Consumers Aren’t As Into Personalization As You Think, and Other Survey Results

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I review a lot of surveys — easily a dozen each week.  Mostly they go into a big file which I mine occasionally for helpful factoids to spice up a paper or presentation.  Sometimes I take a more thorough tour to look at some bigger issues.  Today is one of those days.

Specifically, I was prepping for a presentation in Amsterdam, which meant I needed to present general industry trends and then see what is different in Europe.  This turned out to be pretty interesting.  But I assembled vastly more data than I could include in any presentation where shackles were not involved. So I’m sharing it all here with you instead. 

(I’ve also packaged it all in a paper for the Customer Data Platform Institute, available here.  Much more convenient than copying this blog post if you want a reference copy.)

Note that there’s more information on sources at the end of this post.  For now, let’s just get to the good stuff.



Consumer Attitudes: Personalization

If marketers hold any truth to be self-evident, it’s that today’s consumers want and expect personalization. The reality is a bit different and depends greatly on the definition of “personalization”. The majority of consumers believe they receive personalized service, but many fewer expect personalized experiences. What they do expect is consistent service, shared information, and being identified as repeat customers. In other words, they expect you to know who they are and to use that data to serve them – for example, by being aware of past purchases and problems. But they don’t necessarily expect you to make personalized offers or otherwise personalize their experience.

We do see quite consistently that European consumers have lower expectations for all kinds of personalization.

Whether or not consumers expect personalization, it can still be a competitive advantage to provide it. The majority of consumers do say they’re more loyal to brands that understand them and provide good service, and more likely to stop doing business with brands with poor service. But, again, the focus seems to be more on service than proactive personalization: barely one quarter of consumers said that anticipating needs is the most important part of personalization. This may come as a shock to marketers who have put anticipating needs at the top of their list of reasons to do personalization.

These results shouldn’t be read as a reason to ignore customer needs. Companies get more revenue when they offer customers what they want, whether or not the customer expects it.

We again see that European consumers place slightly less weight than U.S. consumers on personalization, although the difference is less pronounced than with expectations. One interpretation would be that European consumers don’t expect personalized treatments and thus don’t factor it into their behavior.


Consumer Attitudes: Privacy

Marketers know they need to balance personalization against privacy. We’ve just seen that consumer interest in personalization may not be quite as high we thought. By contrast, consumers show great interest in privacy, both in general and specifically in relation to marketing. More than three-quarters don’t want companies to market to them based on personal data. Fewer than half would trade their data for personalized service, even though that’s the reason most companies give for collecting it. Although European consumers show slightly less concern about privacy in general, they are more opposed than U.S. consumers to letting companies use their data for marketing. This is consistent with the personalization results: if European consumers place less value on personalization, it makes sense that they’d be less willing to share their personal data to enable personalized treatments.

Looking beyond personalization to the broader question of trust, we again see that Europeans place less trust in business than U.S. consumers. An astonishing 68% believe brands sell their data. This may reflect the attention drawn to data sharing by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Europeans’ lack of trust in most business may also explain why they are more likely to support brands that do show high purpose.

Marketing Technology

Now let’s turn to marketers. Most European marketers will tell you that their region is behind the U.S. in adoption of advanced marketing technology. European consumer perceptions of less personalization support this. The data here do show that European marketers use fewer data sources and channels for most purposes, although the figure for inputs to attribution is higher. The differences are relatively small with the significant exception that Europeans report using personalization in 20% fewer channels (4.1 vs 5.1) than U.S. marketers.

The gap is larger when we focus specifically on data integration. European marketers are much more likely to cite challenges with linking multiple data sources, more likely to see linking data as the reason to deploy a Data Management Platform, and more likely to avoid a DMP because the technology is too complex. While integration is a substantial problem for many U.S. based marketers, it’s clear the pain is greater in Europe – despite having slightly fewer data sources to integrate.

The same pattern holds for marketing technology in general. European marketers spend a slightly smaller share of their marketing budget on martech and a slightly smaller share of their martech budget on data and analytics. But while those differences are fairly small, U.S. marketers expect much higher growth in their 2019 martech budgets. This is a significant indicator of attitudes regardless of what actually happens. Similarly, European marketers show consistently but slightly lower adoption of advanced marketing systems such as DMP, cross-channel engagement, and flexible attribution models.



Marketing Maturity

Looking beyond technology, we see that U.S. and European marketers share a high level of belief in personalization. But European marketers rank lower on other measures that indicate maturity. It’s particularly intriguing that European marketers are less likely than U.S. marketers to be prioritizing first party data, even though GDPR is generally assumed to make first party data more important.

In sum, the belief that European marketers are using less advanced technology than U.S. marketers appears to be correct.


Leaders vs Mainstream

What separates the most successful marketers from the rest? This data, all from the same survey, found that high performing marketing departments were twice as likely to be responsible for technical activities related to customer data: operations, governance, security, and schemas. This suggests that marketers do in fact get better results when they have more control over their customer data. By contrast, leading and mainstream departments had similar responsibility levels for traditional marketing activities such as automation rules, data acquisition, and analytics.

It’s important to qualify this message. Even among leading marketing departments, the majority do not have technical responsibilities. So clearly success is possible under other arrangements. It’s also important to recognize that marketing and IT will almost always share some responsibilities. And they should.

Other leader vs mainstream comparisons provide more insight into the challenges faced at different maturity levels. Mainstream marketers are more likely than leaders to cite disparate technology as their biggest martech challenge: this suggests that is the first hurdle to cross. Leaders, having started to knit together their systems, are likely to run into organizational barriers next. Once they resolve organizational problems, they can deliver results such as a single customer view and quantifying the benefits of personalization and real time marketing. Few mainstream marketers, still fighting technical and organizational battles, are able to accomplish these.

Some markers show much less correlation with leadership. Mainstream marketers are nearly as likely as leaders to lead customer experience initiatives and to run real time interactions in at least one channel. Note that single channel real interactions do not require unified customer data or any type of shared systems. So they are not by themselves an indication of maturity.

Customer Data Platforms

Finally, we’ll look at some information specifically related to Customer Data Platforms. The table below compares CDP selection priorities for enterprise vs mid-tier buyers. It supports the common belief that these groups have different concerns. Enterprise marketers give higher priority to data security and integrating data from many sources, including third party data. Mid-market buyers also rank security as their top concern but then look for help with internal data and for data analysis tools. These are probably problems that enterprises have already solved. One implication is that CDP vendors may find themselves specializing in one or the other type of buyer so they can optimize their systems for the different needs.

I also have several surveys that asked about CDP deployment. Answers vary greatly although the general result suggests that CDP adoption is getting close to DMP adoption. The very low figure from Heinz Marketing reflects the nature of its survey, which asked B2B marketers about tools for marketing analytics and pipeline management. The audiences for the other surveys were more representative but the figures still seem much higher than likely. The CDP Institute’s own estimate is that market penetration for CDPs at the end of 2018 was around 15%.

Note on Sources

This paper draws from surveys with different audiences, survey methods, and sample sizes. The origin of each item is indicated by a number that relates to the list of surveys below.  This list provides some information about each survey, as presented in the survey report.
Data from the original surveys has been processed in several ways:



• Questions have been paraphrased for brevity and clarity.
• European results are averages of country results, which have been weighted in different cases by national population, sample size, or not at all. Different surveys included different countries.
• Some U.S. results include data from all of North America.

Readers should be able to track down the original survey reports on the Internet. I haven’t published links because links change too often to be useful.

1 Acquia, Closing the CX Gap: Customer Experience Trends Report 2019. More than 5,000 consumers and 500 marketers.
2 AdRoll, The State of Marketing Attribution, 2017. 987 respondents recruited by email and social media. Majority at director/manager level.
3 Aspect, 2017 Aspect Consumer Experience Index. Online survey with 1,000 aggregate U.S. sample and similar in Germany, Spain, United Kingdom.
4 Econsultancy, The Customer Data Imperative, 2018. 509 online survey respondents, primarily at large B2C brands. Mix of marketing, IT, and operations.
5 Edelman, 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer. 33,000_ online survey respondents across 28 countries.
6 ExchangeWire, Adoption vs Execution: How Media Agencies Across the Globe Are Making the Most of their DMP’s Capabilities, 2017. 470 agency professionals.
7 Frost & Sullivan, The Global State of Online Digital Trust, 2018. 990 survey responses.
8 Gemalto, Data Security Confidence Index, 2018. 1,050 IT decision makers from organizations with perimeter security systems.
9 GlobalWebIndex, Trends 19, 2019. 91,913 Internet users aged 16-64.
10 Harvard Business Review Analytics Services, The Age of Personalization, 2018. 625 responders from audience of Harvard Business Review readers. Primarily executive/senior management at large enterprises.
11 Heinz Marketing, State of Revenue Marketing, 2018. 241 B2B marketing executives, primarily small to mid-size companies.
12 Infosys, Endless Possibilities with Data, 2018. 1,062 senior executives from organizations with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion.
13 Ipsos+Medallia, The Customer Experience Tipping Point, 2018. 8,002 consumers in U.S., UK, France, Germany.
14 Mulesoft, Consumer Connectivity Insights 2018. 650 IT decision makers at organization with 1,000+ employees.
15 Relevancy Group, CDP Buyers Guide 2018. 406 executive marketers.
16 Salesforce Research, Fifth Edition State of Marketing 2019. 4,101 responses from full-time marketing leaders, primarily mid-size organizations. Mix of B2B and B2C.
17 Sizmek, Marketers Survey Results 2018: An Insider’s Look at Data, Walled Gardens, and Collaboration. 522 B2C brand marketers.
18 Spiceworks, 2019 State of IT, IT Marketing. 780 business technology buyers.
19 Walker Sands, State of Marketing Technology 2018. 300 marketing professionals. Primarily small to mid-size companies.
20 WE Communications, Brands in Motion 2018. Online interview of consumer survey panel totaling 11,000+ in U.S., U.K., and Germany.
21 Winterberry Group, Know Your Audience: The Evolution of Identity in a Consumer-Centric Marketplace, 2018. Online survey of more than 400 advertisers, marketers, fundraisers, publishers, technology developers and marketing service providers.

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