NEW YORK: Many brand owners are still struggling to leverage the opportunities for engaging consumers provided by digital media, research from McKinsey has found.

The consultancy polled 792 marketing executives worldwide from a range of industries, 81% of which agreed having an effective online presence was either "very" or "extremely" important.

A 56% share suggested the rise of digital channels had helped them interact with and better serve customers in the last two years, while 39% had secured increased access to data and insights.

Elsewhere, 30% of firms had targeted new consumer segments, 25% cut business costs and 24% made greater use of analytics to make decisions, the same amount as had seen new organisational models and revenue streams emerge.

Currently, 78% of marketing departments utilised their website homepage to reach consumers, hitting 60% for email, 39% for social media, 20% for natural search and 18% for paid search.

Banner ads posted 17% here, while 13% of the featured corporations deployed mobile and SMS, 12% had a branded online store and 11% boasted mobile applications.

Looking four years into the future, however, 48% of the sample thought mobile apps would be crucial and 47% expected social media to be key, well ahead of official website homepages in third on 28%.

When discussing challenges, 32% of respondents regarded the ability to generate and exploit "deep" customer insights as their biggest obstacle, as did 22% for managing brand reputation given the rise of social media.

Additionally, 31% of interviewees said common online measures failed to quantify financial impacts, 24% asserted it could be hard to determine what was being tracked, and 23% complained there was a lack of fit with traditional metrics.

An equal number believed that existing tools did not monitor the right levers, such as repeat purchase intent and 20% concurred that the results received were not sufficiently "actionable".

Despite the fact 71% of firms anticipated "data-driven customer insights" would be essential in the next four years, only 4% have the required capabilities in this area today.

For 43% of companies, the goal of successfully understanding such information was increasing sales, and 42% pointed to enhancing customer engagement.

Data sourced from McKinsey; additional content by Warc staff