Study: E-commerce marketers invest to make, keep customers

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Study: E-commerce marketers invest to make, keep customers

By Dan Berthiaume - 06/04/2019
A new survey of e-commerce marketers reveals a customer-centric technology approach.

According to “How Leading Retailers and Direct-to-Consumer Brands are Investing in Digital,” a survey of 100 top e-commerce marketing executives at brick-and-mortar and digital retailers from CommerceNext and Oracle, 65% of respondents saw a year-over-year increase to their e-commerce marketing budget in 2019 and 25% had a flat budget. Only 10% said their e-commerce budget was reduced from 2018.

Those budgets are overwhelmingly going toward acquiring and maintaining customers. Acquisition marketing (81%) was far and away the most popular e-commerce marketing budget item, followed by customer retention/loyalty marketing (43%). Other leading investment areas included promotions (32%), brand marketing (26%), mobile optimization (23%), omnichannel marketing (21%), unifying customer data (20%), and personalization (19%).

Respondents were generally satisfied with the performance of their acquisition marketing investments at 2018, and less so with budgetary allocations to other marketing areas. Fifty-three percent said acquisition marketing performance met expectations and 24% said it met expectations. Only 23% said acquisition marketing performance came in below expectations.

In contrast, 42% of respondents said retention marketing performance was below expectations, with 38% saying it met expectations and 13% saying it exceeded expectations (any leftover percentage is respondents who said that area is not applicable). Other performance areas, such as personalization (51% below expectations, 27% met expectations, 3% exceeded expectations) and unified customer data (52% below expectations, 21% met expectations, 10% exceeded expectations) had similar results.

The top two innovation investment priorities for all respondents are customer data platforms and personalization technology. The study found that 65% of respondents have increased budget in 2019 on customer data platforms (CDP) and 52% are increasing investment in personalization technology.

Other investments on the uptick in 2019 include alternative payments (47% increase), and artificial intelligence or machine learning for automated customer service, such as chatbots (45% increase).

What may surprise some marketers are the investment priorities that are at the bottom of the list. For example, only 16% of marketers increased spending in visual search, while 49% said they’re making no investments in this tech at all. The outlook is even more grim for voice-enabled search: only 13% of respondents are increasing their investment compared to last year, while 62% do not plan on making any investment in 2019.