Marketing technology has never been more effective – so why are marketers still struggling to reach their customers?

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Much is made of the enhancements in marketing technology that have taken place in recent years, and rightly so. The opportunities for personalised, in depth communication with customers has never been better for marketers the world over. However, Experian’s annual Digital Marketer Report which covers challenges and priorities for marketers, has produced some interesting results, showing that marketers have yet to truly understand their audience.

This year, the top challenge cited by marketers is also their top priority: “knowing their customers’ needs, wants and attitudes”. Thirty-eight percent of marketers cited “knowing their customers” as their top challenge for 2016, and 52 percent named “enhancing their customer knowledge” as one of their top three priorities. Given the emphasis on knowing the customer, it’s also perhaps unsurprising to note that 81 percent of marketers reported challenges in achieving a single customer view. 

Other top challenges indicated by marketers include increasing visibility over competitors and staying ahead of new marketing trends. The integration of technology and collecting, linking and managing data also were key priorities identified in the report.

Marketers have always aimed to build great brands and boost growth by engaging with and acquiring new customers. They have looked to retain existing customers and sell more products to them. However, in the last five years these objectives have become far harder to achieve.

During that time we’ve seen an explosion of data, the widespread accessibility of a high speed mobile internet connection via broadband, and a rapid uptake of smart phones and other mobile digital devices such as tablets. There’s also been a step-change in processing power and a proliferation of new channels via social media, mobile web, digital and on-demand TV.

As a result of these developments, today’s consumers are increasingly demanding a seamless, tailored customer journey.  If brands can’t deliver that, they will simply turn their attention somewhere else.

These days people expect a 24/7 ‘always on’ approach from organisations of all shapes and sizes – and then at the same time they won’t accept anything that comes across as being too pushy. It’s an interesting contradiction, consumers expect to have unified, cross channel dealings with brands and then at the same time can still maintain a deep sense of hostility towards any approach which crosses the line and gets too up close and personal at the wrong time, or with the wrong message. Clearly, marketers have their work cut out trying to make sure they strike the right chord.

And it’s only going to get more challenging. The future of marketing is being driven by sophisticated, channel-agnostic consumers who expect exceptional experiences every time. The reward for brands that can create this type of experience is excellent, with the report finding that effective personalisation results in a huge 158 percent increase in click rate.  What is clear from this year’s report is that marketers acknowledge the crucial importance of knowing the customer, but achieving a deep enough understanding is difficult. This is a common challenge across countries and industries.

To tackle this issue marketers need to consider two key points that will encompass an effective approach to knowing the customer. Firstly, data needs to be robust and able to support marketing plans. Secondly, this data needs to be effectively actionable to enable brands to build a full picture of the customer, meaning that marketers must make effective use of the technology at their disposal to fully understand the customer. This is true across all channels, as the industry shifts from a narrow focus on separate channels towards a strategy based around the individual customer, regardless of channel.

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