Whether we know it or not, consumers leave hundreds of data signals as they move through our daily tasks every day. This data answers many of the important questions marketing professionals need in order to personalise the customer journey.

There is a vast wealth of information that we can use to make a customer journey truly unique. Data can answer basic questions, including:
  • How did they access the website?
  • Which device did they use?
  • What was the time of day?
  • Were they using data or WiFi?
Data can shed some insight into interests. This is shown by answering:
  • What blogs do they visit?
  • What articles have they read and what are they in the market for?
  • What do they type into the Google search bar?
  • Do they view banner ads?
  • Do they click on them?
  • Do certain brands or promotions prompt them to conduct additional searches?
Then, we can start looking at how customers are engaging with product or service sites, with data that answers questions like:
  • Is this a first-time site visit?
  • Do they revisit the site a few days later?
  • Do they return multiple times?
  • Can we surmise that they are in their research phase, and how can a company respond to that?
  • What are their engagement habits? Do they request a callback?
  • Do they prefer to engage with a call centre?
  • Do they submit their documents on or offline?
For retailers, understanding customers' purchasing behaviours is imperative:
  • Do they search online but purchase in-store?
  • What's their purchase history?
  • Are they a first-time customer?
  • Are they a repeat customer?
  • Right down to: What is their lifetime expenditure?
It is believed that an advertiser has reached full digital maturity when they're able to leverage their marketing technology in such a way as to harness all of these data signals and use it to deliver honest and relevant advertising to their consumers. This journey can best be managed by using Google’s Digital Maturity Framework.

Understanding the framework:

In 2017, Google, in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group, constructed a framework based on in-depth studies in the European market. The study showed that companies fell into one of four maturity levels:
  1. Nascent — companies focussed on a silo, campaign-based execution, relying mostly on external data with little or no link through to sales
  2. Emerging — companies begin to use some collected data in their automated buying, but focus on single-channel optimisation
  3. Connected — data is integrated and activated across channels with a clear link to ROI and sales
  4. Multi-moment — companies are able to employ dynamic execution that is clearly optimised to individual customer outcomes across all channels
The results of the study showed that 7% of the European brands fell in the Nascent level: 47% in Emerging, 49% in Connected and just 2% in the most advanced Multi-moment level.

What is interesting is that our work with South African brands shows that most brands still fall in the Emerging level, with many stalling in the Nascent level and just a few teetering on the verge of entering the Connected level.

Why should we care?

Before we look at MarTech’s role in progression, let’s explore why digital maturity is important. Firstly, technology has forever shifted consumer expectations. Digital has blurred the customer journey between online and offline. When users are online they are curious, impatient, demanding even and they want instant access to information.

While this fluidity can be seen as overwhelmingly complex, it can also present an opportunity to connect with your consumer and deliver honest and relevant advertising. 
To achieve this, we must create context around the data we have about the consumer.

For example, if we were to take a one-dimensional view of the consumer and react to them visiting a product page, we may very well serve up advertising that is completely inappropriate, and even intrusive.

However, if we add in all the other data signals we may have about the consumer — as we have outlined above — now, we can tailor advertising that is transparent and relevant.

Here are five steps to help you progress to the next level:

1. Own your own MarTech 

Investing in ownership of the licenses to your marketing technology platforms means that you will have full transparency and ownership of data — not to mention the ownership of audiences these tools allow you to build and activate.

Invest in a marketing tech stack that gives you a single view across search, display, video and social. This vital first step sets you up in the Nascent level.

2. Connect your ad data and your web data

This step requires you to combine campaign data (what ads the user has seen) with the context of your website behaviour. By adding the context of the Google demographics such as age, gender and devices, you can create blended audiences.

3. Consolidate your media

The next step is to move all of your media buying onto the same platform. The objective is to achieve efficiencies, controlling your exposure and ensuring there is no wastage in ad spend. It is after this step that your company will have reached the Emerging level.

4. Connect your CRM

Despite the fact that we are living in a privacy-first world, it is still possible to create personal identifiers to connect a digital touchpoint with call centres, in-store purchases and your CRM.

It's possible to enrich your data and create super audiences and provide a fuller context about your consumer. This can be tricky and requires working with someone who understands both your needs and your technology —  this is often the place that many CMOs trip up. Acing this critical step will see you achieve the Connected level.

5. End-to-end personalisation

Graduating to a Cloud for marketing solution will allow your organisation to begin realising efficiencies at scale. Connecting and automating multiple data sources, applying AI modeling and determining lifetime customer value and customer segments will see you achieving the holy grail of end-to-end personalisation.

Your journey to the multi-moment is complete, and you will now find yourself in the rarefied atmosphere of just two percent of European enterprises. This journey is not something that can be achieved in a heartbeat.

Get the basics right and then build on this foundation in an incremental fashion. Most importantly, extend this challenge across the organisation. Involve management, finance, IT and operations at the outset. Global experience with companies who have done this has shown us that it may be daunting, but in every instance, it has proved revolutionary.