Leveraging consumer data: Biggest challenge for online marketers

Soma Tah
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REDWOOD CITY, USA: The good news is marketers plan to increase their budgets on activities that increase customer engagement through more relevant and timely campaigns; however, the bad news is they say their lack of ways to quickly access and apply high quality, comprehensive data continues to thwart their efforts. This is according to StrongView's "2014 Marketing Trends Survey".


The survey results shine a bright light on the widely held challenges presented by the plethora of data now available to marketers. In short, while brands are capturing more customer and industry data than ever before, marketers report common problems in accessing and leveraging it in the most meaningful ways.

However, these challenges are not stopping those marketers from increasing their spending on customer engagement: a whopping 93 percent plan to increase or maintain marketing budgets for the year. This is up from 89 percent in 2013. Email marketing, social media marketing, search marketing, display marketing and mobile marketing top the list of areas for increased spending in 2014.

"While we saw a strong desire to engage with customers at a more personal and meaningful level in our survey this year, marketers remain hampered and frustrated by an inability to access and leverage all the data being generated by a growing number of marketing channels," said Shawn Myers, VP of marketing at StrongView.


"Effectively engaging customers with what we call 'Present Tense Marketing' requires an in-depth understanding of the customer's context at a particular moment in time, and that can only be achieved with the strategic use of all available data."

Survey Highlights

  • 40 percent cite accessing and leveraging customer data as biggest email marketing challenge; 36 percent lack of resources; 32 percent developing more relevant engagements
  • 44 percent have goal to improve engagement; 36 percent to improve segmentation and targeting; 31 percent to grow opt-in lists
  • 93 percent plan to increase or maintain marketing budgets in 2014; 46 percent plan to increase
  • 52 percent plan to increase email marketing spend; 46 percent social media; 41 percent search; 36 percent display
  • 57 percent of email lifecycle marketing to be focused on loyalty; 53 percent on welcome; 50 percent winback
  • 59 percent plan to integrate email with social; 55 percent with mobile; 23 percent with display
  • 55 percent of marketers chose Facebook as the most valuable social channel; 18 percent LinkedIn; 10 percent Twitter; less than 5 percent named Pinterest, Google+ or Instagram as most valuable

Marketers Cite Data Quality and Latency as New Data Challenges

In last year's StrongView 2013 Marketing Trends Survey, marketers reported facing challenges with managing data and integrating it with other channels. This latest survey goes further to uncover the biggest challenges to leveraging data, with quality (22 percent), latency in its availability to marketers (16 percent) and lack of strategy (15 percent) topping the list.

Data access and the ability to specifically leverage web behavior (34 percent), shopping behavior (25 percent) and customer sentiment (23 percent) were particularly vexing to marketers. Demographics (53 percent), purchase history (49 percent) and web behavioral data (31 percent) were used most often in campaigns. The challenges surrounding the use and understanding of data were highly noted in responses to almost every question.


Increasing Engagement Through Greater Relevancy is a Major Initiative

Across channels, marketers report that a key objective in 2014 will be to increase engagement with customers, primarily by creating campaigns with higher degrees of relevancy based on contextual clues. StrongView recommends that marketers achieve relevancy by developing campaigns that adopt the tenets of "Present Tense Marketing," whereby marketers adapt in real time to a customer's present tense or current state, putting the next marketing action in the proper context of their activities.

Email Marketing Remains Strong


The stalwart channels of email and search marketing remain principal avenues for marketers to reach customers, with social media marketing continuing to rise in importance. More than 50 percent of marketers plan budget increases in email and 46 percent in social marketing in 2014; 41 percent of marketers plan to increase search spending, up from 39.8 percent in 2013.

Respondents reported intentions to increase spending for automated email programs such as lifecycle (34 percent) and triggered events (38 percent). Of the marketers who plan to increase spend on lifecycle email marketing programs, 57 percent plan to focus on loyalty programs with 50 percent indicating a focus on winback efforts and 53 percent on welcoming new customers. These and other data support marketers' plans to make strides in customer engagement in the coming year.

Largest Social Platforms Considered Most Valuable

While the investment in social channels overall to engage customers is set to increase in 2014 (46 percent), marketers overwhelmingly and, not surprisingly, name the largest social platforms as their most valuable channels.

Facebook ranked among the top three by 81 percent of marketers, Twitter by 67 percent, YouTube by 48 percent and LinkedIn by 44 percent. Pinterest, for example, though noted as valuable to some degree by more than 85 percent of respondents, was listed as a top three most valuable channel by less than 13 percent of marketers. Highly popular Instagram was only ranked in the top three by 10 percent of marketers, though 86 percent saw some value.