Advancements in technology are driving more customer-centric marketing for big brands, according to research from Experian Marketing Services which highlights how marketers are increasingly using technology to turn intelligence into action. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

The annual 'State of Cross-Channel Marketing Report', which benchmarks how marketers understand customers and context, personalise experiences and optimize marketing performance across all customer touch points, found that the demand on brands to create highly relevant and meaningful interactions with their customers has never been greater.

According to Matt Seeley, President, Experian Marketing Suite, "We're seeing a clear shift in the industry as more marketers focus on putting the customer first and look to technology providers like Experian to help them get and stay close to their customers. Cross-channel marketing technology and predictive analytical tools have become smarter and more accessible to marketers, helping brands to manage data, understand the preferences of their customers and turn that intelligence into action across every channel at scale."

Brands today are more customer-centric in their marketing than they were just a year ago. The report, which leverages year-over-year survey results, highlights several trends:

  • Enterprise brands, like multichannel retailers, are asking their customers to set their own preferences: Brands today are 62% more likely to give their subscribers the ability to set their own preferences for branded communications than they were in 2013. Further, they are 89% more likely to allow them to select the type of messages that they receive and 48% more likely to give options for how often subscribers want to receive those communications.
  • Retailers are 87% more likely today to ask their customers to set their own preferences on communications channels (email, mobile, direct, social, etc.) and 65% more likely to allow them to set their category and product preferences. Further, retailers are 131% more likely to acquire mobile numbers through preference centres than nonretailers.
  • Marketers are taking action to improve their data hygiene: Marketers are 53% more likely to execute data hygiene techniques than they were in 2013. Retailers are 13% less likely to undertake some form of data-hygiene process than nonretailers. However, when they do prioritize data hygiene, retailers are 38% more likely to use a data-hygiene provider than nonretail brands.
  • Brands are leveraging segmentation well beyond simple demographics: More marketers are building segmentation strategies that focus on behavior and lifetime customer value over demographics. Overall, the majority of marketers (25%) segment customer based on past activity or behaviour.
  • When it comes to email marketing, marketers are 6% more likely to execute some form of email segmentation than in 2013. The most popular forms of email segmentation are activity- and transaction-based triggers. Interestingly, the amount performing language segmentation increased the most year-over-year (+76%), followed by value segmentation (+40%).
  • Marketers are testing their campaigns to understand what works for their customers: 92% of marketers are testing their marketing programmes to understand customer preferences and marketers are more likely to focus on testing campaign performance in email than in other channels.

    Testing allows marketers to identify underperforming campaigns and adjust in real-time. For example, marketers testing offers may bring to light that a target consumer responds better to a "dollars off" than a "percentage off" offer. Those results can be used to determine where similar improvements can be made to other channels. Marketers are 42% more likely today to view time-of-day testing as an effective test in 2014 than they did in 2013. Meanwhile, nonretailers are 64% more likely to claim effectiveness in creative testing than last year.

"A marketer's ability to collect, integrate, analyse and optimize data intelligently to arrive at meaningful and actionable customer insights is central to cross-channel marketing success and is the key to customer-centric marketing," noted Seeley. "More marketers today have the means to extract actionable business intelligence from their data and are now assessing how well they can use that intelligence to drive enhanced results for the customer."

Significant barriers to customer-centric marketing also remain. While marketers clearly are showing improvement in their customer-centric marketing strategies, only 4% of brands reported having an integrated customer journey across touch points. Marketers cited siloed marketing organisations (39%) and a product-focused structure versus a customer-focused one (28%) as the primary barriers.

The research indicates that marketers need to improve in several key areas:

  • Data Management and Linkage: Seventy-nine percent of companies face challenges when connecting disparate data to create a single customer view.
  • Attribution: Marketers continue to struggle to measure results and understand how to improve. Last-touch attribution is prevalent among brand marketers, with 70% giving credit only to the last channel that the customer interacted with before making a purchase.

"Marketers struggling with customer-centricity need to prioritize attribution," concluded Seeley. "If they have the ability to show how cross-channel relevance drives customer loyalty and ultimately benefits their business's bottom line, this gives the marketing organisation a clear business case to make the customer, rather than a channel, a top priority across the organisation."