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Help CMOs overcome their biggest marketing challenge

Only 38 percent of marketing leaders have the technology to enable a complete view of an individual customer's interactions across multiple channels over time, according to the report “The Rise of the Customer Life-Cycle Marketing Systems,” by Forrester Research.

Surprising? Not really, considering the proliferation of digital channels over the past few years and subsequent adoption of various technologies by marketers. Stitching together disparate technologies and processes in order to map to the customer journey is one of the biggest and most complex challenges that CMOs are facing today.

In its report, Forrester addresses this with a framework called a "customer life-cycle marketing system" (CLCMS), which is defined this a "central technology hub that allows marketers to manage every interaction between the company and its customers as they progress along the customer life cycle.”

Sound too good to be true? So far, it is. Forrester says an effective CLCMS doesn't yet exist, but an ideal one will break the customer lifecycle into four stages — discover, explore, buy and engage — and guide marketers through each one. Parts of such a system, such as robust analytics programs and reporting dashboards and campaign management capabilities, exist today. In the future we’ll see them integrated into a single platform that supports marketing decisions throughout each and every customer journey. 

What makes a CLCMS tick?

A CLCMS needs to include five core functions to deliver value to customer-obsessed companies: 

  • Analytics and measurement: Measurement is key to understanding existing customer relationships and predicting future ones. Marketers will need to use real-time analytics to guide decisions across all four phases of the customer lifecycle. 
  • A hub to manage diverse data points: In the future, customer data won't come just from purchase history or e-mail response rates. It will come from additional sources as diverse as wearable fitness trackers and smart cars. Marketers need a central location to house customer and third-party data so they can discover links throughout increasingly fragmented purchase decisions.
  • Tools for managing marketing operations: Marketers need to orchestrate marketing planning functions, such as automation and media planning, across the customer journey. Operational management functions would allow them to match ads that a customer sees in the explore phase with her purchase experiences in the buy phase.
  • Interaction management capability: Once data and operations are centralized, marketers will want to tie these pieces together in real time. They’ll track customers as they engage with different channels and determine the appropriate response. If the customer abandons his shopping cart, companies could offer a deal on a related product, encouraging him to reconsider or even expand his purchase. 
  • Enterprise reporting dashboard: Here’s where marketers will be able to see customized, channel-specific reports as well as complete customer lifetime value analyses. For example, the CMO will be able to create financial performance reports for the CFO, and the customer analytics team will customize reports based on specific campaign behavior. 

Marketers, be prepared 

While each of these core functions of a CLCMS is important—and many are available today from vendors à la carte—“the whole of the CLCMS is greater than the sum of its parts,” Forrester analyst Cory Munchbach writes in the report.

Marketers shouldn’t sit idle as vendors work to build the ideal CLCMS over the next couple of years. For starters, they’ll need to evaluate their readiness for such a system. They can encourage people in departments as different as shopper insights and creative teams to talk with one another so that they're on the same page moving forward. Marketers also will need to have detailed customer profiles so future CLCMS vendors can tailor experiences to those hypothetical life cycles.

With the help of a CLCMS, marketers will gain visibility into which programs work and why, even as marketing complexity increases. 

Download the full report here.



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