In this digital age, customers, citizens and employees all expect to be treated as individuals. They expect highly personalized experiences tailored to their unique needs and powered by systems of engagement that know who they are and how they want information delivered to them. Is this in conflict with the company’s goal for looking for cost efficiencies, secure data and compliance?

Opportunities Abound

The emergence of social, mobile and digital networks has played a big part in leveling the playing field between organizations and their customers -- forcing those organizations to rethink how they serve customers with a more individualized approach. The intersection between the digital and physical worlds is pushing the leading edge of innovation.

Smart pills and smartphone heart monitors, intelligent vehicles and crowd-sourced traffic routing, books that respond to a reader’s location and apps that enhance the in-store experience: the possibilities are enormous. Innovative CMOs are looking for ways to take advantage of these innovations to serve markets of one with a strong digital, omnichannel strategy. But there are many complicated and sometimes competing factors to weave together in this strategy.

A Shift in Marketing Practices

There is broad consensus that a great mobile experience for customers is essential in this omnichannel strategy. That’s been a business priority for the last three years according to recent IBM research, but companies are struggling to keep abreast of the rapid pace of change in customer expectations.

On the social front, the dynamic landscape of social channels to cover with this strategy continues to shift, no longer limited to Facebook and Twitter. In addition to these delivery issues, bandwidth and rich media authoring and management demands must also be considered as marketing professionals look to video to increase website stickiness and conversion rates. With the explosive growth in the big data market and the potential value of insights gleaned from analytics, CMOs also feel even less prepared to cope with its management and analysis than they did in 2011.

Instead of moving ahead, these challenges have marketing leaders feeling they are stalled and falling behind in strategy, even though they have the budget to move forward. First inclinations around buying separate solutions to address these individual challenges can quickly become very complicated to manage in a cost effective way. The biggest challenge is to ensure that all these systems are sharing the right information and processes to provide customers with a more personalized, compelling and consistent experience across all touch points. But these one-off solutions are likely unable to create the type of flexible environment that marketing will require to achieve the level of insight and personalization customers now demand.

Catering to the 'Market of One'

An essential first step in putting together a cost effective and competitive strategy is reaching across organizational silos and working shoulder to shoulder with IT. Sheryl Pattek of Forrester Research phrases the challenge in perhaps the bluntest of terms: "Marketing and IT are still in need of couples therapy."

With IT assistance, new solutions need to be evaluated for the openness in their design and documentation of integration points so that organizations can bring along existing tools, IT investments and critical business processes and repositories allowing for a more customer-centric, individualized approach.

Authoring and management tools for rich content and media also need to be available out of the box and intuitive in design. Empowering marketing professionals to get up and running faster in their efforts is key to making them feel surgical and prescriptive to individual customer wants and needs with targeted promotions and campaigns.

All digital experiences need to be responsive yet consistent, across the many ways a customer interacts with a brand -- in the store, on the website, on a mobile device, etc. A digital experience platform needs the ability to do everything from the heavy lifting of sensing and delivering the best layout to determining the right form factor and making sure the information is consistent and accurate in real time. In addition to being flexible and secure for the end users, back-end deployment models must be flexible and secure as well -- spanning on premises, in the cloud or hybrid in design depending on the IT organization's current investments and future goals.

All indications point to the need of an overall marketing and IT co-authored strategy to reach these "markets of one" with a brand consistent and cost effective approach. It's important to begin today to deepen those internal relationships. Organizations who have forged strong collaborative relationships are the ones demonstrating success with fast ROI and growing market share