Digital marketers using data in ‘rear view mirror’ and failing to keep track of customers

Liz MillerA lack of skills, a failure to track consumers and using data in a retrospective rather than forward-thinking way is holding back Australia’s digital marketing industry, according to an ongoing study.

Despite leading the way in Asia Pacific in the adoption of digital, Australian marketers have been told there “is still a way to go” before they unearth its true potential, according the CMO Council’s third annual APAC Digital Marketing Performance Dashboard, produced in association with Adobe.

“We are finding that key areas of digital marketing are progressing and improving. Leadership is embracing digital marketing and we are stepping out of that sense that everything is in testing and piloting,” said Liz Miller, CMO Council vice-president of marketing programs and operations. “They are seeing it as a key channel not just from a competitive advantage viewpoint but also engagement.”


Locally, 52 per cent of chief marketing officers own the digital marketing strategy, compared with only 39 per cent across Asia Pacific, while 62 per cent of Australian firms have a “digital champion” on the leadership team, well above the regional average of 38 per cent.

The study also found that more than eight out of 10 Australian marketers cite engagement as a key driver in the adoption of digital, compared with just 58 per cent in Asia Pacific.

“Part of the reason is that customers are “setting the pace” and are “expecting digital experiences” meaning the industry has no option but to follow, she said.

But while progress is being made, there remain barriers that are holding back the development of digital, Miller said

“Digital now needs to connect fully and integrate completely with social and mobile, that’s a big issue. People do not engage with channels, they engage with brands yet we construct all of our campaigns for customers to engage by channel,” she told Mumbrella.

“We are beginning to see that the customer is now defining where and when they begin their relationship, which is a very different scenario for us. We used to have this naïve belief that because we sent out an email, that started the relationship.

“We are no longer living in a world in which we can kid ourselves that the customer journey is a linear function. Every customer chooses to start and stop and progress their own personal journey. There are lots of different entry points but we still believe that the customer journey is linear because we decide it to be so.”

cmo-hi_res_logoToo many organisations still operate their digital marketing in isolation from each other, Miller added, describing marketers as “amazing silo builders”.

“It’s a mindset. We have built up all these silos – we are amazing silo builders – where we’ve got an email person, a social person, someone in mobile. And then we have a mobile SMS person, a mobile app person. We create all these buckets but the problem is customers don’t engage with buckets, they engage with brands.

“What we have set up for our customer forces them to reintroduce themselves to us every time they pick a new channel to engage. It’s like walking into a party and reintroducing yourself every time you meet the host. Who wants to do that?

“We have created these experiences where we are telling the customer quite actively that we don’t care about our total relationship, we only care about this moment in time.”

The lack of skills also remains a hindrance with the talent gap “huge” in Asia Pacific and “better but not great in Australia”. Miller cited anecdotes suggesting the skills shortage in Australia is growing “because people who are really good are leaving to go to the US to get to where the action is”.

“Companies are either having to upskill or import talent and it’s costly not matter how you slice that.”

Many firms in Asia Pacific have brought in agencies to plug the skills gap but a habit of “asking the wrong questions” is causing friction.

“What we are finding is that marketers think the agency is filling a strategic void but the agents think they are there to fill a tactical void,” Miller said. “They both end up disappointed because we are asking the wrong questions. It is one of the traps that Australia hopefully won’t get caught in.”

Miller said one of the biggest issues is that data is not being used correctly, revealing that only 7 per cent of marketers believe data can provide a competitive differentiation for their organisation.

“It’s largely because the majority of marketers across Asia Pacific and certainty the majority of marketers across Australia believe that data should be utilised to report on KPI,” she said. “We are justifying what we already buy. That mindset really just forces you to only see marketing through a rear view mirror whereas data should be used to provide information on future spend.

“We are not using data to progressively improve a lifecycle of the customer. We are not saying, ok, I am going to continue to improve the campaign over the customer’s lifecycle. Marketers are lasered into focusing on a moment in time.

“When they are collecting all this data they are collecting campaign data. We are collecting click throughs, likes, web metrics, things that we use to justify campaigns success instead of using data to better understand our key customer segments, to be able to engage and deliver exactly the experiences the customer is expecting.”

Steve Jones



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