Technology changes constantly, and consumer preferences are never far behind; as a marketer, it’s hard to tell whether you’re ahead of the curve or merely reacting.

That’s why Forrester created The Digital Maturity Model 4.0. This report, which we’ve made available here, divides businesses into four categories: skeptics, adopters, collaborators, and differentiators. It gives you the tools to plot your organizational maturity, and outlines actions businesses in each category can take to level up.

While reading it, we couldn’t help but notice a few themes. 

#1 Competing in the digital world isn’t just about having the right technology.

It might surprise you that culture is one of Forrester’s four dimensions of digital maturity. After all, when most businesses think about digital transformation, they think in terms of the technologies they should adopt. That’s obviously important, but if the culture isn’t right, technology can only do so much. You could ride the on-site messaging wave, but what if you don’t respond to customer questions at the speed modern consumers expect? You could get a fantastic marketing automation platform, but what if you don’t know enough about email technology to make sure your messages actually hit people’s inboxes?

The report defines culture as “a company’s approach to digitally driven innovation, and how it empowers employees with digital technology.” That’s a pretty broad definition, so here are 3 core questions to ask yourself:

  1. Does your leadership team make digital innovation a priority, and does it encourage (calculated) risks?
  2. Does your company invest in digital training across the organization?
  3. Does your company think in terms of the overall customer experience rather than channels?

#2 There’s a big difference between being data-aware and data-driven (and a lot of companies in the former category think they’re in the latter).

This year, Forrester revised its digital maturity model to address something new: “how well companies leverage customer data to direct their strategy, not just if they can measure results.” With this change, Forrester highlighted the difference between being data-aware and data-driven — and, ultimately, between reactive and proactive marketing.

A data-aware company creates a campaign, runs it, and uses the results to inform the next campaign. A data-driven company starts with data, using it to predict the tactics that will contribute to growth.

For example, let’s imagine that a retailer starts a newsletter with the goal of driving engagement and staying top-of-mind. The data-aware approach is to look at the top-line metrics, make inferences about what will raise them, and go back to the drawing board. The data-driven approach is to predict what should go in the newsletter in the first place.

#3 The next frontier is connecting digital and physical experiences.

Ultimately, connecting the digital and the physical is about making interactions with brands more personal:

“Differentiators’ top critical marketing priority over the next 12 months is to increase real-time data processing and analytics for customer insight. This is a key requirement for delivering the individualized experiences on- and offline that empowered consumers will increasingly demand.”

According to Forrester’s report, even industry leaders aren’t there yet — though it provides an example of a company that’s moving in the right direction. Neiman Marcus gives associates an app that tells them when a VIP shopper enters the physical store; associates then use the app to learn about that shopper’s past buys and favorite items. That information helps associates recommend items shoppers actually want: Neiman Marcus customers who shop with the same associate three or more times spend nearly 10 times more than the average shopper.

So, what’s next? According to Facebook, it’s drones, lasers, and virtual reality (granted, that’s presumably 10 years out; for now, Facebook’s more focused on things like making a chatbot platform for Messenger). TechCrunch has written about a future in which “any vaguely flat surface is a place to shine bright, high-resolution videos.”

One thing is certain: as marketing enters more and more parts of our lives, it needs to become more relevant. Broadcasting one message to millions of people is no longer enough.

Want the full report? You can download it for free here.  

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