The Engagement Marketing Disconnect

Marketers must come to understand the underlying motivations and concerns of their customer bases in order to create relevant, targeted strategies that cultivate trust and loyalty.

For marketers to succeed, they must first come to understand the thoughts and behaviors of their consumer base. Embarking upon one's strategic journey without such insights in mind ultimately leads to failure and customer churn. Yet, while this may sound logical to most, many marketers still remain out of the loop when it comes to how consumers really perceive and interact with their brands.

To explore the discrepancies between consumers and executives, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) conducted two concurrent surveys of 409 consumers and 257 executives about the effectiveness of different marketing channels. The "Mind the Digital Marketing Gap" study, sponsored by Lyris, polled an even number of U.S. and U.K. executives from the clothing, banking, travel, media, entertainment, and automotive industries. Both surveys examine the gaps in how the average marketer views consumer engagement, brand interactions, decision influencers, and privacy concerns.

The following statistics highlight the challenges marketers currently face as they seek to manage vast volumes of customer data and hone the skills required for success:

  • Fifty percent of respondents believe that inadequate budgets for digital marketing and database management are the biggest obstacles standing in the way of more effective digital marketing strategies, while 45 percent blame the inability to analyze Big Data.
  • Of those skills most necessary for successful marketers, using data analysis to extract predictive findings from Big Data (37 percent) and generating insights about drivers of consumer behavior from multiple sources (32 percent) rank the highest.
  • Though social media, blogs, and mobile have potential, consumers prefer email (37 percent), printed catalogues (35 percent), and personal referrals (33 percent) for their initial introduction to a product. Only about 20 percent prefer social sites or blogs.
  • When it comes to final pre-purchase assessment, 36 percent of consumers prefer to seek personal referrals, while 37 percent prefer email for post-purchase follow-up.
  • For 63 percent of consumers, personalization has become so common that they're now numb to it. Yet, while 33 percent say superficial personalization is one of their top annoyances, personalization remains the second most popular marketing strategy.
  • Nearly one in five consumers claim that customized offers are more likely to meet their needs than mass market offers, thus making them feel like valued customers. For instance, 28 percent prefer product recommendations relevant to personal preference.

Key takeaway: Though executives must account for consumer behavior when honing their ever-evolving marketing strategies, they must also consider customer concerns. Of those polled, 21 percent are very concerned about privacy as it pertains to information contained in emails with vendors, while 39 percent are worried about the information tracked by cookies on a company's website. Much fear lies with the opt-in process, as 33 percent are concerned that such data will be shared with third-party brands regardless of privacy policies. However, only 23 percent of executives recognize that their customers are highly concerned about the sensitive information in the companies' databases. If organizations hope to cultivate trust, boost loyalty, and retain those they are working so diligently to target, they must also factor in the consumer's mindset and thought processes, not just his or her resulting actions.