Digital marketing is moving into a new era.

First came the era of innovation. Search put consumers in control. Mobile devices set them free. Social networks connected them. With each revolution, technology was invented to create, measure and control new and old ways of reaching the customer. Marketing focused inward as the industry formed and reformed in response to innovation. The second era is just taking shape, but it’s about knowledge, process and maturity. Above all it’s focused on the customer. After years of assembling new capabilities, marketers can use them in concert to achieve business goals.

Digital marketing has grown up.

Over the past 6 years, Adobe has conducted this annual study to understand and report on key strategies and tactics being deployed in digital marketing. While in past studies we’ve reported on the rising importance and success of individual tactics such as optimization, process automation and deepening analytics for mobile and personalization, this year we noticed something deeper. The data clearly shows companies that have consciously invested in holistic improvements to their digital marketing program, or digital maturity, are seeing a bigger payoff across a range of tactics—compared with those that have taken more of a one-off approach with digital strategies and tactics.

All marketing organizations evolve over time. Whether that change is successful in the long run depends on whether it’s planned or reactionary.

The organizations in this study are split into several categories of digital maturity.

The largest group, comprising 45% of companies, takes an organic approach, with no formal plan for maturing their digital marketing capability. They respond to new conditions but don’t plan ahead for them.

Second is a large minority (36%) that sees elements of their strategic plan as moving them to greater maturity, but these elements are not linked. Digital maturity is a byproduct, not an overarching goal.

Finally, an elite 19% reports having made specific plans and investments with their digital maturity in mind. Throughout this report we’ll explore how this group—with its planned approach—differs from the mainstream, and how their dedication to maturing their digital marketing practice is paying dividends.

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Credit: Adobe

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