Back in 2014 and 2015, social media topped the marketing mix, but brands are increasingly turning to channels that allow for more precise measurement, according to a new report from Kitewheel, released just this morning. The rise of tools like IoT and chatbots, along with reliable channels like email, have cut into the diminished albeit still powerful role of social along the customer journey, explains Mark Smith, president and CEO of Kitewheel.
“Our customers have traditionally used our platform for ‘social listening’—meaning they monitor posts and behavior from their core audiences in order to glean useful insights,” Smith says. “As brands and marketers increasingly look for highly attributable, ROI-centric tactics, ‘listening’ simply doesn’t deliver enough actionable results to justify the cost and effort.”
In its annual State of the Customer Journey Report, KiteWheel analyzed more than five billion customer journey interactions across the retail, automotive, travel, telecom, healthcare, and financial services industries. Campaigns from 2014 to 2017 were also categorized by maturity level for an additional layer of analysis.
Although there is still a great deal of investment and interest in social media advertising, Kitewheel found that monitoring organic social media activity for insight is falling by the wayside for brands.
One reason for that has to do with insights. Owned channels, like chatbots and website interactions, deliver more comprehensive insights than social media. So, even though brands once monitored social media to learn about their customers—and many still do—the focus is shifting to owned channels for improved data and a better customer experience.
The topic of measurement is one that comes up frequently in Kitewheel’s report. According to the data, brand marketers are putting a greater focus on measurement across the entire customer experience, whereas previously there was a greater emphasis on the collection and analysis of data.
Email continues to be the largest channel by volume for communicating with customers, according to Kitewheel’s analysis, with channels like IoT, mobile, adtech, and web being more focused on understanding and adapting behavior.
“Providing a highly competitive customer experience in 2018 means measuring, personalizing, and optimizing as many physical and digital interactions as possible,” Smith says. “The brands that really recognize that are the ones that have become household names, and you see it reflected in the number of channels our customers are now taking advantage of in their customer journey strategies.”
Although adtech was once again the fastest growing channel in this year’s Kitewheel report—with 205% year-over-year growth—the overall trend toward app-based experiences might have an even larger impact on the way brand marketers shape their strategies. According to Kitewheel’s analysis, mobile app interactions grew another 50%, after already skyrocketing last year. Smith sees this as a sign that app-based experiences are still a priority for brands.
“I think there are two primary factors at play here. One is that brands and marketers want to provide the best possible experience on every channel, including mobile, and the other is that they increasingly want to be able to measure and personalize every interaction. Apps provide a way for brands to have maximum control over the experience, and they also tend to generate a lot more insight into user behavior,” Smith says. “As brands continue to build their own apps and funnel consumers towards them, we expect to continue to see in-app interactions overtaking those on mobile browsers.”
More broadly speaking, Smith believes that the findings in this year’s report show that what we all consider ‘marketing’ is really expanding to encompass the entire customer journey. Kitewheel’s customers, who are primarily marketers, are increasingly focused on channels like physical stores, customer service, connected devices, and chat, where consumers interact—and their experiences can be shaped—even though those wouldn’t normally fall under the typical definition of a marketing channel.
“Marketers are now increasingly at the front line of the customer experience, and delivering a great experience at every touchpoint is increasingly their goal,” Smith says. “Moving forward, I think we’ll see many more embrace that role.”
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.