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Are marketers truly customer centric?

Marketers talk a good game when it comes to connecting with customers in a timely and engaging fashion, according to a survey of 259 marketers conducted by Acxiom.

While 48% of respondents agree that their companies have “a relentless focus on building customer insights,” only 21% report that they have or will have a value score for each customer. Three quarters of them say that, except for outbound or social media contacts they don’t recognize customers in real time. Meanwhile, 70% admit they don’t yet integrate online and offline data.

“Companies’ customer-centric goals are aspirational. They’re not based in reality. When marketers say they don’t recognize their customers at all, that’s truly scary,” says Acxiom CMO Tim Suther. “Even among the 26% who say they do a decent job, only 4% have the central repository of information that allows them to recognize people across channels.”

Acxiom’s analysis of the survey was released in a report titled, “A Customer Centricity Paradox.” Respondents included marketers and agency personnel working in finance, retail, travel, media, technology and packaged goods.

The biggest barrier to achieving customer-centricity, according to 54% of respondents, is an inability to manage the data and technology necessary to measure results at the customer level. More than a third of media industry representatives admit that they struggle with the problem, while a similar segment of agency personnel say that they are able to measure at the individual channel level only.

“This is an artifact of the way marketing used to be, when marketers would target a segment, say women 14 to 34,” Suther says. “To think that all of those women could be approached in the same way today is ridiculous. We have to face the issue of addressability. Marketers have to recognize differences in individuals and deliver them relevant information.”

Not all companies, however, take the type customer-centric approach that requires reams of data. This may be the cause of the two other main barriers to customer centricity: a lack of resources and a lack of incentive.

“The problem of dealing with the data can be solved with money, but the way you get money for a project is if it’s exceptionally aligned with your company’s strategy,” Suther observes.  “There are companies whose business strategy is to make the best product or offer the cheapest price. Customer-centricity is nice, but it’s not for everybody.”

Suther predicts that the next time his company conducts this study, it will discover customer–centricity efforts based more on reality than aspirations as marketers become more closely aligned with their company’s go-to-market strategies.

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