In early 2015, Adobe surveyed nearly 1,000 digital marketers in the United States and Canada to learn priorities and tactics to be deployed in 2015. Industries included in the survey spanned everything from financial services to entertainment and retail.
The conclusion? Digital marketing is moving into a new era. First came the era of innovation. Search put consumers in control. Mobile devices set them free. Social networks connected them. And with each revolution, technology was invented to create, measure and control methods to reach consumers.
But Adobe says digital marketing has “grown up.” We’re at a stage where knowledge, process and a customer-focus drive strategy — not tools and tactics. After years of toying with various new capabilities, marketers can finally stitch everything together to achieve real, meaningful business objectives.
Adobe’s data shows that organizations that have consciously invested in holistic improvements to their digital marketing program are seeing bigger payoffs. A large minority (36%) see elements of their strategic plan as moving them to greater maturity, but these elements are not necessarily linked, where digital maturity is a byproduct, not an overarching goal. Most, however, take an organic approach, with no formal plan for maturing their digital marketing capability. They respond to new conditions but don’t plan ahead for them. Only the elite — one in five — say they have made specific plans and investments with digital maturity specifically in mind.
The Elements of Digital Maturity
Adobe says organizations can evaluate their future digital maturity across four broad categories.
- Structure — How are divisions, departments and teams organized to best reflect market conditions?
- People — What is the company’s approach to building skills? How are people hired, trained and retained?
- Process — How do things get done? How are they resourced, managed and supported by technology?
- Technology — What platforms, systems and tools are available, and how they have they been integrated?
While Adobe says each area has its own importance, their research suggests that organizations realize the most gains when these four elements work in tandem. Often organizations will find that they are further along in some dimensions than others. The challenge is to build in areas of weakness without losing momentum in areas of strength.
You can take the same survey Adobe fielded to other financial institutions and test your organization’s digital maturity.
1. Digitally Mature Organizations Invest In People, Process and Tools
Many companies think of new capabilities narrowly, in the context of technology. But those with a planned approach to digitally maturity understand that it also means integration into existing processes, sufficient staffing and alignment with strategy. Mature organizations are strong at adopting and nurturing new capabilities and picking up the responsibilities that come with them.
Mature digital marketers recognize that optimization is achieved in small ways on many fronts. This is true for every tactic, channel and customer initiative. For example, huge returns on paid search in the middle part of the last decade gave way to incremental gains based on repetition, analytics and testing.
An organization embracing a “Culture of Optimization” continually leverages data to identify areas of digital improvement. They test, and make frequent and iterative changes. Quite simply, they figure out what works and what doesn’t.
For an organization to establish a true “Culture of Optimization,” this work is on-going, and is instituted across all digital properties. According to Adobe, part of creating your “optimization toolbox” involves significant cultural shifts — a new mindset, with new processes and maybe even new roles. The challenge, Adobe says, is not to just deploy an assortment of techniques and practices, but to be effective and efficient in how they are used.
2. Mature Organizations Adapt to the Consumer
Companies of all sizes, in every sector, like to think of themselves as “customer-centric” — particularly financial institutions. The reality is that many don’t have the processes in place to really listen to consumers, nor the capacity to meet them where, when and how they want.
This disparity is prone to exist almost everywhere brands and consumers interact, but it’s most evident in the mobile channel. The rise of mobile is the biggest catalyst of change in marketing today. However, many banks and credit unions have been slow to adopt comprehensive mobile strategies — and thus slow to create the sites and applications their mobile customers need.
Mature digital marketers recognize the strategic advantages of mobile and are reaping the rewards. They far outperform their peers, achieving a mobile conversion rate 12% better than average. And the reasons for this success tie back to fundamentals; how companies approach mobile is a reflection of their broader pursuit of maturity.
Mobile isn’t just a channel. In fact, Adobe says mobile should be woven into the very fabric of your marketing strategy. Every process should at least include the question, “How is mobile relevant here?” Companies should strive for a more strategic approach with experiments and initiatives contributing to greater mobile maturity in every area. Mobile is a new frontier of measurement, customer experience and technology — all of which require training and ongoing education.
Adobe says mobile optimization and personalization are keys to ensuring the experience meets consumer expectations. And yet only 23% of digital marketers plan to optimize their mobile experiences with A/B testing, multivariate testing or segmentation.
Customizing mobile content is another leading indicator of a company’s digital maturity, which can yield an average 66% increase in mobile conversion rate. But even among the most sophisticated digital marketers, only a handful optimize content at the user level.
3. Planned Maturity Builds an Advantage Through Learning
Adobe says there’s no finish line when it comes to digital marketing. Smart marketing organizations recognize that they’ll never achieve technical perfection or mastery over every corner of digital. Instead, they try to put the systems in place to learn from many sources of information and act on those lessons.
Knowledge is never more powerful than in areas where it is scarce. Emerging digital capabilities give the companies that master them early an advantage. For instance, automation of the testing process alone was shown to increase conversion by 15% in Adobe’s study. That kind of advantage is one of the principle goals for those with a planned approach to achieving digital maturity.
In the short-term, organizations with a deliberate, strategic approach see even greater improvements in conversion rates. For example, digitally mature respondents report mobile app conversion rates nearly 50% higher than those with an organic approach.
But the most important impact of their investment in knowledge may well benefit planned-maturity organizations in the long term. By staking their claim to emerging opportunities like mobile customer experience, real-time and location marketing, brands are ensuring growth. Usage and budgets in these areas are still in their infancy, making this the time to learn, make mistakes and build expertise. As they come into their own, mature brands will be ready to profit.
4. Mature Organizations Think Ahead
Strategic initiatives without funding are little more than good intentions. Most organizations want to build their digital marketing capabilities, but Adobe says they’re not willing to extend their budgets to do so effectively.
Digital marketing has embraced a number of inbound marketing techniques to complement (and in some cases replace) paid channels. But Adobe cautions companies focusing on this side of their capabilities, saying they have to look farther out to evaluate success and justify the investment. Building content and optimizing its delivery is not merely a campaign-to-campaign practice. This approach works in tandem with an investment in areas like analytics, social and marketing optimization.
For those financial institutions responding to change instead of leading it, Adobe says “push advertising” plays an inflated role in their digital programs. It is a thread to the past, one area where they understand what they’re buying, how to buy it and roughly what they might get in return.
For companies pursuing digital maturity, advertising is only one part of the story — a piece of a larger and more diverse mix that better reflects the complexity of how people behave and how digital marketing is evolving.