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A new study from Kitewheel, released today, shows that when it comes to the customer journey, email is still performing extraordinarily well, though mobile apps is the fastest-growing channel.

The study, which took in data from over one billion real-time, cross-sector brand and customer interactions, captured via Kitewheel’s Customer Journey Hub, reveals that brands are investing more heavily in omnichannel campaigns than ever before.

While not surprising, given everything we know about email marketing from our research and those of our peers, the study confirms that email is still a channel to be reckoned with. In fact, it shows that email has captured 23 percent of total journey interactions, up 270 percent year-over-year.

Combine the increase in email marketing with the return on investment (ROI) we’ve shown in VB Insight studies, and it is clear the old dog still has some new tricks up its sleeve, even in a world dominated by smartphones.

The report also shows that while the bulk of interaction volume occurs on social media (48 percent), social media marketing’s overall share of interactions declined 23 percent year over year. It also appears there is a lot of noise on social, with our research showing that 70 percent of major brands still use social channels in ‘broadcast mode.’

The fastest-growing channel, by some distance, is mobile apps. Interactions increased tenfold from 2014 to 2015, and while the overall percentage of mobile app interactions is still small, this channel holds great potential for brands in 2016. That is good news in one respect, but there’s a big issue plaguing mobile marketing right now.

Early results from our latest research at VB Insight show that mobile is being siloed and ‘tacked on’ to marketing strategy rather than being integrated. What has Kitewheel seen to support or counter these results?

“I agree,” Kitewheel president Mark Smith told me. “I think that we were surprised to see such low volume of truly mobile-specific experience management — i.e. through a brand app rather than a mobile web experience or a social mobile experience. Given that the majority of interactions are now taking place on a mobile device, many brands are not taking the most advantage of that and using the medium to its maximum effect but are ‘making do’ with their content and programs built for other channels, just being deployed via mobile devices. Given the widespread use of the device, we would have thought that more brands would be making the best use of the opportunity.”

When it comes to modern-day customer journeys, retailers are leading the way. The retail sector is responsible for orchestrating 50 percent of the total journey interactions tracked in 2015. Travel and healthcare companies are also investing heavily, at 15 percent and 12 percent, respectively. So if your growth strategy includes modeling other companies’ behavior, ‘reverse engineering’ what the retail sector is doing would be a good place to start.

Of course, retail still has its challenges, too, especially when it comes to connecting online to offline paths in the customer journey. What are the factors that are stalling growth in that area?

“Primarily, the issues involved in linking the data between the legacy silos for offline data with the newer silos for on-line data,” Smith said. “But there is also an effect due to the legacy systems in off-line channels being less open to modern API interfaces that make linking to them easy. So, in essence, it takes more work, or deeper connection technology, to link into the older systems and get them aligned with newer channels.”

And what was the one result in today’s study that surprised Smith the most?

“The significant swing in the volume of social interactions between 2014 and 2015,” Smith said. “It seems 2014 was the year of social-led journeys, and, by 2015, it really had become an omnichannel journey world.”

The full study is available from today via the Kitewheel website.

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