Experian Marketing Services has released the 2014 version of its Digital Marketer Report, with the theme of "becoming a cross-channel marketing mastermind."
The report, available for download here, is an extensive analysis of the landscape as it currently sits for digital marketers in 2014.
This is the sixth iteration of the report, which runs over 100 pages and is chock-full of digital imperatives. For travel brand marketers working towards planning their next fiscal year budgets in the coming months, this report also reveals some key areas of shifting focus.
Here are some of the benchmarks and trends being tracked in the report - this is only a taste, as the report is truly extensive in benchmarking scope.
The multichannel imperative
Multichannel is no longer a strategy - it's the reality. There is no other way to market anymore, and this is especially vital for travel marketers to grasp. If marketers do not consider the multiple paths along a journey to booking, they will be lost.
Recent news such as Hipmunk's Anywhere and Expedia's ScratchPad demonstrate just how the user experience in travel is shifting to accomodate the multichannel reality. Multichannel-as-competitive-advantage is rapidly shifting to an industry standard must-have.
Experian calls this the "multichannel imperative," which is a useful mindset to take when approaching a marketing strategy that considers the full ecosystem versus just one particular platform within a larger marketing construct.
For travel, this is less overwhelming and more exciting - the ability to target users at various phases and platforms offers some unique opportunities for successful marketing.
Customer centricity comes from data
Data is the driving force behind much of the customer centricity necessary for successful cross-channel marketing. In order to most fully execute a cross-channel effort, the customer must live at the center of the entire experience.
This proves challenging in an ecosystem that creates massive streams of data. In fact, Experian's own research shows that collecting and managing data is one of the biggest challenges for marketing leaders.
Following data management, the CRM capability follows closely.
The roundtrip between CRM and data management is one of the key functionalities that drive the recent growth of B2B services in this space - there are now so many moving parts, so many pieces of data coming in from such a variety of devices that it becomes especially difficult for the average marketer to compete. Segmenting and slicing strategies into measurable components, and then working out the relative interactions between each piece becomes the name of the game.
For example, a hotel looking to bring in new customers must be able to identify which potential consumer is actually already a customer, and segment that particular cohort out of a targeted campaign - harder to do with traditional mass media, but much more feasible with a thorough cross-channel marketing implementation that uses available front desk systems, loyalty data, and mobile behaviors to appropriately segment demographics.
Of course, this can get expensive, especially with third parties such as Experian dropping in as middlemen. The increased revenue and customer satisfaction must outweigh the cost of this ecosystem management:
Marketers need to identify consumers using customer data collected across every available resource, including marketing channels, CRM systems, point-of-sale (POS), third-party resources, social media, call center systems, etc. A brand that is able to capture, aggregate and mine Big Data easily and quickly for deep insights into its customers will leapfrog its competition.
In order to manage this flow to create a singular vision of a particular customer, Experian proposes this workflow.
However, even getting through Step 1 is impossible for many organizations, as the research found that only 21% of respondents can accurately link offline data with online identities. 20% of respondents are unable even to link offline data such as phone numbers, and 14% simply can't link any customer data.
The ability to link data amongst disparate sources is key to cross-channel success. There doesn't need to be a creepy factor, and privacy concerns must be thoroughly addressed - this is simply about being able to create a cohesive profile for a customer based on available data that helps serve them better.
Using data to personalize
Consumers expect brands to use opt-in data to improve and personalize their experience. Experian specifically highlighted travel as a vertical that sees the most return on personalization efforts:
Following these personalized messages with a triggered response email campaign is another way to boost conversions - by keeping the customer's specific situation in mind, automated response threads can deliver results.
E-receipts are one of these potential areas for cross-selling, which airlines and other travel brands have been using for up-selling. This is confirmed by the vastly higher open rates (more than double than bulk email) for these sorts of messages. Design, layout, user-targeted offers and personalized multimedia content should be considered in this flow.
P&O Cruises added video into its email marketing efforts, and reaped a 950 percent increase in booking from a 11.4 percent uplift in unique open rate and a 3.1 percent increase in click through rates.
Advertising on mobile is absolutely nothing new; however, the full proliferation of mobile into the everyday has liberated many more opportunities to target specific users at specific points.
The growing necessity of being able to micro-market to these tailored demographics was highlighted by Priceline's recent acquisition of Qlika, a startup specializing in just that kind of drilled-down mobile marketing.
And the growth is coming, given the changing consumer sentiment surrounding all things mobile advertising and payments:
Iterative campaigns - or marketing on mobile that constantly re-targets and shifts to access the right person for the message - will very soon be the only way to market on mobile.
The ultimate promise of mobile is that ability to target a consumer wherever they are; being on the move is much different than being tethered to a desktop, and creates new opportunities for marketers that have never existed before.
Nonetheless, the organic-ness of the advertising must be the priority, as the consumer is not considering their place in a particular path to purchase. As the report points out, the consumer simply wants what they are looking for when they are looking for it:
Modern consumers do not traverse marketing “channels,” they do not represent some archetypical “buyer persona,” nor do they envision themselves engaged in the “buyer’s journey.” No, in their minds, they are simply shopping or searching for products, services and information about something of interest to them.
By bringing in available data profiles from ad providers - and with developing platforms like Facebook's Ad Exchange - marketers have an opportunity to expand reach, scope and conversion in all mobile advertising efforts.
Consumers are also more eager to purchase via mobile and tablet - although travel is still lagging, and needs to work to increase this number substantially.
The research found that 74% of respondents still organize their departments by channel - so there's still vast room for improvement on the actual implementation of multi-channel. Of course, this proliferation of data and devices makes that easier said then done.
This is a behemoth of a paper, so grab a tall beverage and dig in, as there's much more depth and scope in the report beyond what's covered here (available here).
NB: Multichannel digital image courtesy Shutterstock.