Nissrine Fessikh
22-10-2021 8 min read

The race to digital marketing maturity is on

Advertisers have faced tremendous change over the past 18 months, and the impact will be felt for years to come. While many companies have responded to accelerated digital adoption with speed and agility, others have been slower to react.

New research from The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Google shows that the most digitally mature companies have tackled change with resilience. The study reveals that these are twice as likely to increase their market share over a 12-month period, while outperforming their less advanced peers in terms of revenue and profitability. With only 9% of brands currently classified as digitally mature, there are opportunities for others to join the race.

This research highlights four critical areas that companies must focus on in order to accelerate their digital marketing maturity and join the leaders. By placing consumer trust at the center of their digital maturity strategy, advertisers can accelerate to the finish line and exceed consumers' new expectations for privacy.




1- Build a virtuous circle around first-party data


The use of first-party data - data collected through digital tools following users' visits to the website/application - provides brands with information about their customers and can lead to a competitive advantage. This requires companies to better understand their data sources and quality, but in turn can help them deal with new regulatory changes and privacy concerns.




 An effective first-party data strategy must be rooted in privacy-friendly practices and built on trust. Marketers build trust over time by creating a compelling two-way value exchange for their customers. This encourages people to share their data in exchange for features they value, such as premium content or exclusive offers. Testing identifies the types of value exchanges that lead to increased data sharing, creating a virtuous circle around first-party data with customers. Without value exchange, companies can struggle to build trust with their audience, making it more difficult to access first-party data.

To create a holistic view of first-party data, it's essential to work with a cross-functional privacy team and connect online and offline data sources. Research shows that companies that connect all of their proprietary data sources can generate 1.5 times more incremental revenue from a single ad placement, communication or broadcast, compared to those with limited data integration.


2- Invest in end-to-end measurement


The Holy Grail of marketing is to be able to measure the impact of different consumer interactions throughout the buying journey, regardless of the channel. And this will become increasingly difficult with new privacy regulations and the removal of third-party cookies. While achieving end-to-end measurement is a complicated process, there are certain areas to prioritize.




 It is essential to define common goals for all channels and link them to business results. Brands can then focus on measuring their performance using multi-channel dashboards.

However, true end-to-end measurement requires the implementation of predictive models, which can be used to measure things like attribution and conversion. These models rely on advanced analytics that can help fill in the data gaps caused by the absence of third-party cookies. They allow companies, for example, to attribute the value of customer touchpoints using sophisticated predictive models based on modeled conversions instead of real conversions.


 3- Focus on agility


When advertisers get agility right, productivity can triple and new product features can be released in weeks or months, rather than quarters or years. However, creating an agility loop is not easy. And executives must be willing to shake up their old ways of working.

Leaders can start by ensuring that key teams work together. As people return to the workplace, brands should look to bring together (physically or virtually) cross-functional teams. This helps break down silos and encourages more agile responses to rapidly changing consumer behaviors.





It's also important to create a strong culture of testing and learning based on current trends and assumptions based on information rather than historical data. Finally, create capabilities to react in real-time by leveraging automation and monitoring changes in digital signals, such as weather data, inventory, and first-party data.


4- Embrace new skills and partnerships


Many companies lack the technically skilled personnel to keep up with the pace of change in the industry. While a number of brands are working with external providers to get the skills they need, this leads to two challenges: ensuring adequate access to talent and establishing the optimal balance between internal and external resources.

 While the initial goal for brands should be to fill skill gaps through partnerships, the next step is to conduct a thorough analysis to identify the best long-term balance between internal and external capabilities. In this way, companies can build a hybrid model that relies on external partners for areas such as creative content, objective strategic advice, and technical expertise, complemented by in-house skills focused on data analytics, activation, and internal technology infrastructure.

It's also important to develop compelling learning and retention programs to avoid turnover. Hiring and retention strategies are most successful when they provide an environment for professional growth.


 5- It's time to pick up the pace


The race to digital maturity belongs to the fastest - and less mature companies must accelerate their efforts to catch up. While this can be daunting, it's not unattainable.

Leadership and executive buy-in are key to success, especially in moving to the higher levels of maturity where organizational coordination is critical. More than 80 percent of the most digitally mature brands report having CEO sponsorship for data-driven marketing initiatives, compared to less than half of those that are less mature.

By aligning with stakeholders across the organization and focusing on the four critical investment areas in our research, advertisers can accelerate their digital marketing maturity and reach the finish line.



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