Online and offline marketing: more than the sum of the parts

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The stampede to online continues, with online sales this year expected to top $211 billion, according to Shop.org. Consumers are not abandoning offline channels, but instead adopting more complex multichannel behaviors that maximize convenience - 55 percent of consumers adopted cross-shopping, up 8 percent, according to Forrester Research.

The trend seems fairly obvious, yet marketers on the whole remain surprisingly behind the curve. Forrester surveyed 108 database marketers last year and found that Web site behavior data was missing from an astounding 82 percent of customer databases. And, only 17 percent could claim that their campaigns were very integrated across multiple channels. While online marketers are making strides with multichannel data, one-third still don't track online marketing impact on offline conversion and only half track online and offline channel data together, according to another Forrester report.

Tidal shifts, like the move to online, create short-term trepidation for marketers as budgets fluctuate, organizational structures reconfigure, and businesses fall or rise.

Still, the coming years will see the exquisitely target-able, personalize-able and trackable online channels combine with more traditional data-driven marketing disciplines to finally bring about the full promise of 1to1 marketing.

This convergence will reap benefits for both groups. More robust integration with offline data will enable online marketers to calculate the true ROI of their programs and segment visitors more meaningfully. Integrated software platforms can better coordinate online program components with other elements for consistent, integrated marketing campaigns.

Perhaps most significantly, online marketing stands to benefit greatly from data-driven marketing methodologies developed offline. Test-and-control-driven iteration is already common online, but only scratches the surface. Segmentation and individual-level targeting are in their infancy, as online marketing is still heavily focused on acquisition. According to JupiterResearch, only 11 percent of e-mail campaigns are fully targeted, and common strategies, like winback campaigns, are used only by 23 percent of online marketers. Statistical data mining and predictive modeling techniques are still rare.

Many offline direct marketers have already begun leveraging email, a natural first step. Like their online colleagues, convergence will provide a more accurate picture of campaign ROI with online and retail channel transaction. More interestingly, online channels release database marketers from many offline world shackles, such as minimum runs, long lead times, and minimally personalized media. Even better, online behavioral data available from integrated Web analytics software provides rich new fodder for analytics and targeting. At its best, clickstream data lets marketers practically watch customers (and even prospects) think. Imagine discerning which colors each individual naturally responds to when shopping. New, more relevant and effective types of marketing are becoming possible.

Of course there are obstacles. Organizational misalignment and a shortage of skills hinder some companies. Siloed, proprietary data infrastructures and disparate software applications compound the complexity of multichannel marketing. Web data is voluminous, often noisy, and sometimes rendered unactionable through aggregation or sampling. But innovative marketers are already overcoming these challenges to fashion marketing programs of unprecedented relevance and effectiveness.

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