By Dave Reed, Managing Director, EMEA at MediaMath

The path to conversion has changed beyond all recognition. Traditionally considered a linear route, it is now a multiple touchpoint experience where 40% of online adults start an activity on one connected device and complete it on another.

The journey from awareness to conversion now includes online and offline activity including prospecting display ads, retargeting emails, sponsored search, video, and social media, in addition to the more traditional offline touchpoints such as in-store promotion. Different devices also play different roles in the path to conversion.

In retail, around a third (32%) of UK consumers make a monthly purchase on their smartphone, but this only tells half the story. Smartphones are more typically used for browsing and price comparison, with many users switching to a larger screen such as a tablet or laptop for the actual purchase.

Although marketers have responded to this increase in digital touchpoints – with total UK digital ad spend increasing 15% to £6.3 billion in 2013 – many brands are lagging far behind customers in adopting a truly cross-channel strategy. Most still approach marketing in silos, with specific technologies and acronyms for each digital channel, which can result in missed opportunities and a disrupted user experience.

So how can brands become channel-agnostic and improve the customer experience by streamlining the marketing process across all touchpoints? Here are two key steps the industry needs to consider:

Education is a great starting point to help marketers understand the benefits that technology can bring in facilitating a cross-channel strategy and the industry is starting to wake up to this need. Overly complex language can act as a barrier to adoption, so simplification is critical, while an emphasis on marketing benefits rather than features of a particular technology will also create resonance and cut through with marketers.

Aligning ad tech and marketing operations
While it is important for marketers to fully understand the technology available, advertising technology must be aligned and work in conjunction with broader marketing operations. Companies need to rethink the structure of marketing departments so that marketing and digital teams no longer work independently of one another. Instead of working in silos, marketers should come together to share data, meet the challenge of the multi-channel consumer, agree on common definitions, and educate key stakeholders within their businesses.

These changes can be achieved by adopting a single platform-based approach to digital marketing, and by selecting a technology provider that can unify marketing channels and align the brand across an ever-changing variety of touchpoints. A single marketing operating system allows marketers to synchronise data management, media execution, creative management, and decisioning to optimise every consumer interaction across all channels.
It can enable marketers to set precise, brand specific goals for marketing outcomes, and enable their digital marketing strategy to respond in real time across the entire customer journey to achieve these goals.

These are exciting times for marketers, who now have an ever-increasing number of digital channels and touchpoints they can maximise to interact with customers. Embracing the technology, sharing data and working towards common goals can provide brands with the tools they need to enhance the customer experience and adopt a truly cross-channel strategy.

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