Big data challenge proves key obstacle for marketers

New Economist Intelligence Unit and Lyris report finds big data skills and a lack of financial resources are hindering marketers from driving customer insights

Big data and a lack of financial resources are the biggest obstacles for marketers when it comes to driving customer insights from data, a new US report claims.

According to the latest report Mind the Digital Marketing Gap, produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in partnership with digital marketing software vendor Lyris, 37 per cent of marketing executive surveyed see their difficulty in interpreting big data as the biggest challenge to an effective marketing strategy, while 45 per cent claim to lack sufficient big data analytics capabilities.

In addition, just 24 per cent of marketers said they always use data analysis to develop actionable insights for their overall marketing strategy, although the majority of respondents use data analytics at least some of the time for actionable insights and to personalise consumer communications.

Other key obstacles include a lack of financial resources (43 per cent of respondents); too much emphasis on digital tools and social media; the proliferation of channels; and inadequate human resources (33 per cent apiece).

The EIU and Lyris report was based on two concurrent surveys of 409 consumers and 257 marketing executives across the US and UK.

The report also looked into marketing campaigns objectives today versus five years ago, and found the top two goals remain to expand/diversify the customer case, and enter new markets. However, more emphasis is being placed today on retaining current customers, cultivating influencers and tailoring marketing messages to specific consumer segments.

Marketers also said individualised offers and personalising marketing messages are more important today than they were five years ago.

Another example of how vital data has become is the significant rise in how marketers perceive analytical skills across marketing ranks. The ability to use data analysis to extract predictive findings from big data headed the skills list for nearly 40 per cent of survey respondents. Other skills in demand are the ability to generate insights about the drivers of consumer behaviour through data, knowledge of market segmentation techniques, and understanding best practices in email delivery.

In contrast, skills less valued than they were five years ago include media planning and buying, production abilities, and the ability to implement overall campaign strategy.

The report also highlighted a disconnect between what marketers think digital channels should be delivering, versus what consumers want. For example, while marketers place an emphasis on pricing/promotions and product features, consumers want information on tips about product use and new product referrals.

“This may indicate that marketing executives tend to focus on pre-purchase rather than longer-term engagement strategies,” the EIU report authors stated.

Despite the challenges they face, marketers are generally positive about their company’s position in the market, and claimed to be performing above average or substantially above average to their peers on areas such as competitive differentiation, brand awareness, customer engagement and profitability.

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