix

Omnichannel advertising is what enables a customer-first approach. It is a practice that effectively allows marketers to align with changing customer behaviour, and to seamlessly reach them across multiple channels.

While marketers recognise the need for an omnichannel strategy, it seems putting it into practice is not so simple.

According to Lewis Rothkopf, MediaMath’s General Manager of Media and Growth Channels, ”marketers in many cases still struggle to define what ‘omnichannel’ means.” In other words, he suggests that marketers are  unable to find the right mix, perhaps prioritising certain channels and neglecting others.

From the survey results, it appears offline remains a particular stumbling block – especially when it comes to attribution. 93% of respondents agreed that effective attribution across online and offline activity is essential, and yet only 67% said they could accurately attribute their online advertising spend to offline channels.

Without this ability, it is more difficult for marketers to optimise ad spend, and to maximise return on investment.

Interestingly, it appears there is a strong correlation between the failure to adopt an omnichannel approach and the lack of ability to carry out effective attribution. A reported 70% of organisations without an omnichannel approach also lack the ability to accurately attribute their online spend to offline.

The need for integrated technology

One of the most crucial elements of an omnichannel strategy is integrated technology and data. 92% of survey respondents agreed with this statement, again proving that knowledge is not the problem. Rather, it is the execution, with just 37% of advertisers agreeing that their marketing and advertising systems are highly integrated.

So, why is this the case? Time and resources appears to be a huge factor. This is because fully integrated marketing stacks take the best part of a year, maybe more, to create. This, coupled with a negative impact on short-term performance is likely to prevent investment in integrated tech from going ahead. Another roadblock could also be the perception that new media formats and platforms are short-lived, making the investment appear less worthwhile.

That being said, other research suggests that these fears are perhaps unfounded.

In 2017, an Econsultancy and Google study found that ‘leaders’ were 1.5 times as likely as ‘mainstream’ organisations to have an integrated marketing and advertising technology stack, therefore proving that the long-term benefits are worth the short-term challenge.

integrated tech

Compliance with GDPR

Due to new GDPR regulations, data-driven digital marketers are now concentrating on building accurate and compliant data sets that allow them to build a more transparent relationship with customers. When it comes to strategies like tracking and behavioural targeting, customers must be aware of, and have the ability to object, to data use at all stages.

Unsurprisingly then, advertisers have felt the impact of GDPR far more strongly than other industries, with respondents twice as likely to agree with this compared to agencies and adtech vendors.

But while GDPR itself poses a big challenge for digital marketers, it simultaneously presents a big opportunity to re-focus customer-first strategies, and put customer needs at the heart of both marketing and advertising.

Pleasingly, the majority of marketers seem to be taking heed of this. A separate study found that 45% of marketers have taken a legal-first approach to GDPR. However, 55% have taken a marketing-first approach, which means they are putting customer rights at the heart of everything the organisation does in order to build a better relationships based on greater transparency.

Of course, this desire does not guarantee marketers are actually practising what they preach. With only 46% of respondents strongly agreeing that their organisation has a privacy-compliant identity solution, there’s clearly still work to be done before full transparency (and customer satisfaction) can be achieved.

privacy compliance

One way to improve on this is to take a unified approach, ensuring that the digital advertising supply chain works in harmony.

For advertisers, this means looking beyond in-house teams to ensure that consent is properly recorded and processed, and going beyond legal advisers to seek partnerships within the advertising ecosystem.

For more on omni-channel marketing, don’t forget to download the report in full.