Brands are prioritising greater ownership and control over their data as they ramp up their investments in customer experience and personalised services, according to new research.
That’s the key finding of the “2019 Digital Trends” report from Econsultancy and Adobe, which surveyed nearly 13,000 marketing, advertising, e-commerce, creative, and IT professionals worldwide. (CMO.com is owned by Adobe.)
As in 2018, brands are continuing to increase their investments in personalisation. Fifty percent said they are planning to invest in improving the customer experience (CX) this year. For those that have improved CX, their investments are beginning to pay dividends, with those companies classifying themselves as “very advanced” in their CX, and three times more likely to have exceeded their business goals by a significant margin in 2018.
This is precisly why investment in CX technology is growing. For example, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) is up, with 36% of brands now using AI to draw more value from their data and enhance the customer experience, a 50% jump from last year.
While companies are bullish about personalisation technologies, the investment comes against the backdrop of a complex data environment, with consumers and regulators both calling for greater transparency into how data is managed and used. Specifically, organisations’ reliance on “walled gardens”–third-party advertising platforms that require them to relinquish control over their data–remains a major hurdle. Forty-four percent of advertising agencies revealed this is their clients’ No. 1 concern.
Indeed, 28% of marketers admitted they are concerned about their ability to personalise customer experiences without violating consumer privacy. Globally, 89% of respondents agreed data protection laws such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have had a positive impact on their businesses, but they also appreciate the need for more control over how they collect, manage, and share consumer data.
Still, organisations are excited about the opportunities in data-driven personalisation strategies.
Process and technology siloes around data continue to hold companies back—at least for the time being. Sixty-four percent of survey respondents said their marketing and CX technologies are fragmented, with a lack of integration between systems. This is a fundamental issue that must be addressed before investments in CX can deliver on their full potential, according to John Watton, Adobe’s senior director of enterprise marketing in EMEA.
“New segmentation methods, marketing automation, AI–these innovations are opening up new opportunities for brands to get close to customers, but their value is directly proportional to the quality of data being fed into them,” he told CMO.com. “Without a strong, secure data foundation in place, it’s almost impossible to effectively manage all the information you collect, much less extract the precious insight it contains.”
Brands are determined to address this issue. Sixty-three percent of IT professionals have made it a priority to improve the way they collect data and unify it onto a single, central platform. Meanwhile, 42% of marketers plan to integrate their data for better workflows and to improve their approaches to insights for a more holistic view of customers.
Respondents also understand that taking responsibility for data will have a positive impact on both their businesses and their customers, even if concerns over privacy and walled gardens will persist in the short term.
“Consumers can enjoy great benefits from sharing data with us, but it’s our responsibility to make sure there’s value in that exchange,” said Jennifer LaFrance, director of global digital strategy at McCormick & Co., which has made data protection a primary focus. The Fortune 1000 food manufacturer has established a global privacy council and is developing a set of consumer engagement principles, similar to a “consumer bill of rights.”
Accountability will become only more important for businesses as data becomes the backbone of their organisation, Adobe’s Watton added.
“Smart devices and AI will soon pervade every aspect of our lives, offering brands new ways to engage with their audience but also making data management an even more complex beast,” he said. “Encouragingly, companies are taking data into their hands and readying themselves to rise to the challenge.”