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As a regular visitor to the blog, you’ll no doubt be aware of the magnificent free content on offer to you from our small band of marketing and digital experts here on the blog.

This is just scratching the surface of what Econsultancy has to offer though...

If you scroll up to the little ‘research’ tab on the top lefthand side you will enter a whole world of comprehensive research into marketing and ecommerce providing all the information you will ever to need to help you achieve digital excellence.

Whether you are looking for up to the minute data on market trends or informative guides on business strategies, you will find it here. This year we published a wealth of market data, best practice guides, buyer’s guides, surveys, trend briefings and more.

Here are a few of our key takeaways from 2014, with links to the respective reports for further insight.

Testing, testing, 1-2, 1-2... 

In order for companies to create a sustainable competitive advantage from conversion rate optimization (CRO), a strategic approach must be taken. This is according to our 2014 Conversion Rate Optimization report. A key facet to this strategy is testing. Companies that test more often, derive greater rewards for their activities.

Companies that saw a significant increase in their sales conducted 6.45 tests per month, compared to just 2.42 tests among organisations that saw their sales decrease.

More than half (57%) of companies surveyed cited a “lack of resources” as a barrier to improving conversion rates, by far the most common barrier. 

What are the biggest barriers preventing your organization from improving conversion rates?

Testing effectively requires companies to do more than just conduct the test to achieve better rates. Organisations must review their results and use these insights not just to inform processes and activities that are thought to have already been ‘optimised’, but also to fuel further tests.

It is only through this process that companies will remain agile and responsive to consumer demands and competitive pressures.

The importance of personalisation to businesses

It’s no surprise that marketers are taking personalisation very seriously. The ability to tailor the digital experience at scale is now a reality for businesses that have the right technology and processes in place. Personalisation can lead to a much deeper brand loyalty and higher CLV. 

As the chart taken from our latest Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing on Personalisation shows, digital marketers are 7% more likely than in 2012 to agree that the ability to personalise is “fundamental to their online strategy” and 13% more likely to agree that they are “committed to providing a personalised web experience”.

As the link between an improved customer experience and better commercial performance becomes clear, the ability to personalise is a vital way for businesses to differentiate themselves from the competition. 

Analytics budgets rise, but the skills gap remains a barrier

Budgets for digital analytics technology and consultancy services are rising, but the pace of change has led to a skills gap in many companies according to our latest Measurement and Analytics Report.

As the chart below shows, the use of rapidly changing analytics technology is the skills gap most widely identified by respondents. Using digital analytics tools was selected by almost half (47%) as a top-three area of skills deficiency, with 20% seeing it as their biggest gap.

Statistical modelling, another core analytics skill is the second most-selected gap, chosen by 40% of respondents as a top-three problem area. 

In which areas are the biggest skills gaps? (company respondents)

Marketers more focused on acquisition than retention

This is despite the fact that 82% of companies agree that retention is in fact cheaper than acquisition. A figure up from 70% last year, and certainly bolsters the notion that on-going profit from a customer lifetime is higher than any one single transaction. 

Is your company more focused on acquisition or retention marketing? This is one of the questions asked by our third annual Cross-Channel Marketing Report.

Since 2013, the proportion focused on acquisition has reduced but is still the dominant proportion of respondents. In turn, the proportion of those with an equal focus on retention and acquisition has increased to 45%. Marketers are even less likely than last year to be more focused on retention.

The advantage of a single customer view

Obtaining a single customer view remains a huge challenge for marketers in spite of the ever-improving capabilities of digital technologies. But unified marketing is a nirvana worth striving for according to our Path to Unified Marketing report.

Respondents were asked to identify what they perceive to be the top three benefits of integrating their marketing applications and data.

Interestingly, the rankings of the benefits are largely in line with one another, so the perceived advantages of unified marketing turn out to be true in practice.

Targeting and optimization at a customer level achieved the highest score for both groups, with better customer service and segmentation rounding out the top three for those who have achieved significant integration

The consumer voice has never been stronger

The internet has created a massive increase in the volume of customer feedback data. Social media, product reviews, customer ratings, online surveys, net promoter score… all these communication channels mean that companies are increasingly having to make their businesses customer-centric.

Managing customer experience is key in driving loyalty, retention and high CLV, however it’s the most progressive businesses that have taken the insights from feedback and used it to acquire new customers and drive change within functions of the business outside of customer services. This is according to our new report Voice of the Customer: Listen, Measure, Act.

Improving the customer experience will also lead to many business rewards. We asked our respondents “what do you see as the business benefits of an integrated customer experience?”

Understanding the mobile user

The wealth of data that can be derived from the mobile activities of consumers is continuing to increase at a staggering rate. With mobile empowering consumers to engage in several digital activities at any time of day, there is a clear opportunity for businesses that are appropriately equipped.

Although spend on mobile analytics is increasing, this does not necessarily translate to a greater understanding of the mobile user, as our Finding the Path to Mobile Maturity report shows...

Econsultancy digital analytics mobile understanding Adobe report

Organisations that are able to maximise the mobile opportunity are those that have an understanding of the mobile user journey and how it fits into the context of the broader user experience.

What data do we measure?

In the past digital analytics mainly focused on desktop activity, but now businesses have to employ a broader range of analytics products to measure activity across relatively new channels such as mobile and social. 

Our Measurement and Analytics Report examines the extent to which different analytics tool are used by surveying more than 1,000 digital professionals.

Web analytics predictably came out as the most widely used (36%) followed by Excel (90%). The fact that Google Analytics is available for free is clearly an important factor behind the almost universal use of web analytics.

Which data-related tools or types of technology do you use?

Two-thirds of respondents (65%) use some form of social analytics while 27% are ‘planning to use’ them, which is indicative of the fact that businesses see value in social media interactions but are still getting to grips with how to measure the ROI.

Email frequency in fashion retail

It’s difficult to think of an ecommerce vertical that has a better fit with content marketing than fashion. Following trends and making purchases are often classed as a form of entertainment in their own right, therefore it’s not surprising that a lot of fashion ecommerce websites have invested heavily in online content. This is according to our Fashion Ecommerce and Content Marketing report published this month.

One of the key ways that fashion brands distribute content is via email. Email is one of the most popular online activities, with 90% of UK consumers signing up to receive email from brands, despite the continued surge in usage of social media.

The author of the report James carson signed up to 20 different website’s email communication, but only received communication from 17 over the period.

  • In total, 88 emails were received.
  • The greatest senders were Net-a-Porter (11), USC (10) and Boohoo.com (8)
  • Of the companies who did send email and it was received, the mean send over a 14 day period was 5.2.
  • The median for the dataset was 6.5, with 11 of the websites sending less than that number. 

An unprecedented demand for technology

The customer relationship is the single path to sustainable growth and reliable retention. Improving this customer relationship can be achieved through understanding the customer and their context. 

Whatever location they’re in, at whatever time and how far down the sales funnel they may be, marketing data is the key way to accurately target the customer.

This has driven a huge need for technology in every industry to help them understand, capture and manage data.

According to our Enterprise Priorities in Digital Marketing report these are the plans for future technology investment...

Marketing attribution systems, marketing clouds and audience management systems are the top three near-term priorities. All technologies designed to determine, manage and influence the customer journey on multiple channels.

Marketers will have to define the speed of 'real-time' according to consumer desire

Our brand new B2B Real-Time Marketing Report reveals that more than a third of respondents (35%) said that real time means the ability to respond to customers in the same online session, i.e. within a minute or two. 11% of respondents however took 'real time' perhaps too literally and defined it as the ability to respond in less than a second.

This instantaneous response is certainly unrealistic within the hands of a mortal human, so clearly any response such as this would have to be the work of marketing automation.

Personalisation, empathy and speed are all absolutely integral to getting real-time exactly right, so is the correct use of available data. Technological solutions must be deployed to automate at least a base-level response, be it email, SMS or through search marketing, however a human interaction must occur soon after.

The main focus for content marketing KPIs

As you can see by the following chart taken from our Where Content and Commerce Collide report, there’s an even split between revenue and engagement when it comes to setting content marketing goals.

It should be noted that those that focus on engagement also see revenue as a likely by-product of providing good content. If your customers or followers are happy with your content and are sharing it across channels with a positive message, then revenue won’t be far behind if it’s linked to a relevant product.

Revenue is a goal for every ecommerce team, but there is a split in the intention behind creating content. However does this really matter if engagement eventually leads to the same outcome? These engagedcustomers will also be more loyal to your brand and tend to come back to you for repeat purchases.

More than half of UK businesses describe their mobile email strategy as ‘basic’

A further 22% of UK businesses have 'non-existent' mobile email strategy according to our eighth annual Email Marketing Industry Census. Among those that do have a mobile email strategy we asked "what have you done to optimise email marketing for mobile?

More than half (52%) have adapted their email design to have a simpler template that renders well on all devices. A further 39% of respondents have created a mobile responsive email template.

Organisations are making headway with mobile

Compared to last year, many organisations have made great strides in creating a more mobile-friendly experience.

It is, however, an ongoing and complex challenge even for the most clued up companies according to our Delivering Digital Experiences briefing.

Fewer companies than last year agreeing that ‘delivering optimal experiences across all screens and devices’ is a major challenge (60% this year compared to 70% last year). 

Faster email = higher conversion

57% of marketers using faster email technology report higher conversion rates

Conversion rate is one of the most important metrics in email marketing. It speaks to marketers’ ability to turn engagement into revenue. However with 42% of marketers who use slow email technology reporting lower than average conversion rates, it seems that revenue is being lost through outdated, sluggish systems.

The Email Marketing Speed Imperative study looked at how much impact the ease and speed of use of email marketing technology has on the channel's success. Among the questions asked: “how does the speed of email technology relate to ROI?” 

Those with fast systems report an average ROI for email of $38.80, nearly 33% higher than the $26.20 reported by those with slow systems.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 9 December, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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