NEW YORK: The most successful brand owners are prioritising innovation, consumer engagement, customer analytics and streamlining their operations, a study by Accenture has argued.

The consultancy surveyed 400 marketers worldwide, 71% of which agreed shoppers now demand greater value, while 69% suggested price sensitivity has grown and 68% said expectations about service were higher.

Over 60% of executives revealed these shifts had exerted a "very large" impact on strategic planning thus far.

Elsewhere, 72% reported product quality was increasingly key, 66% believed respecting the fact individuals and families are time-poor is vital, and 63% cited a need for enhanced convenience.

Although 58% confirmed popular spending habits have changed and consumers seem more "self-directed", only 39% thought loyalty levels had decreased.

The same number asserted it was harder to reach the desired demographics via traditional channels and 53% added that forging a personal connection should be considered a main concern.

Approximately 59% have adopted tailored approaches in certain countries, and 52% were seeking to meet the preferences of varying age groups.

Innovation is another differentiating factor, as 60% of the sample advocated generating goods with unique features.

However, less than 12% of those polled intend to heighten the funds allocated to marketing initiatives this year, including 11% "streamlining processes", and 9% supporting digital advertising and other online programmes.

Developing and training staff registered the same figure, but under 20% of industry specialists expressed confidence that they possessed the resources and tools required to perform effectively.

Accenture said the "leading growth companies" which are taking "marketing to a new level of rigor" displayed four common characteristics.

"They have recognised that digital technologies and social media, and the vastly more interactive customer experience that these forces enable, have boosted the power of what we call scientific marketing," it said.

More specifically, 63% of firms recording growth in 2009 stated they were "above-average" in executing marketing schemes, as did 54% for monitoring the contribution of such efforts to business results.

A further 77% lauded their capacity to build lasting relationships, 57% had created "branded experiences" across various touchpoints, 55% used multiple communications channels and 48% leveraged digital media.

Three-quarters of companies fitting this profile are currently targeting new customers and markets, and two-thirds premised R&D on crafting distinctive products.

Defining the "brand promise and managed brand value" was a policy employed by 65% of top-performers, and a similar number forged bespoke experiences based on this positioning.

Meanwhile, 68% of pre-eminent organisations identify and focus on "high-potential segments", and 59% access and translate consumer and category data into concrete insights.

The leading operators out-scored rivals posting revenue declines by between 3% and 20% on each of these measures.

Cosmetics firm Sephora has exemplified best practice, allowing shoppers to experiment in-store thanks to a "no-sales pressure" environment, and fostering a consistent approach across the web.

Analytics have also been deployed to track evolving tastes, and Sephora's CRM system is highly sophisticated, powering a loyalty scheme delivering particularly relevant offers to consumers.

HarperCollins was one of the first publishers to digitise its content, alongside launching a dedicated recommendation and user-review site, Authonomy.

Its Inkpop platform enables writers to engage teenagers and lets budding young authors upload their work, combining social network features with formal feedback from editors.

Data sourced from Accenture; additional content by Warc staff