There’s a sharp pendulum swing in marketing executives’ concerns and challenges, according to a new survey from Experian Marketing Services. These leaders are showing much greater consideration for the fundamental matters of brand and message, rather than data. The survey also found that the data challenges of previous years have not necessarily been conquered, as the media landscape and range of smart devices both continue to diversify.
The 2015 Digital Marketer Reported surveyed more than 1,000 marketers from a diverse range of worldwide industries. The largest share of respondents, 29%, were located in the Asia-Pacific region. At 21%, agency and marketing services made up the largest share of respondents by industry.
The falloff in concerns over data is the survey’s most striking item. Last year 61% of executives cited data management as their most significant challenge, a result far ahead of the pack. Although more than one third of respondents still cite customer profiling and data collection as significant challenges, today top executives show greater concerns over messaging and strategy than data and technology.
Data management has fallen to the fourth most common challenge, now cited by just 36% of the respondents. Taking over as the top challenge is branding, a concern shared by 49% of marketing leaders.
When asked to list their priorities, marketers were consistent in their focus on brand and message. Telling the brand story rated as the top leadership priority, cited by 46% of respondents. Data-driven marketing is at the heart of the next-highest priorities, that of translating customer knowledge into compelling interactions, and better integrating technology across the spectrum of customer interactions.
The shift away from a focus on data concerns does not mean that data challenges have been overcome, however. More than 80% of respondents said they use data-driven personalization in marketing communications; but more than one third of marketers still feel they lack the internal resources, personalization technology, and accurate data to implement a fully effective personalization strategy.
Still looking for a single view
Even more telling are the ongoing struggles with a single, comprehensive view of the customer. That goal has been widely and consistently cited as a high-priority business objective since the 1990s, but the ever-expanding media landscape continues to complicate this strategic priority. Just 24% of respondents say they have achieved that goal, and Experian puts the ever-widening media mix at the center of the struggle. Consumer behavioral data shows that 64% of consumers use at least four different media devices every day; more than one quarter use six or more. Even brands that have scrupulously pursued the 360-degree customer view for decades must constantly adjust their approach to keep up.
Media and digital consumption habits will only continue to shift, and the survey highlights an important consumer behavior tipping point. Half of millennial smartphone owners are now considered “mobile dominant,”spending more time accessing Internet services on a phone than on a computer. Although the majority of Web traffic still comes from desktops, Experian found that 64% of traffic to the top 100 retail websites in 2014 came from mobile devices. With trends so clearly favoring mobile interactions, brands must be ready to reach consumers on these personal, connected platforms.
In summarizing the study, Experian declares, “the future of marketing is here,”but that’s an oversimplification. The future will challenge marketers with an ever-widening array of data and digital channels. Finding the right strategic mix to best navigate those opportunities while remaining sufficiently conscious of brand messaging and positioning remains crucial to success.