Marketers face new tests

12 October 2011

NEW YORK: Marketers are becoming increasingly "stretched" thanks to the rise of new technologies and empowered consumers, and many also lack the tools to counter these trends, a study has found.

IBM, the business services firm, polled 1,734 chief marketing officers in 19 industries and 64 countries, a panel including executives representing 48 of the 100 most valuable brands listed by Interbrand.

It found that 79% agreed the situation will become more complex in the next five years. But just 48% felt ready to meet such challenges, leading to what was termed a capability "gap".

A 71% share of contributors saw the contemporary data "explosion" as an obstacle, standing at 68% for social media, 65% regarding the proliferation of channels and devices and 63% discussing changing demographics.

Elsewhere, 59% cited financial limitations, 57% mentioned falling brand loyalty and 56% referred to tapping growth markets, customer collaboration and proving ROI. Privacy concerns logged 55% and global outsourcing scored 54%.

A majority of interviewees did not think they were prepared to tackle each of these matters, leaving regulatory issues and corporate transparency as the sole areas where confidence was higher.

Platforms attracting marketers included social media, with 82% of operators set to increase their activity going forward, coming in at 81% for analytics and CRM, 80% for mobile apps, 73% for content management and 72% for tablet apps.

When anticipating the measures which would be used to determine success in five years, 63% of companies believed ROI will be central, a role 58% afforded to the customer experience, 48% attributed to conversions and 45% handed to overall sales.

More broadly, IBM revealed 80% of marketers hold "significant influence" over promotional areas like advertising, communications and new media, but only 56% claimed the same status for product factors such as portfolio management and R&D.

Similarly, a modest 44% can shape "place" decisions, be it channel selection or supply chain management, matching the number that had a major say on pricing.

Another key difficulty relates to understanding shoppers. Over 80% of firms employ traditional strategies like market research and benchmarking while making decisions, and more than 60% monitor campaigns, brand metrics, customer service and sales.

However, focusing on the individual in less common: 74% of companies use consumer analytics, declining to 48% for tracking user reviews, 42% for keeping up with third-party ratings, 40% for listening to online buzz and 26% for capturing data from blogs.

"Approximately 90% of all the real-time information being created today is unstructured data," Carolyn Heller Baird, of the IBM Institute for Business Value, said. "CMOs who successfully harness this new source of insight will be in a strong position."

Data sourced from IBM; additional content by Warc staff