Marketers Lag Today's Hyper-Connected Customer

Eighty percent of today's digital marketers predict that 2014 will be the year they successfully centralize data and integrate channels. However, lack of internal technology, infrastructure, and budget threaten their cross-channel dreams.

For years, marketers have emphasized the need to eliminate siloed data and develop seamless cross-channel experiences, yet few have succeeded. But, as Experian Marketing Services' "The 2014 Digital Marketer" benchmark and trend report highlights, marketers now understand that the aspirations of yesterday must become the realities of today as they work to implement the technologies necessary for strategic customer engagement, loyalty, and advocacy.

"Consumers don't think in channels while shopping or searching for products, services and information they're interested in," says Ashley Johnston, senior vice president of global marketing at Experian Marketing Services. "Successful brands understand this and are already adapting and aligning their processes to give customers richer and better experiences. Focusing on customer centricity, delivering value, and a positive experience for the customer every time, will be the difference maker for leading, customer-centric companies in 2014 and beyond."

The study, which surveyed respondents in more than 20 countries throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, examines the current state of the customer experience and which digital marketing tactics companies are looking to integrate and implement over the course of 2014. Because consumer preferences and behavior continue to change rapidly, marketers are increasingly aware of the need to keep pace if they are to remain relevant. Many, however, still require the technology, infrastructure, and budget to succeed. The following statistics offer insight into the primary trends, goals, and challenges ahead:

  • For marketing leaders, collecting and managing structured and unstructured data stands (61 percent) as the top business challenge. However, having the correct systems to effectively create and manage customer interactions (48 percent) and tracking and measuring the effectiveness of integrated campaigns also pose major obstacles.
  • Thirty percent of those surveyed manage their data quality strategy centrally through one single director, while 52 percent operate with some centralization, with many departments adopting their own strategies. Only 14 percent say each department adopts its own strategy.
  • Though human error (59 percent) stands as the single greatest cause of poor data quality, lack of internal communication between departments (31 percent) and inadequate data strategies (24 percent) are also detrimental to success.
  • Twenty-four percent of respondents can link offline data well but can't integrate online identities when looking to create a single customer view. However, 21 percent agree that they can link offline and online identities very well, while 14 percent simply don't link customer data at all.
  • Current technology (39 percent) remains the top barrier to successful cross-channel marketing, while organizational structure (38 percent) and budget (38 percent) also hinder progress.
  • While 28 percent of respondents claim that their marketing team is fully integrated, 27 percent admit that their team remains broken out by channel.

Key takeaway: Regardless of technology's rapid evolution, marketers must look to new innovations as tools for expanding and strengthening the customer relationship. "Marketers must realize that now, more than ever, they have more opportunities to connect with and engage their customers," Johnston says. "To capitalize on these opportunities, however, requires action.It's time for brands to finally put into action the strategies they've been talking about for some time now.New technologies in cross-channel marketing have enabled this to be a reality, but now brands must evolve their policies, processes, and structures to be more aligned to the realities of today's hyper-connected customer."

For instance, 80 percent of those marketers surveyed reported that they plan to run cross-channel marketing campaigns in 2014, with the majority stating they will integrate three to four channels. However, internal technology, infrastructure, and budget also rank high on the list of barriers to cross-channel success. Thus, it's paramount that marketers become active across the organization, collecting, linking, and synthesizing data across channels to develop actionable segments, while executing coordinated, customer-centric campaigns.