Digital Transformation Paves the Way for Delivering Great Customer Experiences

Marketing across industry sectors is undergoing a profound digital transformation as companies implement customer-centric technology to deliver the right content to the right user at just the right time.

Companies are investing in digital technology in order to better position their brands in the marketplace. Market leaders are increasingly focused on the people, processes, and tools required to integrate technology across their enterprises, resulting in a digital maturity effect that impacts everything from differentiation to conversion rates.

To help you better understand the pace of digital marketing transformation, we surveyed 1,165 digital marketers across Europe and North America. According to Adobe’s seminal Digital Marketing Survey 2017, companies that categorize themselves as digitally mature more than doubled between 2016 and 2017, from 11 percent to 24 percent.

Marketing leaders in every industry — except retail — reported an increase in digital maturity. As a result, their companies are benefiting from stronger technical skills, increased use of marketing automation, and more integrated data. Moreover, a quarter of the companies surveyed believe their companies are at an advanced level in terms of transforming business processes and better understanding and using their data. The percentage of companies that consider themselves in the top two categories of digital maturity increased from 48 percent last year to 65 percent this year.

“This represents a tipping point in terms of the majority of companies identifying as digitally mature,” says Kevin Lindsay, director of product marketing at Adobe. “We see an increase in the number of companies that identify as being advanced as far as digital maturity goes, and a decline in those that identify themselves as having emergent or very low maturity.”

Increasing focus on customer engagement.

The transformation of a company into a digitally mature enterprise reflects a recognition that integration of marketing and operational data is a competitive requirement in today’s marketplace. One common denominator among digitally mature companies is a 360-degree customer view. This is the use of data to develop a holistic perspective on customer engagement with your brand.

Developing a complete customer perspective is achieved by integrating and acting on data from across the spectrum of customer interactions. “Getting a more complete view of customer engagement continues to be the most important digital marketing strategy,” says Brad Rencher, executive vice president and general manager of digital marketing at Adobe. “But audience reach, mobile app engagement, and mobile app analytics are all gaining in importance.”

In fact, digitally mature companies are investing in developing integrated digital marketing technology platforms that include: the ability to combine and leverage data sources, identify and target audiences, improve analytics, and optimize campaigns for web and mobile apps using artificial intelligence and machine learning. Companies in the vanguard of digital maturity also plan to invest in digital technology in the year ahead. Looking toward the future, the top three areas for increased investment for mature companies include: technology to facilitate optimization (65 percent), personalization (61 percent), and advertising (60 percent).

Automated personalization is on the rise.

Data-driven marketing solutions are among the leading tools that companies are using for web and mobile optimization. In order to understand and act on their data, enterprise leaders are also using analytics to create more personalized user experiences.

In fact, 52 percent of advanced brands said they are using integrated analytics to augment their marketing efforts.

“Analytics have evolved from providing basic data and reports to delivering important and revealing insights about customer behavior,” says Kevin from Adobe. “The ability to look at the data for insights is now fundamental. It’s the most important aspect of digital maturity.”

Automation for better targeting, Kevin adds, is “the next step” in digital maturity. “It’s great to understand what’s going on in your business, and to have lots of data insights,” he says. “But the real key is being able to use that information. Automation and targeting enable companies to act on their data, and that technology is an important part of the digital maturity story.”

One company with unique insight into digital maturity is Merkle, a technology-focused marketing agency that has worked with Fortune 1000 companies for more than 30 years. “The market is accelerating incredibly quickly,” says George Gallate, Merkle’s chief marketing officer. “The proliferation of marketing technology and opportunities means that companies have to meet customer expectations in real time.”

Digital maturity facilitates differentiation.

The need for differentiation in the marketplace is driving digital transformation for many companies. Not surprisingly, more advanced companies are highly focused on differentiation strategies that give them a competitive edge.

Overall, the survey found that 89 percent of companies believe their digital marketing efforts definitely or somewhat differentiate them in the marketplace. The quest to differentiate their brands is fueling investments in technology with the goal of better connecting with customers across different channels and devices.

When it comes to digital marketing, the ability to access and understand customer data and then use that data to personalize content across different channels is a way for companies to differentiate themselves from the competition. Success requires analytics that effectively measure cross-channel engagement and, ultimately, sales conversions.

From Merkle’s perspective, says George, that differentiation requires a three-step process that includes developing a unified customer data platform, integrating both internal and external customer data sources, and organizational alignment with both internal teams and suppliers. “This is a fundamental organizational change,” he says. “It requires the creation of a data-driven organization that has an integrated planning process and the ability to deliver meaningful customer experiences at every level.”

Redefining customer experiences.

Hotel giant Marriott is a standard bearer for defining digital maturity. “They are the quintessential brand as far as best practices,” says Kevin. “They are thinking about the entire customer experience from the moment that someone engages with an app to the guest experience when a customer is checking-out. They also have a very mature approach to how they look at data, and how they use it to refine customer experiences.”

A cornerstone of Marriott’s strategy has been mobile engagement. “We are unleashing our scale and our personalization capabilities across a community of 100 million-plus members,” says Andy Kauffman, VP of digital marketing for Marriott International. “Mobile is a key, key part of this, and it has been a tremendous success for our company.”

Kevin adds that Marriott’s focus on mobile is indicative of the wider trends identified in the 2017 Digital Marketing Survey. “The biggest change in terms of digital marketing strategy that we see has to do with mobile,” he says. “We see a big bump in the survey in terms of how people view the importance of mobile app analytics as well as mobile app engagement. We also are seeing some really specific tactical areas around mobile, particularly with mobile app analytics and personalization.”

Driving higher conversion rates.

One of the most interesting data points related to the digital maturity effect is the impact it has on the bottom line. According to the survey, digitally mature companies — with highly integrated data and content — have much higher conversion rates than companies with emergent or non-existent digital maturity. Desktop conversion for advanced companies was 5 percent compared to 3.9 percent for the least mature companies. On mobile, average conversion was 4.6 percent for more mature companies compared to 3.7 percent for those less tech-savvy organizations.

“Based on the levels of maturity, advanced companies have better integrated data and content, as well as clearly defined best practices and automation strategies,” says Brad at Adobe. “The survey also shows that factors such as cross-channel support, automated KPIs, and personalization of content, all factor into better conversion results.”

What mature companies recognize is that to be relevant in today’s omnichannel marketing environment, you have to be able to deliver targeted, personalized content at the speed of light. “Consumers expect to find what they need online fast,” says Brad. “You can’t have latency. You can’t have non-relevant content, and you can’t get away with not personalizing.”

The good news is that digital marketers understand the importance of investing in technology. Overall, 95 percent of those surveyed said their companies plan to invest in expanding their digital marketing efforts in the year ahead. “Companies are making big investments in digital technology,” says Brad, “because you can’t get there incrementally, and they realize that.”

Being really good at just marketing, just optimization, or just analytics used to mean a competitive edge. But not anymore. “Today,” says Brad, “you need a well-integrated platform in order to optimize your ability to deliver great customer experiences in real time.”

Learn more about how your company can benefit from digitally transforming your marketing by implementing data targeting and analytics solutions that will help wow your customers and boost your conversions.