This first report in our Marketing in the Dark series, Dark Data, explores the extent to which companies are able to harness data for their marketing programmes, with a focus on what ‘leaders’ are doing compared to their ‘mainstream’ counterparts.

The research, produced by Econsultancy in partnership with IBM Watson Marketing, is based on an extensive survey of more than 1,000 marketers.

The key findings of the report are as follows:

  • A strategic approach to data is crucial. More than half (55%) of responding companies are ‘beginning to develop a strategy’, and a further 16% say they ‘have just implemented a strategy’. In contrast, only 13% of research participants say they have a ‘comprehensive strategy’.
  • The growing role of artificial or ‘augmented’ intelligence. Most leaders (57%) are likely ‘to include AI in (their) marketing strategy over the next 12-18 months’, almost double the equivalent percentage for mainstream companies (29%).
  • Actioning customer insights. Sixty percent of companies surveyed this year profess to be either ‘excellent’ (11%) or ‘good’ (49%) at this, compared to only 46% of companies in 2016, when we asked the same question as part of The New Marketing Reality research.
  • Leaders are using more data sources. There is a correlation between the number of first-party and third-party data sources analysed by a company, and their ability to exceed their marketing goals.
  • Technology is failing companies trying to deal with CX complexity. The complexity of customer experience/number of touchpoints – cited as a top-three challenge by 46% of respondents – is regarded as the most significant technical challenge impeding companies trying to get a more joined-up view of customer journeys.
  • The need to balance personalisation and data privacy. More than half (51%) of respondents say they are ‘advanced’ or ‘intermediate’ in their personalisation approach to known customers, compared to just over a third (37%) who claim this level of sophistication in their marketing to unidentified prospects