From the moment smartphones touched human hands, they began to change how people interact with brands. It happened slowly at first … but today 91 percent of smartphone users turn to their phone for ideas while doing a task.1
Consumers expect more of marketers now. They expect brands to answer their questions and deliver the exact experiences they want at the moments they need to know, go, do, or buy things. They expect this across all screens and all touch points, over hundreds of interactions on their journeys.
This means there are three questions marketers should be asking:
- Is our brand useful to consumers at every touch point?
- How can we measure our usefulness?
- How can we be even more useful tomorrow?
To deliver, enterprise marketers need a new approach to measurement that shows them the entire customer journey and lets them see what’s working at each step along the way. The problem is that many of our measurement tools and metrics were created for a desktop world at a time when marketing focused on channel performance.
Today we need an understanding of our audiences across devices and channels. That means taking into account the impact of mobile online and offline, quickly spotting insights, and trying new ways to provide better customer experiences.
Breaking Down the Data Silos
A car shopper today can have hundreds of digital interactions — or in this case 900-plus interactions — before buying. Each one of those moments is an opportunity for a brand to be useful. And each one leaves its own data trail.
But companies that look at data channel by channel, in a silo, can miss the forest for the trees. We need to break down measurement and strategy silos and create an integrated view of the consumer’s journey. It’s likely you have found yourself in a debate with colleagues about metrics and campaign results and thought, “It’s not about what matters to channel X — we need to zoom out to see the whole picture and do what’s best for our customers.”
The truth is that the future of enterprise measurement depends on people and departments, tools and systems, all talking to each other and sharing insights in real time about what customers want most.
From Silos to Synthesis
So if we know that one session and one click doesn’t tell the full story … and if we want to connect consumer behavior dots over time … where do we start? The best place is with the classic question “What outcomes are we trying to achieve?” But then instead of saying “How do we reach our goals?” let’s ask: “How do we measure success?”
Key performance indicators (KPIs) have to reflect the new objectives of the mobile-first world. Marketers who link their metrics to business results are three times more likely to hit revenue goals than those who don’t, according to a Forrester report.2
And while more data is always great, what marketers really need are more insights. That’s why the question “What’s working?” is so crucial. If that car buyer sees a TV commercial for a small sedan or pickup truck and searches for reviews and mileage ratings on his or her mobile phone, watches videos about special features, visits a dealer for a test-drive, and then finally buys a month later, marketers must find a way to bridge the gaps between TV airings and search lift, and display ads and video views, to see where the real influence happened.
How much credit should mobile get? How many touch points were there? Marketers need to know. And if the gaps can’t be filled perfectly, we should get comfortable with new proxies that will give us a sturdy estimate instead.
Marketers, Mobile, and Tomorrow
Evolution is a good thing, even if measuring in new ways can be awkward at first. Measurement and marketing go hand in hand — both have to keep pace with the vastly rising expectations of mobile-first consumers. Discomfort means you’re working to stay ahead.
So, take stock of what you measure and how you measure. Ask if those KPIs account for all the ways consumers may engage with your brand. If not, ask yourself why you’re measuring them in the first place. Focus on the outcomes you want and map your new metrics back to your strategy.
Smartphones have already changed how people interact with brands, and they’ll surely alter those interactions even more in years to come. We can’t predict how. But we can say that the brands that measure the results of those changes first will have a major edge over those that don’t. Measurement isn’t what happens at the end; it’s where the smarter and more successful future begins.
Download “Measuring Marketing Insights,” a collection of Harvard Business Review Insight Center articles, to read more about best practices and case studies on enterprise marketing and analytics.
A version of this article first appeared as sponsor content on HBR.org in August 2016.
1Source: Google/Ipsos, “Consumers in the Micro-Moment” study, March 2015.
2Source: Forrester, “Discover How Marketing Analytics Increases Business Performance,” March 2016