Data analytics and marketing automation are top investments in 2014

New ExactTarget report into digital marketing trends finds marketers are also spying great ROI opportunities in mobile marketing, yet many are still not across customer lifetime value

Data and analytics along with marketing automation are the top areas of digital marketing investment heading into 2014, a new report claims.

The latest ExactTarget Marketing Cloud 2014 State of Marketing Survey, found two-thirds of respondents plan to increase total spending on digital marketing this year. Top of the list is data and analytics, (61 per cent of respondents will increase their investment), followed closely by marketing automation (60 per cent), social media marketing (57 per cent) and content management (57 per cent).

In terms of priorities, 47 per cent of the 2600 global respondents said increasing conversion rates was their leading marketing goal this year. Not far behind was increasing and improving brand awareness (46 per cent), followed by collecting, measuring and using behaviour-based data (29 per cent).

“A focus on conversion rates comes as no surprise, as more and more marketing teams work to align with their sales teams and prove value through concrete results,” the report authors stated. “And while marketers are experiencing increased accountability, they’re also being given more resources than ever to take a greater role in driving the business.”

Top metrics are conversion rates and sales directly attributed to digital marketing campaigns; engagement rates in terms of clicks and opens; and return on investment. In contrast, only 35 per cent of respondents listed lifetime customer value as a success metric in the report, proving again that the industry has a long way to go to truly recognise longer-term customer engagement.

The recent CMO Council and Adobe APAC Digital Marketing Dashboard Report also showed marketers continue to rely on isolated and old-fashioned measurements such as website performance and click through rates, rather than the more expansive customer churn rates and lifetime value.

According to the ExactTarget survey, marketers are seeing lifecycle marketing as a key piece in their overall strategy, with driving engagement and revenue edging ahead as major concerns over acquiring new subscribers. Yet a significant gap exists between the importance marketers place on lifecycle marketing campaigns and the number of campaigns they actually implement, the report authors stated.

For instance, birthday campaigns are used by 19 per cent of marketers, and only 36 per cent use loyalty campaigns. Key lifecycle marketing campaigns used today are newsletters, promotions and Web opt-in.

When it comes to channels offering the best marketing returns, 80 per cent of marketers in the ExactTarget survey using mobile said mobile initiatives do or will provide ROI, and 30 per cent are already using location-based marketing functionality as part of their efforts.

Only 46 per cent saw social as core to their marketers, yet 86 per cent of those believe social efforts will or do provide ROI. At present, 34 per cent claimed social media marketing is producing ROI, while 52 per cent saw it eventually producing ROI.

Across respondents, 57 per cent said they had a dedicated social media team, a figure which again illustrates the relative immaturity of social media strategies in place across organisations to date.

This was in fact outlined in a recent investigation into social business by US-based research firm, Altimeter Group, which reported less than one-fifth of organisations are truly strategic in executing social media strategy today. That report found nearly half of all top executives are not informed, engaged or aligned with social strategy, and that most organisations are only at an ‘intermediate’ stage when it comes to social business maturity.

Email marketing was rated by 68 per cent of marketers in the ExactTarget survey as core to their business, and 49 per cent were found to be sending more than 500,000 emails annually.

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