Australian marketers lead Asia-Pacific in second wave of digital transformation

Fourth annual Digital Marketing Performance Dashboard report from CMO Council and Adobe finds half of local marketers confident in having a disciplined and progressive approach to digital

Australian marketers are entering the second wave of digital transformation where digital evolves from a channel play and experiment and becomes the engine across organisations, workflows and customer experience enablement.

According to the fourth annual CMO Council and Adobe Digital Marketing Performance Dashboard report, one-third of Australian marketers now believe they have embraced a disciplined and progressive approach to digital, adopting new platforms and analytics tools that will continue to propel their digital strategies forward. Nearly one-quarter also claimed to be highly evolved category leaders, up from 14 per cent last year.

In contrast, only 7 per cent of marketers across Asia-Pacific said they were highly evolved category leaders, and 21 per cent claimed to have a disciplined and progressive approach. The majority – 36 per cent – said they are still exploring and evaluating their digital marketing approach.

In addition, 49 per cent of Aussie marketers said they are excellent or very good at measuring value and return on digital investments, up from 36 per cent in 2014, with 26 per cent measuring data throughout the life of campaigns. This is up 15 per cent on last year.

One in four Australian marketers also claimed to be taking a mobile-first mindset when mapping experiences and engagements, against an Asia-Pacific average of 18 per cent.

The CMO Council said the results illustrate how organisations are moving beyond digital as experimentation, to establishing organisationally embraced strategies and digital customer experiences. Australia particularly in the past three years has been testing, exploring and evaluating, progressively advancing to a position of increased maturity and operationalised commitment to digital progress, the report stated.

CMO Council SVP of marketing, Liz Miller, said the latest findings show Australian marketers are entering the second wave of digital transformation. She told CMO local organisations lead the region on a number of digital marketing and transformation fronts, and noted a significant majority believed digital marketing is creating a competitive advantage for their organisation.

“Questions now centre on how to implement and better align to the expectations of the customer, rather than whether to go ahead,” she said.

“When you look at advanced marketers, we’re seeing multiple paths of the evolution of digital converge. Digital isn’t something you suddenly get right, it’s a constant journey. In this year’s research, Australia has shown there’s a heightened level of support [for digital], and advancement in looking at data as something that leads to continuous improvement of campaigns, and as a path to knowing and understanding customers more.

“Australia, far more than any other Asia-Pacific country, sees data as a competitive differentiator, not just for supporting metrics or reporting past KPIs.”

What’s interesting is that the data maturity curve Australia has experienced is starting to filter across other regions in Asia, Miller said.

“Three years ago, we had several markets – such as Japan, Korea – pulling data together but they weren’t doing anything with it, or they were struggling to keep up with data coming into their organisation,” she said. “That frustration is lessening and that group are increasingly seeing data as a metrics, reporting, KPI activity. In the middle, organisations in places like Singapore don’t just use data for KPIs anymore, but to continuously improve campaign performance and learn more about their customer.

“Australia is at the front end of the spear, but we’re seeing the rest of the region following the same path and experience the same ups and downs.”

One anomaly in the report, however, was the rise in Australian marketers who said their leadership teams were not yet convinced of the ROI on digital (21 per cent in 2015 versus 10 per cent in 2014). Miller put this down to organisations doing a “sense check” on significant investments kick-started around digital transformation and improvement.

“In Australia, you have leadership that’s just approved a lot of money to go into data, technology and so on, to make customer experience and a data-driven experience really sing,” she claimed. “This year, they’re stepping back and wondering how it’s performing. They’re not pulling support from digital investment, they’re merely questioning the things they just invested in and making sure they’re on track.”

This is a clear call to action for marketers to continue articulating the value of digital transformation in terms of customer value and revenue growth, Miller said.

“Marketers have done a very good job of transitioning their view of data from reporting campaign metrics, to something that is reporting on the business. It’s business KPIs that show how customer experience is enriching that customer relationship and driving revenue,” she said.

“We need to keep going down that path to continue substantiating why digital and this entire customer journey transformation is the one we need to be on.”

There are, of course, plenty of other areas requiring improvement. For example, just 14 per cent of Australian organisations surveyed have a culture dedicated to a unified, dynamic customer experience, in contrast with an average of 9 per cent across the region. Twenty-four per cent are also struggling to connect functional silos in order to achieve a single customer truth, above the APAC average of 17 per cent.

Skill levels are another problem, with 18 per cent of marketers advising their skill set for digital analysis is a high priority. Just 22 per cent claimed to have an experienced, dedicated headcount for data analysis, down from 26 per cent in 2014.

Creativity and content

Creativity and content strategies were another glaring area for improvement, the CMO Council reported.

For the first time this year, the Digital Marketing Performance Dashboard looked into the creativity and content strategy of regional marketers. It found 28 per cent of marketers handle creativity and content development in an ad hoc, as-needed way. Only 29 per cent said content creators collaborate and share creative content to unify and align across all customer touchpoints.

“Organisation silos have long been a paint point in digital transformation, but the focus has been on solving them for data,” commented Adobe president for Asia-Pacific, Paul Robson. “What we are seeing now is that silos also exist across creativity and content creation and that will hold back advances in customer experience.”

Miller said getting to connected, unified experiences based on relevant engagement requires a sophisticated content plan.

“Making this happen is about setting the strategy at the top most point of the marketing organisations, not keeping creative and content strategy at arms’ length from one another,” she added.

Future focus: The Internet of Things

For Miller, the big tidal wave on the horizon marketers must focus on over the next year is the Internet of Things (IoT).

“Everything is going to have a data signature that will enable the marketer to know just a little more about their customer,” she claimed. “How we choose to use that, take that incredible insight and turn it into intelligence and a customer experience strategy, then create experiences that drive revenue, is the next big tidal wave of innovation. That’s the next big shift Australian marketers really need to prepare for.

“IoT will tell you as marketer, your best and most valuable customer not only goes for a run, but gets a coffee at 9am and is always consuming news-based content on the train home at 5pm. So the best time you have a captive audience to read your content is at 5.10pm on the train.

“The question is: Do we have the infrastructure in place today to satisfy that customer experience tomorrow?”

As marketers and consumers expand their views on what can be achieved with mobile phones, more questions are being asked around deciphering known and unknown customers, how to bind all these data sources together, and then how to enrich customer experiences in a contextual way, Miller said.

“That question track is showing a level of sophistication that isn’t afraid of technology, or of data, but one that also understands it demands content that is flexible and scalable,” she added.

The 2015 Dashboard was based on quantitative surveys with more than 800 marketers across Asia-Pacific including Australia.

More stories on digital transformation:

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

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