Digital marketers are facing an on-going battle getting to grips with the huge amounts of data they have to work with, according to an annual global study by Experian Marketing Services. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

The biggest hurdles and key priorities for marketers this year are dependent on having accurate, enriched data, linked together in a central location for a complete customer view, according to the 2015 Digital Marketer Report.

Linkage topped the list of barriers to cross-channel marketing success, moving from fourth place in 2014 to first place in 2015.

Almost all marketers (89%) said that they have trouble achieving a single customer view, and a third of those questioned see effective linkage as the main barrier (32%) to creating a truly cross-channel marketing strategy.

The biggest challenge identified by marketers for achieving a single customer view is poor data quality (cited by 43% of marketers), followed by siloed departments (39%) and the inability to link different technologies (37%).

Separate research conducted by Experian Data Quality earlier in 2015 found that 91% of companies are leveraging data and data quality in an attempt to optimize their customer experience. However, only 28% of companies are creating real-time triggered messaging across multiple channels with their data.

"Consumers demand exceptional brand experiences, but without the right strategy and technology for collecting, authenticating, linking and managing all the data coming into an organisation today, brands are unable to meet that demand," said Ashley Johnston, senior vice president, Global Marketing, Experian Marketing Services. "Accurate, enriched data allows brands to stand out from competitors, create relevant interactions based on the deepest understanding of their customers and build successful customer-acquisition strategies as their priorities suggest."

The report identified several key barriers to achieving a fully integrated cross-channel marketing approach: no single customer view (32%), companies' current technology (31%) and organisational structure of the business (31%) came out on top.

The top challenges for marketers from around the world share many similarities, but priorities and barriers differ slightly by region:

  • United Kingdom
    Single customer view (SCV) and data linkage is seen as more of a challenge than any other, with nearly two-fifths (37%) of U.K. respondents saying this was their top challenge, beating organisational structure (33%) and the company's current technology (32%).

    UK marketers are more likely to believe they understand customer behaviour and have a clear roadmap toward cross-channel success (with only 21% and 20%, respectively, identifying these as challenges) compared to the global average of 25% apiece.

  • Europe
    The picture in Europe is very different than the United Kingdom. In Spain, only 17% of respondents reported the same issue with linkage; instead, the major problem was identified as the company's current technology (42%) as holding them back.

    French marketers follow a similar pattern and are also more confident with their grasp of linkage, with 24% flagging it as an issue. Again, technology (38%) is the most pressing concern for French respondents.

  • North America
    Organisational structure was identified as the most important issue in North America, with 38% of respondents rating this as their highest priority.

    Respondents were also more likely to say they don't have a clear roadmap to success (26%) than the global average.

  • Asia
    In Japan, marketers are confident in their technology, with only 9% seeing this as an issue. Instead, 44% struggle to link data to create a single customer view.

    Meanwhile, respondents from Australia and New Zealand identified technology as the largest single challenge to their cross-channel strategy (35%).

"Achieving single customer view is a key step in the right direction, but fully optimized cross-channel marketing is still the Holy Grail for marketers worldwide. And the in-depth process required for setting up a strategy presents a number of complex issues," concluded Simon Martin of Experian Marketing Services in the UK. "It takes entire companies working together to get a better understanding of their customers and to plan an engagement strategy that will resonate uniquely with each customer at every point of interaction."