Omnichannel And Integrated Planning: The Spirit (At Least) Is Willing

Nothing speaks to the nascence of integrated systems among brands than the gap between enthusiasm and implementation. A recent roll-up of research on attitudes towards greater marketing integration and omnichannel programs from eMarketer underscores the old saying that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Most marketers seem agreed that it is inevitable and necessary that the many consumer touchpoints of their business start working and talking together. But the ability for companies to execute, or even to have a clear rationale for doing so, is not always there.

To wit: a CMO Council poll of top marketers showed 28% claiming they would be prioritizing their resources this year to improve omnichannel engagement. An eConsultancy survey of marketers found an impressive 63% claiming that integrating marketing activities across all platforms was a priority for them. But apparently that focusing of investment and good intentions are much needed, because in another survey by Signal of marketers, omnichannel preparedness is all over the map. Only 21% of those surveyed said that most of their marketing technology tools are integrated with one another, while the largest share (41%) said only some tools are tied together. A mere 4% of marketers could say confidently that their entire marketing stack is integrated. And according to the eConsultancy survey, only 30% have cross-silo teams in place, only 19% have actually measured the financial results of cross-channel marketing, and a mere 14% have check to see how these program might impact customer retention. Again, it seems odd that customer relationships, retention and experience seem an afterthought. Perhaps that is because in the same survey 43% of marketers claimed to understand the customer journey well enough already to shift their channel mix as needed.    



The goals of integrated marketing are skewed to the organizational side of things rather than the actual brand impact. The same Signal survey asked what effect integrated marketing technology would have on marketing goals. It is interesting that at the lower end of the expectations scale 85% of marketers cited improved customer relationships, but between 95% and 96% cited greater efficiency, evaluation of channel effectiveness and better ROI.

The lack of integration across messaging platforms seems to be the rule, according to the marketers themselves. When asked by eConsultancy if they considered their channel not integrated, fully 62% agreed either strongly or somewhat. Only 10% somewhat or strongly disagreed.   

One of the problems with implementing integrated processes is that it requires a marriage of two sometimes incompatible world views – tech and marketing. Last summer I covered a research project conducted by EPAM, CIO magazine and the CMO Club in which preliminary work shows how CIOs and CMOs actually the same terminology differently and often come at the project of omnichannel integration from opposed mindsets. For a CIO omnichannel denoted real-time data flow and integrated systems. To a marketer the term referred to a fluid customer experience. Clearly even before the investment is made in integration, companies need to figure out what omnichannel actually is supposed to do for them.

Which is to say that the lack of integration among marketing platforms is not easily blamed merely on antiquated legacy systems not talking. There is the vision thing. Part of the problem is an inability to grasp what the technologies are best able to achieve and what the different parts of the organization really want from them.      

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