In the world of digital marketing, the pursuit of complete integration is nearly as old as mainframes. However, as technological capabilities continue to evolve, the concept of complete integration takes on a whole new meaning—and a whole new level of importance.
Companies today need to provide customers with a superior digital experience that is differentiated and seamless from end to end. This requires tight integration from the front office to the back office, particularly for the areas of sales, marketing, service and fulfillment, in order to achieve the needed speed to market, improve campaign cycle times and enable faster insights to action. And what's more, it's not as hard to do as you might think.
Achieving end-to-end really means closing the loop that includes strategy, insights, creative, technology and efficient delivery across all channels. And although most large companies have already achieved a fairly high level of integration within individual functions, few companies have achieved a high level of integration across silos. The result is a mishmash of isolated systems and disjointed processes that undermines the digital customer experience and leaves countless value-creation opportunities on the table. It doesn't have to be that way.
For example, some companies today spend far too much time, money and effort creating great content that their customers and prospects will find useful and appealing—but often it's not served up to them at the right time because the business unit that developed it does not own the touch points where customers would find the content most useful. That means the valuable content you've created is stuck in a single silo because you don't have the integrated systems, processes and organization structures to enable fast and easy deployment across channels. When your technology and systems are set up to support this integration, the customer gets what they need at the right time. It really can be that simple.
On the business side, many marketers now have access to powerful insights from advanced analytics tools; however, barriers between functional silos often limit their ability to put those insights into action. For example, all that data from customer touch points may not be set up so that core business or product development teams can easily access it to inform decisions.
A foundation for end-to-end integration
To thrive in a digital world, organizations should make a concerted effort to establish a fully integrated digital platform that spans the enterprise. This integration affects every aspect of the business—from systems and processes to organization structures and culture. Ideally, it also includes seamless integration with business strategy, creative activities and technology initiatives. And it doesn't have to take all that much longer to set up than implementing a disconnected mishmash of tools.
Companies that are starting with a clean slate—such as startups or spinoffs—generally have the easiest path because they can select and implement a fully integrated digital platform from the get-go. For example, we recently helped a leading technology firm launch a spinoff that needed to provide its customers with a superior and highly differentiated digital experience. By using a preconfigured digital platform, the business was able to get up and running quickly with tight integration of sales, marketing, service and back-office activities—a feat that historically could have taken a year or more was done in weeks to months.
Established organizations that are unable, or don't think it's feasible, to start from scratch face a different set of challenges and may need to work a little harder to integrate their existing systems and digital capabilities into a cohesive whole—and to overcome organizational inertia and resistance to change. The good news is that since these technologies are constantly emerging and evolving, achieving a fully integrated mix of digital platforms will always be an ongoing process, not a one-time event even for the youngest and nimblest of companies.
The digital factory
Since many companies are already using major digital platforms, they already have a solid foundation on which to build the integrations that are so necessary to delivering that stellar cross-channel customer experience. To operate efficiently and effectively, companies should develop the capabilities of a "digital factory," continuously developing and integrating new innovations into their digital mix while minimizing distractions and disruptions to their day-to-day business operations.
This digital factory approach can boost an organization's agility and dramatically accelerate speed-to-market by making it much faster and easier to develop, deploy and integrate new digital innovations and solutions, which creates opportunities for integration along the way.
What does this look like in action? We recently worked with a global media giant that deployed a fully integrated digital platform for customer relationship management (CRM) and multichannel campaigns (MCC), enabling the business to deliver and guide customers through their digital journey with highly personalized content. The platform integrates live, linear and on-demand video content while supporting scalable advertising servicing, content management and video delivery capabilities.
The results? Improved accessibility and performance across more than 20 device platforms. A uniform and enhanced understanding of viewing audiences. Better planning and exposure for future content and ad efforts. And the ability to capture, store and leverage a single consolidated view of the customer, using CRM data to enrich information and functionality from other systems and third parties. Ultimately this gives the company the necessary integration to put customers truly at the center of their experience and accelerate the time-to-value of their digital transformation.
Taking integration to the next level
Companies are currently pouring huge amounts of time and money into improving their marketing capabilities, particularly in the digital realm. However, many of those new and improved capabilities revolve around discrete technology solutions that are tightly contained within functional silos. This piecemeal approach severely limits efficiency and effectiveness, and makes it difficult or impossible to provide customers with an exceptional experience across channels.
By stepping back and establishing a comprehensive digital platform and digital factory approach, companies can boost their overall performance and deliver a superior customer experience that gives them a sustainable advantage in a highly competitive marketplace. And what's more, it's not that hard and likely won't take as long as you may think. So what's stopping you?