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News/ Market Research

Marketers 'Desperate' To Understand Customers: Report

by Esther Shein
Contributing Writer
CMO.com

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Article Highlights:

  • Almost 80 percent of marketers plan to increase use of customers’ social-media data to drive marketing campaigns in other channels in 2013.
  • Fifty-six percent of marketers said they plan on hiring new employees to handle data collection or analysis.
  • Almost 40 percent of respondents said they rarely or never customize their messaging based on insights from customer data.

The trend toward leveraging big data is expected to make significant inroads this year, according to a just-released report that finds almost 80 percent of marketers plan to increase use of customers’ social-media data to drive marketing campaigns in other channels in 2013. Corporate budgets will be impacted as companies are placing a greater emphasis on analytics, real-time data, and integrated multichannel marketing.

The report, “Data-Rich and Insight-Poor: Marketers Planning to Turn Information Into Intelligence in 2013,” revealed that 68 percent of marketers are planning to increase their data-related expenditures this year. The study, conducted by Infogroup Targeting Solutions and Yesmail Interactive, is based on a survey of 700 marketers at DMA2012 and Forrester Research’s eBusiness Forum. That growth signals an increase in hiring; 56 percent said they plan on hiring new employees to handle data collection or analysis.

“People are desperate to understand more about their customer,” noted Michael Fisher, president of Yesmail Interactive, in an interview with CMO.com. “Data can now drive how I would look at you, what I know about you as a customer, and allows me to personalize experiences in a meaningful way.”

So companies will be looking for data analytics strategists who understand how to interpret data, and technologists who know how to collect the data and make it more accessible, he said, adding he has read reports that indicate the CMO will have bigger budgets than the CIO.

“Getting big data is interesting,” Fisher said. “Getting big data that can be analyzed to see what is the right amount and the right kind and the format for that data is the hard part, and that’s where the investment [will be]. ”

Not surprisingly, customer data is being used to boost sales and promote customer loyalty, which can be effective at helping an organization be “nimble enough to change their prospecting outreach based on receiving real-time alerts from specific prospect data that is continually changing,” said Don Patrick, president of Infogroup Targeting Solutions, in an email. 

Companies are also starting to realize they need to make more timely use of customer data to drive more personalized marketing campaigns. More than half of the survey respondents said they have already started implementing real-time data and plan to make greater use of it this year, and another 30 percent said they plan on using it for the first time or consider using it.

That real-time customer data is being used to do “some level of confirmation transaction and interaction,” for example, to send a thank you note or confirmation of shipping or inventory updates, Fisher said. That makes a consumer feel informed and aware of what’s going on, creating a better experience for them.

“You have to do it to keep up with the customer,” he said. “Your competition is doing it.” Consumers are “liquid today more than ever and will leave you for a company that meets their expectations.” Relationships aren’t “as sticky as they used to be,” Fisher added, and companies need to find ways to “excite and delight them.” Real-time contact, he maintained, is a must.

Also not surprising is the survey finding that companies are relying heavily on digital means to use customer data. Eighty-three percent of respondents said they are using it to drive marketing campaigns on their Web site, while 72 percent are using email and 59 percent social media. Less than half use customer data to drive marketing campaigns through the offline channels of direct mail (47 percent), print (32 percent), and telemarketing (30 percent). Almost half the respondents said their Web site is the best source for collecting customer data, followed by email (19 percent) and social media (12 percent).

But when it comes to making the most of what they know, marketers need to turn it up a notch. Almost 40 percent of respondents said they rarely or never customize their messaging by channel based on insights from customer data. Yet analyzing or applying customer information was cited as the greatest data-related challenge by 45 percent of marketers. Both Fisher and Patrick said this is due to the overwhelming amount of data and the different systems used to store information–especially the explosion of digital data, which has made comprehension a much more complex task.

“Marketers really need to go back to basics and build a solid data foundation to drive their sales and marketing strategies,” Patrick observed. “Marketers must invest in processes, people, and systems necessary for implementing the strategies that structure their data around customers and prospects, rather than channels or transactions. With the challenge of having the ‘right’ data and not ‘more’ data, it’s critical to take a disciplined approach to putting all the right pieces into place.”

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