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09/13/2021

Marketers frequently change digital strategy, struggle with analysis

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Most marketers lack the customer insight they need.

Digital marketers are responding to the rapid pace of change in the current consumer environment, even as they find their analytical tools less than adequate.

A new survey of 106 retail marketing executives from automated business analysis provider Outlier and digital insights firm Incisiv reveals that 47% of respondents made changes to their digital marketing strategy at least once a week in 2020. Another 29% made weekly changes, and 5% changed their digital marketing strategy on a daily basis. Only 19% waited for a quarter to pass to change their digital strategy.

In addition, a sizable eight in 10 (79%) majority of respondents made significant (63%) or dramatic (16%) changes to their digital marketing investments (amount, channel mix) in 2020. Another one in five (18%) made some changes, and only 3% made few or no changes.

Outlier and Incisiv also surveyed a combined cohort of retail and finance executives about digital marketing. These respondents indicated a lack of analytical insight available to guide many of their marketing decisions. Eight in 10 (79%) don’t use all their customer data, while about three-quarters (73%) are caught by surprise by new trends.

In addition, two-thirds (65%) of retail and finance marketing executives are dissatisfied with the speed of their customer analysis, and more than half (53%) are dissatisfied with the usefulness of their customer analytics. Only 56% said that changes to their digital marketing strategy are data-driven.

“This obviously puts a big strain on the marketing teams in terms of understanding what types of channels and particular assets are performing,” said Mike Stone, chief marketing officer, Outlier, in an exclusive interview with Chain Store Age. “Things like ads and content and promotional content are performing the best. So, if you're having to rebalance every month or every week or every day, you know that there's a lot of pressure put on put on analyst teams to really ensure that marketers understand.”

When asked to rate their capabilities in other areas of marketing, retail and finance executives demonstrated some serious shortcomings. For example, see the percent of these respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing with the following statements:

  • We fully leverage all of the customer data we have available (24%).
  • We are able to consistently uncover new opportunities for growth from customer data (29%).
  • We are satisfied with the timeliness of customer insights (35%).
  • We have sufficient analyst support to provide the insights we need (37%).
  • We are satisfied with our customer analytics tools (46%).
  • We are able to quickly identify problems in the customer experience (website, commerce, etc. – 52%)
  • We usually understand the reasons behind changes in customer behavior (53%).
  • We can clearly see how marketing activities impact sales (57%).

“Marketers are very aware of the fact that there is a lot of data that they're capturing, but they just don't have the resources and tools in place to use that data,” said Stone. “It is very frustrating to know that you've put all these systems in place to capture customer behavior and performance of different channels, but you just aren't able to leverage that data at the pace that you need to make really sound decisions. Seventy-three percent of respondents said they were frequently caught by surprise, which is just an uncomfortable situation for any marketer.”

[Read more: Five important marketing trends]