As 2019 closes, AccuList’s data services clients have a year’s worth of multichannel customer, campaign and sales information to analyze and inform 2020 plans. So what are the big trends that the data pros foresee will deliver maximum ROI?
Data Hygiene Issues Remain a Priority
Clean, up-to-date, quality data is still the basis for good marketing analyses and campaign planning. A November Business2Community post by marketer Dan Moyle helpfully summarized the key data cleansing tasks that businesses need to undertake to hit the ground running in 2020. After all, it’s estimated that 20% of the average contact database is dirty, so this is not a trivial effort. Increasing marketing efficiency, response and customer loyalty, requires removing data errors and inconsistencies. Start by monitoring data for issues such as duplicates, missing information or bad records to figure out how and where they are occurring. Then standardize processes at each entry point. Next validate the accuracy of data across the database by investing in data tools or expert data services, and commit to regular cleansing and maintenance of data quality. Identify and scrub duplicates. Once the data has been standardized, validated and de-duped, improve its analytic value by using third-party data appending sources (to flesh out demographics, psychographics, firm-ographics, purchase history, etc.) for a more complete customer picture. Establish a feedback process to spot and update, or purge, incorrect information, such as invalid e-mail addresses identified by a campaign. And communicate standards and processes to the whole team so that they understand the value of clean data in segmentation targeting, lead response, customer service and more.
Using Data for an Agile, Personalized, Customer-Centric Edge
Data trends figured prominently in the 2019 Martech Conference and a recent article from martech firm Lineate highlights a few keynotes, such as the role of data in personalization. When a 2019 RedPoint Global survey of U.S. and Canadian consumers finds that 63% expect personalization as a standard of service and want to be individually recognized in special offers, personalized marketing is clearly a competitive essential. Expect to see use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) increase in 2020 as personalization tools. Machine learning is when a computer is able to find patterns within large amounts of data in order to improve or optimize for a specific task. For example, for more personalized offers and messaging in acquisition, this means using ML to recognize if people from certain areas are more likely to respond to a specific offer or which past high-response special offers may resonate in future . Personalization is also key to the customer-centric experience proven to drive long-term retention and brand loyalty–as opposed to getting the same message again and again. When personalization is combined with elimination of data silos and creation of a single customer view across channels, marketing becomes especially powerful. Indeed, integrated database development and the elimination of data silos are also key to the growing “agile marketing” trend. Agile marketing breaks down team silos (which assumes breaking down data silos) in favor of teams focusing on high-value projects collectively. According to a 2018 survey by Kapost, 37% of businesses have already adopted agile marketing, and another 50% said they haven’t yet become agile but expect to be soon.
Taking Data Insights From Retroactive to Predictive
Looking ahead to 2020, marketers should also consider adding predictive modeling to their toolkit if they haven’t already done so. Why? A study by ClickZ and analytics platform provider Keen found that 58% of marketers using predictive modeling experienced a 10%-25% ROI lift, while another 19% saw more than a 50% uplift. While retroactive campaign data can be very useful for reporting and results analysis, it’s not always as good for informing future multichannel directions, for optimizing media investments, or for quick execution and performance assessment. In fact, nearly 80% of Keen/ClickZ survey respondents felt they’d missed opportunities because of slow or inaccurate decision-making using non-predictive data reporting. For example, standard data analysis often fails to span all channels (e.g., online video vs. store-level programming) and mistakenly gives most credit to last-click channels such as search or transactional activities. In contrast, the Keen/ClickZ survey found marketers using predictive modeling boosted results in multiple areas, including a better understanding of the target audience (71%), optimizing of touchpoints on the customer journey (53%), and improving creative performance (44%). Predictive modeling also can help businesses synthesize large volumes of data, a key concern for many; in fact, 38% indicated their current measurement solutions do not support the scale of their data.
Many of AccuList’s promotional products marketing clients have been able to ride corporate buyers’ profits to an average 1.3% annual growth rate in the last five years through 2019, reaching $17 billion in U.S. revenues this year, per IBISWorld market research. But a number of challenges, requiring innovative solutions, lie ahead.
Tariffs, Amazon, Economy May Challenge Growth
Continuation of the tariffs imposed in the U.S.-China trade war are likely to have a direct impact on the promotional products market, where the vast majority of products come from China, creating rising product prices and uncertainty, even though most suppliers and distributors have continued to post sales gains this year. One of the options that some companies are already taking is a shift to sourcing from countries outside of China, such as Vietnam, per the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI). Meanwhile, the promotional products market is facing competitive challenges from the entry of big online competitors such as behemoth Amazon. Market execs have told ASI that they believe the entry of the e-commerce power threatens to potentially cut out suppliers and distributors by positioning itself as the lowest-cost provider from a product and freight perspective. Their worries include Amazon opting to partner with only select suppliers and distributors; selling direct through its platform; and/or using its search presence for rankings that create winners and losers, and force up advertising expenses for all. Web-based distributors and large online stores are on the front lines, but all promo products firms fear competing with the e-commerce giant’s buyer expectations and immediate delivery and return services. Finally, the potential of an economic slowdown or even recession has some nervous, too. To prep for that possibility, promo product pros say they are putting more stress on prospecting and networking, distributor-supplier partnering to reduce costs, and lower-ticket items with good repeat business.
E-commerce and Technology Will Be Key Drivers
ASI recently interviewed 10 leading suppliers and distributors in the promotional products market for their visions on handling such challenges over the next 5-10 years. The good news is that all foresaw continued growth, albeit with increasing consolidation and online dominance. For example, Mark Simon, president/CEO of distributor HALO Branded Solutions, forecast: “Technology will drive every aspect of the industry in the next 10 years. Buyers will require more robust and more diverse methods to select and purchase products, and follow their orders throughout the order life cycle… Our industry must keep pace with the enhanced buying experience other channels are providing to stay relevant.” E-commerce will be the standard, benefiting big players but leaving room for niche firms as Mark Freed, President/CEO of distributor Genumark, predicts: “I see continuous growth from the large online players that provide a fast, painless, accessible solution for clients looking for simple, inexpensive drop-shipping. I also see continuous growth and consolidation for multifaceted large distributors providing a suite of features that meet a variety of complex requirements for sophisticated clients, which could be related to logistics and fulfillment, quality and compliance, off-the-charts creativity and relentless customer service. There will still be a place for smaller, boutique-size distributors, but they better have a niche like specialized knowledge of the client’s industry or unbelievably innovative ideas.”
Bigger Roles for Data Analytics, Personalized Service, and Creative Marketing
Meanwhile, in the expanded digital environment, data management will loom large; Sharon Eyal, CEO/owner of supplier ETS Express, asserts that “in the next five years, a reliance on data will be more important than ever… We look at how many orders we have in production, which materials are being used, which items are being ordered, which types of decoration, etc. and then we expand and contract in departments as needed.” Up against Amazon, personalized customer experience will be key, too; Jana Schmidt, CEO of distributor Harland Clarke, stresses the “need to provide a personalized, frictionless experience to businesses as clients seek to promote their brands. There’s separation between having an e-commerce presence and truly building the online buying experience.” And creativity will count for even more; Debbie Abergel, chief strategic officer of Jack Nadel International, says, “There will also be a growth of creative promotional agencies – the rise and marriage of creativity and custom. Think about corporate clients that invest in giving their clients and employees a true brand product experience; not price-focused, but looking to build their brand name.” She cites the interest in reusable straws as an example. Read more predictions for the promotional products industry.
AccuList’s recognition and incentive products marketing clients will be happy to know that the market is strong and stable, per the most recent data. A 2019 survey of employee recognition programs, conducted by rewards association WorldatWork and underwritten by Maritz Motivation, found the programs overwhelmingly common (87%) among organizations surveyed, typically companywide (88%), and almost all in place for more than five years. But there are details and shifts worth noting.
Increases in Both Company Commitment and Neglect
While most companies surveyed are seeing the same level of use for recognition and incentive products as last year, one in three are seeing an uptick. In fact, the study found growth at both ends of the corporate commitment spectrum, with an increase in deeply-embedded recognition programs (17% in 2019 compared to 10% in 2015) but also an increase in companies who say they have no employee recognition policy, strategy or philosophy (19% in 2019 compared to 12% in 2015). Survey respondents agreed that their programs are meeting goals for the most part (48%) or somewhat (31%), but there is room for improvement and change since only 18% said they are definitely meeting goals. Program administrators may come from the Human Resources (50%), Compensation (25%) and Benefits (8%) departments, but the key to growth is likely to be more senior executive support, increasing the 52% of senior executives who now support recognition programs as an investment. Indeed, companies without recognition programs cite cost and lack of leadership support as the main impediments.
Multiple Programs Dominate and Gift Cards Reign
The average organization uses eight separate recognition programs. The most typical programs reward length of service (72%) and above-and-beyond performance (62%). Programs to motivate specific behaviors or outputs such as customer service (34%), productivity (27%) and quality (27%) are lower on the list. Meanwhile, biometric/wellness programs are the ones that impact the highest proportion of the workforce today (40% of workers in the last 12 months), followed by personal events (33%) and company milestones (32%). What recognition and incentive products top the survey? Gift cards lead (62%), followed by cash (50%), clocks/watches (49%), plaques/trophies/certificates (47%), apparel/accessories (46%), jewelry (46%), sporting/recreational goods (44%), electronics (42%) and luggage/leather goods (41%). At the bottom are travel (24%), debit cards (20%) and concierge services (10%). It’s worth noting that 46% of organizations increase the valued amount of the recognition award in order to offset the tax impact (also known as grossing up the award).
ROI Is Underutilized Measure of Program Success
Popular goals of recognition programs include motivating high performance, creating/maintaining a positive work environment and increasing engagement, with 24% using recognition to support a culture of change. But the study found that organizations tend to measure the success of those programs and goals by employee satisfaction/engagement surveys (65%) or employee involvement (47% use number of nominations and 37% count employee usage or participation rates). There is a lot lower use of external performance data such as customer surveys (24%), employee turnover (23%), productivity (12%) or profit (12%). Unsurprisingly, recognition programs that could lead to higher, measurable ROI (error reduction, safety, waste minimization, etc.) remain relatively rare, and management recognition training is infrequent and rarely updated. However, about half of organizations surveyed do feature recognition programs in efforts to attract new employees!
For more details, see the complete WorldatWork “2019 Trends in Employee Recognition” report