Orchestrating the Customer Journey in 2014 – Is It Easier or Harder Today?


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Recently I was attending a conference and one of the delegates asked me if I thought it was easier or harder to be a marketer in 2014. Sure, there’s an array of very exciting developments happening around multi-channel communication, automation, and analytics. But do these new technology platforms and tactics make it easier for marketers? I don’t think so – at least not yet.

Bottom line, I think it’s harder to be a marketer in 2014. According to Gleanster, the average marketing strategy incorporates 4 digital channels (typically email, website, paid search, and SEO), which is in addition to traditional offline channels that have been used successfully for decades. But in 2014, information is a commodity. The internet and mobile devices give us access to answer virtually any question we have, instantly and for free. That has led to a chronic expectation that information, insights, and data are easily available internally– and that makes life VERY difficult for the CMO.  Of course the CMO want’s to answer questions about the ROI of marketing spend or the effectiveness of different channels.  There’s a general expectation that collecting data on customers should easily translate to using that data to optimize marketing.  That’s rarely the case.  It’s reasonable to assume the average organization uses about a third of the customer data it collects on customers to measure and optimize marketing.   Yet, there’s a rising expectation for marketers to make data-driven decisions in marketing to inform the customer experience.  But a general lack of investment on the infrastructure that would unlock the value of customer data is a huge roadblock marketers have to overcome. We’re getting there, but many solution providers are developing next generation platforms that have yet to overcome early adopter stages of growth.

Not only are marketers expected to create compelling customer experiences, they are expected to do this with generally flat budgets and legacy technologies. At the same time, the CEO, board of directors, and shareholders want to see tangible metrics about performance – something marketing never really had to do in the past. This is why legacy marketing infrastructure isn’t going to cut it in the long term. But many organizations are desperately clinging to systems that require a defibrillator, toothpicks, and bubble gum to keep going.

But why would senior leaders adjust their expectations for marketing? Almost every other function in a business is methodically run by systems that measure finite performance, variances, and key performance metrics. Finance, operations, supply chain, HR, you name it: there’s a system that spits out very tangible measurement on performance. That makes life difficult for marketers because while it is entirely possible to attribute revenue to spend (directionally), most companies have not invested in the platforms necessary to make this possible.

* Customer Experience Management Survey, Q1 2014, n=276

* Customer Experience Management Survey, Q1 2014, n=276

When we ask respondents about the importance of digital marketing 89% rank it a top three challenge for 2014. But when we ask these same respondents about how well they “think they are doing” with respect to digital engagement, only 24% were satisfied with their approach. In fact the top challenges with digital personalization include limitations with technology, the quality of customer data, and access to customer data. I’ll give you two great examples that support the fact that marketing is tougher than ever in 2014:

  • In the 2014 Web Content Management survey we asked 202 organizations about the use of technologies that support digital web properties. Now, at the enterprise level one might think that Top Performing organizations would have an affinity for integrated web content management platforms that inform and integrate seamlessly with multi-channel communications.  After all, they have the funds and resources to invest in emerging solutions. We’re talking suite solutions from companies like Adobe, Sitecore, SDL, and Oracle which are actually very robust turnkey solutions for delivering a next generation customer experience. Over three-quarters of respondents had “plans to invest” in integrated solutions in the future, but 63% of Top Performers reported they currently support a hodgepodge of disparate solutions that may or may not integrate. This includes stand-alone web content management, marketing automation, eCommerce, mobile app development, email marketing, etc. Unless these systems are tightly integrated to ensure customer data informs next best communications, marketers will have a VERY tough time with the customer journey. So today we’re looking at strategies around best-of-breed disparate marketing technologies that don’t always make it easy for marketers to “orchestrate” the customer experience.
  • In the 2013 Marketing Automation benchmark report, we asked marketers if they were capable of executing the same campaign across multiple channels. We also asked if these campaigns could be dynamically adjusted across multiple channels to optimize communications based on the stage of the buyer journey or the channel preference of the individual. Only 9% of respondents indicated they had executed these types of campaigns. Most marketing technologies offer the ability to execute a campaign via multiple channels (email or mobile, or social media). They don’t manage incrementally optimized communications on a multi-channel basis. So yeah, marketers are executing multi-channel campaigns, but they are fragmented and separate marketing communications that result in sub-par customer experiences. So to play off the “orchestration” theme, it’s sort of like marketers have to conduct different groups of instruments in the orchestra that are located in different rooms and hope it sounds good.  It doesn’t.   Multi-channel execution is still a huge challenge for marketers in 2014. The vendors that crack this nut will usher in the future of customer journey orchestration.

That said, let’s get real. If you think legacy marketing systems are sucking the life out of marketing today, wait five years. The good news is, solution providers saw the writing on the wall long ago and they are developing platforms that make customer journey orchestration manageable for marketers. These suite offerings are expensive and, yes, they require a significant investment to implement and support internally, but they are critical to managing the customer journey in 2015 and beyond. The good news is they exist. Newsflash: it’s WAY more expensive to keep throwing money at marketing campaigns that fall short of customer expectations. Its also WAY more expensive to constantly hire and fire CMOs and expect them to make sweet lemonade without any sugar.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ian Michiels
Ian Michiels is a Principal & CEO at Gleanster Research, a globally known IT Market Research firm covering marketing, sales, voice of the customer, and BI. Michiels is a seasoned analyst, consultant, and speaker responsible for over 350 published analyst reports. He maintains ongoing relationships with hundreds of software executives each year and surveys tens of thousands of industry professionals to keep a finger on the pulse of the market. Michiels has also worked with some of the world's biggest brands including Nike, Sears Holdings, Wells Fargo, Franklin Templeton, and Ceasars.


  1. Mike,

    I think part of the challenge these days is there are dozens if not hundreds of providers who can help “define and enhance” the customer journey. But translating that into a reality and making investments in people, process, technology, consultants, etc. is by no means economical.

    There are considerations outside of the technology investments such as internal resource skills, process re-engineering, change management, risk mitigation, opportunity cost on other internal investment priorities, etc. I think marketers often struggle to navigate these challenges which has led to avoidance strategies. It’s risky to be the senior leader who stands up and says “yeah I oversee this process, but it stinks, and here’s what it will cost to fix it.”

  2. Maybe we agree to disagree. The reason for my response, and the reference made to Beyond Philosophy’s work, is that we have a proven, and economical, set of methods for helping companies optimize the customer journey. Part of our protocol is actively staying connected with the client as our prioritized recommendations become an operational, and consistent, reality.

  3. 3 Point Reality Check

    1. Acquisition does not equal integration – Putting composite of logos on a slide does not mean solutions are integrated. Reading Adobe, IBM, Oracle, Salesforce marketing literature and shareholder presentations gives a misleading front office view of consolidation, integration and harmony – Likely the opposite is true so platforms are not integrated and many pieces are fundamentally incompatible – so they 3x implementation cost is likely 5x or infinite –

    2. Customer Journey? Acquisition vs Relationship management vs Growth – This discussion seems to skip the fact that the digitized journey means that messages can be programmed along the entire journey (see CxC Customer Experience Matrix) including fulfillment, POS, customer service and even programmable device to device messaging. The entire experience – every contact is digitized or moving that way meaning that is measure-able and programmable. With this kind of spend and transformation possibilities – marketing needs to think bigger and SHOULD BE MEASURED BY INCREASE IN CUSTOMERS + INCREASE IN LTV PER CUSTOMER

    3. Orchestrating Customer Journey – easier or harder? Much, much, much easier but the path is not through content curation and optimized ad/search buying and retargeting. Visualize, Monetize, Analyze, Optimize customers – and value the scarcity of customer time to better understand and orchestrate the customer journey


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