The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) conducted two concurrent surveys, sponsored by Lyris, in March 2013. The findings of both surveys indicate some gaps in marketers’ perception of how consumers want to engage with brands, what influences their purchase decisions and how they view privacy. The survey results also highlight the challenges that marketers face in managing the vast volumes of customer data and in ensuring that they have the necessary skills required to succeed in marketing today—when harnessing complex data sets has become a critical factor for success.
“Big Data” is now seen as the most necessary skill for marketers (37% of respondents)—a significant increase from the 17% who said this was true five years ago. This change in the required skill set (82% of marketers say crucial skills have changed) has created a challenge for marketers as 45% of executives now view marketers’ limited competency in data analysis as a major obstacle to implementing more effective strategies—second only to inadequate budgets for digital marketing and database management.
Although marketers are eager to expand social media, blogs and mobile outlets, e-mail holds more sway in the purchasing process. For an initial introduction to a product, consumers prefer e-mail (37% of respondents) followed by printed catalogues (35%) and personal referrals (33%).
[pullquote]Only about one in five consumers say they prefer social media sites and blogs to make purchase assessments or decisions.[/pullquote]
While marketers are focused on personalising messages, consumers see them as superficial and are becoming jaded. Consumers say the volume of personalised marketing messages received has increased over the past five years. The majority (63%) claim that personalisation is now so common that they have grown numb to it, with 33% of consumers citing superficial personalisation as one of their top annoyances.
Although marketers understand consumers’ need for product information, they underestimate consumers’ reliance on new product referrals. When consumers research purchases online, 77% say they often spend their time comparing product prices and features. They prefer company channels to independent channels for this research by a wide margin. On the other hand, they rate independent channels far more highly for subjective information like expert and peer reviews. Even though marketers are correct in assuming a high level of consumer interest in pricing/promotions, product features and product reliability/warranties, marketers attribute more importance than consumers to reliability/reputation, peer review and expert opinion. Indeed, consumers rank new product referrals above all these.
Marketing executives underestimate consumer concerns about privacy. Some 21% of consumers say they are “very concerned” about the privacy of information contained in e-mail communications with vendors; 39% say they are concerned about information tracked by cookies when visiting company websites.