In new research, Econsultancy has discovered startling ways modern marketing is failing at what should be its top priority: Recognizing customers as individuals across devices and media.

It began with a premise that won’t startle many data-weary marketers - that despite the assurances of the vendor community, achieving true customer recognition isn’t easy and isn’t happening for many companies.

Customer recognition is the end-all, but we’re far from the end

When we look at marketers’ priorities in the chart below, we find a focus on personalizing messaging and the larger customer experience. But there is an alarmingly wide and consistent discrepancy; organizations simply don't have the skills and capabilities they need for growth.

Roughly 75% of executives surveyed agree that recognition - the ability of a company to identity individual customers across media and under different circumstances - and its attendant benefits are essential for growth.

Yet in every category, only small minorities can boast a strong capability.

A successful personalization strategy helps meet corporate goals and customer expectations, but before that can happen, data management vendors and marketers must absorb a few realities.

We don’t know what we can’t define

Single customer view, or SCV, is an advanced capability. It means tying together a set of data sources that truly offer a complete picture of a customer, past and present.

That sets a high bar, and yet over 40% of respondents suggested that their organizations took advantage of an SCV. That figure is somewhat higher than observed in previous studies, but of greater concern is that when compared to what companies have actually achieved, there’s a huge disparity.

Of the more than 220 companies in the study, only 12% have tied together the data sources required for a true SCV.

Even for those advanced organizations, some activities are still obscured for technical or procedural reasons. For example, among those that have integrated offline data sources, only half can tie offline sales back to online marketing programs.

With consistent recognition, brands can build upon profiles to refine and improve their understanding of the individual, but that’s a future state for the vast majority of marketers. 

These distinctions aren’t just important in understanding the state of the industry as it works to implement single customer view. It also highlights how a lack of knowledge and agreement can confuse the marketer’s path to maturity.

If organizations believe they have a single customer view, but have only part of the puzzle, it confounds their progress in information gathering, data strategy and customer experience.

Unfulfilled promises

Few spaces in digital marketing have evolved more dramatically or rapidly than data management, so perhaps it’s not surprising that marketers aren’t all happy with their data management platforms.

Nearly 60% say that the reality of their technologies does not align to the promises they were sold. This is a notable figure, considering the scale and ubiquity of investment in the new technology stack.

Part of the problem is in the difficulty vendors have with applying test-and-control measurements across devices, limiting brands' understanding of their mobile audiences.

Similarly in personalization, a disappointing 13% of marketers reported high satisfaction with data management vendors’ ability to tailor messaging to particular channels.

Returning to marketers' top priorities, customized messaging is a critical aspect of integrating customer experiences across devices and media.

How to improve

A compilation of failures makes for dismal reading, so the Customer Recognition Report includes a list of recommendations:

  • Learn how to conduct a true capability audit and align the company behind measurement as a strategic resource.
  • Discover the threat to evolving measurement practices, and the importance of reducing data-friction with customers, as well as the guidelines for getting you there.
  • Get attuned to the increasing discrepancy between customer behavior and media allocation.

Subscribers can click here to access the Customer Recognition Report.

Arliss Coates

Published 27 October, 2016 by Arliss Coates @ Econsultancy

Arliss is a Research Analyst at Econsultancy.

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