Marketers Are Struggling With Cross-Channel Data, Signal Study Finds

Only 6 percent of marketers have a single view of their customers — and it’s not for lack of trying.

Marketers are having a tough time creating a single identity of today’s omnichannel shopper. Earlier this month, cross-channel marketing data platform Signal conducted a global online survey of 171 brand and agency marketers spanning more than 17 verticals.

Preparing For Cross-Channel Success: Solving The Identity Puzzle,” released today, found that only 6 percent of marketers say they have attained a single view of customers that is sufficient to support their cross-channel marketing goals. Fifty-six percent of marketers say they’re dissatisfied or neutral with how far they’ve come.

For many brands, the main problem lies in the technology and in the focus. Marketers don’t have the technology to match siloed, fragmented first party data so as to accurately measure cross-channel campaigns. What’s more, marketers are woefully behind on mobile, with many not collecting enough data there to fuse it with data garnered from the web.

While Joe Stanhope, SVP of Marketing at Signal, says that he’s surprised by some of the dismal findings, he’s mostly excited by the fact that marketers recognize the importance of omnichannel data, and are determined to do better.

Signal's Stanhope
Signal’s Stanhope

GeoMarketing: What was the impetus behind this study?

We do surveys a couple times a year just to generate some factual information that our clients are interested in, but this is the first time we did one on this specific topic. Signal is a data identity foundation for cross-channel marketing and customer experience management, and as our discussions around identity have escalated past tactical things like match rates and developing profiles and data collection, we thought, “Why not go out to the market and do a survey and see if everyone else feels the same as we do about [data identity and cross channel marketing]?”

The survey is way for us to validate that idea that identity resonates with marketers and delivers value to businesses, but also to understand the pain points and challenges.

Were there any big surprises for you? Good and/or bad?

I was pretty surprised when we asked people which channels they currently collect data from; there was such a stark drop off after the web and messaging. I always thought it would be more balanced with some of the offline data and even some of the other digital data like search data and media data. But basically everyone said they were pretty decent at email and messaging and web data and after that it really drops off. I was surprised, especially with ad impressions.

So much money goes into that right now — tens of billions of dollars — but the numbers about how much of that data is actually being collected and used on the backend is shockingly low versus the amount of money and attention it gets.

My favorite part [of the survey] was getting data back saying that this all matters and has business benefits. This told me that this is a challenge worth overcoming.

According to your study, marketers are very keen on succeeding at omnichannel data integration — yet only 6 percent feel they’re doing so. What are they doing wrong and what’s the solution?  

It’s not like everyone has been sitting around doing nothing all this time. The reality is that identity is really hard work; getting the right data. Processing the data in the right way, making the data available to customer experiences — it’s not easy. There are so many different technologies at play. We figured out that a large number of [marketers], 57 percent, aren’t able to merge the data together in the right way to take fragments of data and turn that into a single customer profile. Seventy percent told us that their technology has gaps in collecting the data. Only 8 percent said their tools are doing a good enough job.

The big struggle is in collecting that data. Only one-third of marketers can connect and integrate it today.

There is a maturity cycle in the way people adopt this kind of capability. You don’t just flip a switch and magically have all this identity and start using it. Marketers, and the way they use data, are maturing just as much as their capabilities are. We found that they tend to use the data for things like attribution and analytics. Then, when they have better analytics, they start doing more marketing based on that data. There’s a process for how companies mature into this.   

Can you explain what data means in terms of identity?

Data is the fuel for an identity engine. You need to collect data from the right sources in your customer journey. A CRM system, ad buys, a website, a mobile application. But you also need to collect the right data from those systems. So you need to understand how do you match people, what behavior data is useful, what attributes about your customers are actually useful and that’s where the challenge is. The starting point is always the data, collecting it. But then there’s a drill-down on what you’re going to collect and how you’re going to use it.

What type of marketers fall within that 6 percent that are excelling at single view identity?

The most progressive clients in the survey are those in ecommerce and retail. They tend to have the most data, they’re already good at technology, and they have a strong marketing background. They have a lot of skin in the game. Incremental improvements can make a huge difference to their business, so they’re the most aggressive in pursuing these capabilities.

What’s interesting here is that Signal is seeing a lot of other industries starting to take this seriously that historically may have lacked. We’re seeing interest from [marketers] in consumer-packaged goods (CPG) and automotive, and if you’d asked a few years ago, I’d have said that the CPG guys don’t care, that it’s not a part of their business model.

That’s changed. Big companies like Kraft want to know their customers and build relationships across all their brands separately from just having shelf space in a store somewhere. So they’ve gotten pretty progressive and aggressive about doing a better job with identity, collecting data, creating programs, and marketing and branding in such a way that they are having direct and productive relationships with consumers.

How might geo-data play a role for these marketers?

We didn’t specifically address location or geo-data in this survey. The survey more heavily emphasized devices and touch points as opposed to specific data points. The closest thing to that is we did ask quite a but about mobile. We asked mobile data collection and so on, ad unfortunately, that drops off quite a bit which is one of the challenges. It’s hard to collect that data.

Mobile is in a sense the proxy for getting some of that location data. In general, I think location data is one of the great underrated pieces of information. When we talk about not only collecting data from a channel, like mobile, but what data you collect, I think location is one of the most important things you can collect and put to use in interesting ways.

Collecting mobile data is something [marketers] cited consistently as being really difficult not only from mobile web, but especially from mobile apps. If you’re not accessing those touch points for data collection then there’s no way you’re getting location information or behavior information. It’s a serious problem and a serious challenge.

How can marketers face this challenge?

The survey articulates that in knowing your consumer and having a single view is a long-term strategy.  It’s about collecting data from the right places and making the most of first party information. It’s about building those profiles and making it a continuous buildup — something that actually changes all the time. Get the data, build the profiles and activate that data. Identity is not “shelf-ware.” It’s something you want to actively use to do better analytics or to provide a better customer experience, or better media targeting. There’s an holistic way to think about identity and what it is.

If you were to repeat this survey in a year, how do you think the results would differ? 

We’ll see progress for sure, but we won’t be there completely. It will take more than 12 months to get through this journey. I think we’ll see a lot more companies getting through creating the basic identity capability as an asset for their company and a way for interacting with customers. And they’ll be using it heavily to drive their analytics and attribution and their marketing and media.