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Personalization and Privacy Trends Highlight Need for Data Strategy

As data brokers, the AccuList team keeps a close eye on the many issues affecting the data strategies of our direct marketing clients. Data privacy is going to be one of those issues. While many of our U.S. clients are not affected directly by the European Union’s General Data Protection Act (GDPR), U.S.-based consumer-data privacy efforts have now resulted in the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), with other states likely following that model and federal legislation on the horizon. Regulation is only one of the data complications facing marketers now that omnichannel data personalization has become essential for targeted response and ROI. So what strategies will help prepare for data market changes in 2020?

Data Privacy Demands Customer Focus Across Silos and Sources

Companies face complicated decisions when combining first-party data collection, user-level data from the big digital platforms (Google, Facebook and Amazon) as well as second- and third-party data in ways that balance consumer privacy with smart (and customer-demanded) personalization. A post in AdExchanger by Briggs Davidson, a senior manager at Deloitte Consulting, outlined some key steps for coping with a marketing data landscape that now includes regulation like CCPA. He advises starting with a focus on the customer in collecting, organizing, storing, and activating data across all silos that may need to meet data-privacy compliance, such as marketing and IT. Then when it comes to first-party data, prepare to shift marketing strategies to ensure consumers have a reason to share their data, delivering value to build trust. Davidson predicts creation of data clean rooms, or a separate analysis space for combining first-party data with platform-level customer data under strict privacy controls before usage. Marketers also will need an even closer embrace of media analytics to support a unified customer view, and use of new tools, such as Google’s Ads Data Hub. Finally, marketers will need multidisciplinary teams—for example Google’s upcoming restrictions on DoubleClick ID will boost the need for tech pros for unified customer views within Google—as well as partner collaboration in collecting and storing customer data.

Personalization Power Is Driving Marketing Data Trends in 2020

Hyper-personalizaton is expected to drive data marketing in 2020, according to a useful infographic put together by European digital platform firm Qualifio, which found that 83% of marketers say creating personalized content is one of their biggest challenges. Why? Because personalization now requires: 1) new tools to collect and analyze first-party data, compliance with data privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA; 2) an omnichannel purchasing journey and analytics for a single customer view; 3) incorporation of new technologies such as voice search (50% of Google searches are expected to be voice searches in 2020); and 4) rising customer standards for personalized promotion and service. In fact, 70% of the customers surveyed want an immediate response to their questions or complaints, which is fueling artificial intelligence  (AI) and machine learning (ML) initiatives. Marketers surveyed are already moving to meet personalization challenges, with 78% of European companies completing a GDPR compliance assessment and 65% using omnichannel efforts to personalize customer journeys, per Qualifio’s data. For those U.S. marketers still hesitating to commit to personalization, check out these statistics on improved response, ROI and brand loyalty for e-mail, mobile, e-commerce and digital ads. Direct mail personalization, from name-only to variable images and text, has a proven track record of success, too; in fact, a 2019 survey by NAPCO Research found 44% of responding marketers said personalized direct mail increased response, on average, by 16%.  

Data Quality Key to Privacy, Personalization, New Tech Initiatives

Data quality will be even more key to data strategy in 2020. It is paramount in meeting consumer data privacy regulations, for example, where validated contact data is required to avoid consequences ranging from compliance penalties to brand damage. Effective omnichannel, targeted marketing also requires data quality. A Forrester Consulting July 2019 report revealed that while 82% of companies place a high priority on refining data quality, more than a quarter of all marketing campaigns were hurt by substandard data in the last 12 months. Plus, the high-tech analytics and artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) that marketers count on to boost personalized customer interaction also depend on data quality. A majority of enterprises engaged in AI/ML initiatives (78%) say these projects have stalled—with data quality as one of the culprits for 96%—according to a new study from Dimensional Research. That’s why CMO Kristin Hambelton, of Marketing Evolution, urges marketers in a recent Forbes magazine post to take these basic steps for improved 2020 data quality: 1) prioritize data quality and create a comprehensive initiative that includes not only processes and technology but defined positions responsible for data verification and collection and cleansing policies; 2) define and verify high-quality data in terms timeliness, completeness, consistency, relevance, transparency, accuracy, and representativeness; 3) organize disparate data sources with unified marketing measurement, breaking down silos to develop a holistic customer view across sources and channels, and to form actionable insights. 

 

 

Promotional Products Market Faces New Challenges

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.

Research Shows ABM, AI, Analytics Drive B2B Marketing Success

A new report based on business-to-business marketing data from Salesforce Research, Forrester Research and the Information Technology Services Marketing Association shows how technically sophisticated top-performing B2B marketers have become in order to woo today’s demanding clients. “B2B marketers are increasingly using a mix of account-based marketing (ABM), artificial intelligence (AI), and analytics to connect the right customers with the right content at the right moments,” concludes B2B Marketing Trends: Insights From the Frontline released in June. To enlighten our B2B clients, AccuList can pass along a few key findings.

Unified Data Vital to Personalization Demand

Today’s business buyers demand personalization: 69% of business buyers expect companies to anticipate their needs, and 60% of business buyers are comfortable with companies applying relevant personal information in exchange for personalized engagement. B2B marketers are not quite up to speed yet, however, with only 46% of B2B marketers reporting a completely unified view from customer data sources. This is true even though most marketers agree that personalization improves brand building (92%) and customer advocacy (80%). The high-performing marketers have invested in customer data and are reaping the rewards, with 66% of high-performing teams saying they are satisfied with their ability to use data to create relevant, personalized experiences. In contrast, the under-performers are way behind, with only 7% satisfied with their use of data.

High-Performing Marketing Teams Use ABM

Account-based marketing (ABM) programs are collaborative efforts between marketing and sales teams, designed to focus attention on high-value customer accounts. High-performing B2B marketing teams are much more likely to collaborate effectively with sales teams on ABM programs (54%) compared with under-performing marketing teams (34%), according to the report. Because of the value of ABM programs, one-third of B2B marketers are currently planning to build them into their existing marketing automation platforms. Among B2B marketers using ABM, the ABM programs now account for more than a quarter of their total marketing budgets. Why? Nearly half of ABM users say the programs deliver higher ROI than comparable marketing methods: 77% of ABM users are achieving 10% or greater ROI, and 45% of ABM users are seeing at least double ROI compared to other marketing methods. ABM ROI is not a slam-dunk however; the top four challenges reported include getting data and reports to track results, personalizing marketing to key account contacts, getting adequate budget to support programs and resources, and developing customizable, scalable campaign assets. To further leverage ABM, many marketers have added, or plan to add, technology platforms such as website personalization to serve relevant content, predictive analytics to select accounts, and business intelligence or ABM data aggregators to measure results by account, etc. Also gaining in popularity is use of chatbots or conversational interfaces, while traditional efforts such as personalized, dimensional direct mail integrated into digital marketing continues to bolster ABM, too.

Growing Use of AI by B2B Marketers

Some 69% of business buyers expect personalized “Amazon-like” customer experiences today, per the recent B2B report. As a result, AI usage among B2B marketers grew 23% in 2018, with the majority of these marketers using AI within marketing platforms to optimize mid-cycle engagement. B2B marketers are using AI to facilitate online experiences with offline customer data, to drive next best offers in real time, to improve customer segmentation, to create dynamic websites and landing pages, and to personalize overall customer journeys, as well as a number of other goals. B2B marketers are also beginning to use AI technology beyond their marketing automation platforms; for example, almost half of B2B marketers use connected devices, and one-third added voice-activated personal assistants (such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa) in 2018. Register to download the free “B2B Marketing Trends: Insights From the Frontline” for more data on other B2B marketing trends.

Avoid Segmentation Missteps to Boost List ROI

List segmentation is key in targeted direct marketing, which is why the AccuList team offers clients help in defining best-performing customer segments via predictive analytics services and data management services. Over the years, we’ve learned that the secret to success is as much a matter of strategic mindset as technical expertise. A recent MarketingProfs article by Mitch Markel, a partner in Benenson Strategy Group, makes that point by identifying some of the common strategic errors that can trip up a segmentation effort.

Obvious Parameters and Old Strategies Dig a Rut

Marketers need to be aware that segmentation models can slip into an ROI rut. Use of obvious profiling parameters and assumptions is one reason. Certainly, demographics (or firmographics), stated needs, and past purchase behavior are essential in grouping for likely response and lifetime value, but people don’t make decisions solely based on these factors. Markel urges research that also looks at fears, values, motivations and other psychographics in order to segment customers or prospects not just as lookalikes but also as “thinkalikes,” which can be especially helpful in crafting personalized content and messaging. Markel cites the examples of car buyers grouped by whether they value safety over performance, and food purchasers sorted for whether they stress healthy lifestyle or convenience. Past success is another reason segmentation can get stuck in a rut. Because segmentation requires an upfront investment, marketers tend to want to stick with proven targeting once the segmentation study is completed. But today’s hyper-personalized, digital environment has accelerated the pace of change in markets, perhaps shifting customer expectations and preferences away from an existing segmentation model. Markel advises an annual “look under the hood” of the segmentation engine to see if segments are still valid or need appending/updating. An annual audit can avoid the expense of a broader overhaul down the road.

Big Data Blindness Ignores Potential Audiences

One outcome of segmentation based on existing customers is blindness to potential audiences. Segmentation research often uses the existing customer base and surveys of people that marketers assume should be targeted. This can create marketing campaigns that miss groups that Markel calls “ghost segments,” people who could be among a brand’s best prospective customers. Markel suggests a periodic look at non-customers for conversion potential as one way to capture these “ghosts.” And, of course, if a new product or service is in the works, research should ask whether it will attract new groups differing from the existing customer profile. Another reason ghost segments are common is that marketers, overwhelmed by the task of sifting “big data,” fall back on whatever data sets are handy. Markel suggests that it would be better to bring in big data at the tail end of segmentation. He advises analysts to start by creating segments using primary research, add existing customer “big data” to target those segments more efficiently, and then plug segments into a data management platform for insights on other products, services, interests, and media that may correlate.

Analytics Miss Without a Companywide Strategy

Finally, Markel stresses that a segmentation study that ends up residing only with a few marketing decision-makers will fail to live up to its ROI potential. Customer and prospect insights have relevance for multiple departments and teams, from sales to customer service to finance. In order to deliver a seamless, personalized customer experience, Markel suggests creating 360-degree customer personas and promoting them throughout the organization. Management can start with workshops to educate employees on the use and importance of those personas both for their departments and the organization, and then can schedule check-ins to show team members the resulting benefits of segmentation and targeting implementation. If segments are made relatable, it will ensure they are used and embraced across the organization.

Why You Should De-dupe Your Data

In today’s data-driven marketing, data is not only the most important asset that your company can have but can also make or break your campaign. Having clean data impacts not only marketing activities but also impacts your reputation, operations and decision-making. De-duping is one of the most important aspects of overall data hygiene. Duplicates can be found on many levels of data; they arise at the household level, individual e-mail level or company level. But before you can de-dupe your data, you must make sure you have a clear definition of what a duplicate is. Some businesses de-dupe based on a household address for direct mail campaigns, others on an e-mail basis for e-mail marketing campaigns, and some de-dupe based on the company level. If you are still not convinced that you need to de-dupe, consider the following benefits:

Avoiding Different Offers to the Same Customer

Having direct mail going out to the same household can be costly, and it can also be extremely embarrassing. For example, you send two different direct mail creatives to the same household. As one of the records was a customer, you decided to provide a returning customer 15% off, while the other record was marked as a prospect and only got 10% off. Now the person opening both direct mails will be confused by having two different discounts, and the company also can face a PR nightmare.

Cutting Unnecessary Cost

It goes without saying that having duplicates increases your cost. For example, assume you are doing a direct mail creative which costs you $5 per mailing. Your list contains 10,000 recipients. The total cost of mailings therefore is $50,000. If you decided to de-dupe, you would find out that 10% of your mailing list was duplicated. Therefore, $5,000 was a waste of resources. It would have been much cheaper to de-dupe prior to deploying your campaign.

Good Analytics for Decision-making 

Analytics is important not just from a perspective of understanding how your marketing and sales is performing but also from a decision-making perspective. By having duplicates in your CRM, you are going to be double-counting your list capabilities, miscalculating your true growth rates, and getting the wrong rate of responses. If you are looking to make a decision on future campaigns, basing it on duplicate data will give you the wrong list count, wrong budget and possibly the wrong creative picked (especially if you are basing it on an A/B testing done previously).

Reducing Customer Service Confusions

If there are duplicates in your CRM system, having clients call in, e-mail or come into the store will make it difficult for staff to track down the right individual. For example, Mary Smith is found twice in your CRM with the same phone number. She calls in to your customer support to inquire about her order status. Your customer service rep decides to pull up the customer account by phone number and finds two records. Now she has to put the customer on hold while she checks both accounts to try to locate the last purchase before she can even assist the customer. Not only is it wasting everyone’s time and making customer service inefficient, it also makes the customer have a bad customer service experience.

Preventing Potential Loss of Sales

Finally, the biggest impact that duplicates have on your business is a potential loss of sale. If you have duplicates, you do not have a true view of all prospect or customer activities. Therefore, you could be excluding prospects from a sales call because your lead scoring system indicated that they are not ready. However, if the data from both records was combined, you would have all signals indicating they are ready to be passed on to sales. With duplicates, by the time you figure it out, a customer may have already lost interest and gone with your competitor.

You can easily de-dupe your list by using a de-duping tool that will require less effort to identify duplicates and establish a master record than is required to deal with the consequences of duplicate data. De-duping should be part of your data-cleaning initiative, either prior to any major campaign or on a yearly basis.

If you are interested in data clean-up and use of a de-duping tool, contact guest author Anna Kayfitz, CEO of StrategicDB Corp.

Skeptical of Marketing Tech Buzzwords? You’re Not Alone

To help support direct marketing clients, AccuList USA tries to keep up with the latest in marketing technology and tactics, and so we’ve been bombarded along with clients by advice on how to seize opportunities with personalization, “big data,” omnichannel, real-time marketing, and, most recently, artificial intelligence (AI). Marketers struggling to find room in real-world budgets often worry that they’re falling behind in an escalating martech arms race! New research by Resulticks—a survey of over 300 marketing pros across industry verticals—offers interesting perspective.

Big Expectations: Big Data and Personalization

“Big Data” was the hot topic at the 2013 DMA Annual Conference, with 50% of marketers enthusiastic about investing. But making practical sense of those data torrents turned out to be more difficult than expected. Resulticks finds that only 16% of today’s marketers have fully implemented big data solutions, 20% have given up on the concept, and just 27% rank big data as a top priority now. Part of the problem is overhyped, underperforming martech platforms, per the survey, with 21% of marketers complaining that vendors overpromise and underdeliver. In contrast, personalization—meaning targeting that goes beyond basic attributes such as name to deeper parameters such as purchase history and online behavior—has done better in fulfilling expectations, with 60% of today’s marketers reporting full or partial implementation. The only fly in the ointment: Tech investments have not always kept pace with enthusiasm, and only 20% rate their software ability to deliver personalization as “excellent.”

Technically Challenged: Omnichannel

Back in 2014, one study found almost half of retailers saying they were going to commit to an “omnichannel” approach. Unlike multichannel marketing, where marketers touch customers at multiple points on their journey, the ambitious goal of omnichannel marketing is to create a seamless customer experience across all channels. Resulticks finds that only 9% of today’s marketers describe their approach as omnichannel, compared with 63% who use a multichannel approach. Technical barriers explain omnichannel’s failure to thrive. Only 35% have fully or partially implemented the required software platforms for omnichannel, and, among those who have bet on platforms, 58% rank vendor execution as “poor” to “fair” (compared with 13% who give their omnichannel software “excellent” marks).

Enthusiastic Embrace: Real-time Marketing

There’s a better report card for the “real-time marketing” that rapidly uses data across channels for more timely, targeted engagement in the customer journey. Resulticks reports that 49% of marketers rate their real-time marketing ability as “good” to “excellent,” that half say they have fully or partially implemented real-time marketing solutions, and that 47% say real-time is a priority for their organizations today. However, many marketers may need to adjust their definition of “real-time” if they want to compete for customers’ expectations; 47% are defining real-time as responding in an hour or more (with 20% taking a day or more), compared with the 12% delivering true real-time response in the milliseconds.

New Kid on the Block: AI

Social media giants have been betting on AI, and marketers are following their lead, with one study showing more than 50% planning to adopt AI in the next two years. However, Resulticks’ survey finds almost half (47%) of the marketers polled already rate AI as overhyped. Here’s a big source of that skepticism: 43% of marketers believe martech software vendors overpromise and underdeliver, and 69% rate their vendors’ ability to execute AI as “fair” to “poor.”

To download the study report, go to https://www.resulticks.com/marketingflabtofab.html

2018 Digital Marketing Spend to Rise; High Hopes for Social

AccuList USA’s digital marketing clients are already looking ahead to 2018 results, with many planning to increase digital spending. They’re following the trend reported in a recent survey by Ascend2, which found that 93% of firms expect to boost digital marketing budgets in 2018.

Boosted Digital Spend Planned in 2018

The survey, conducted in December 2017, tapped 217 marketing influencers, with 43% working for B2B firms, 35% for B2C firms, and 22% for hybrid firms. The combined 52% planning marginal increases and 41% planning significant boosts in 2018 digital marketing budgets dwarfed the 7% who intend to decrease digital spending. But the more interesting data involves where the marketers foresee the biggest bang for digital bucks in the year ahead.

Social & Content Marketing Dubbed Most Effective

Respondents expected the most effective digital marketing tactics in 2018 to be social media marketing (18%), followed by content marketing (17%). Search engine optimization was seen as most effective by 15%, e-mail marketing was seen as leading by 13%, and paid search and social ads was chosen by only 11%. The lower ranking of e-mail and search ads was not due to execution barriers; both were rated as among the least difficult to implement.

Execution Challenges for Data Management & Technology

In contrast, surveyed marketers reported the greatest execution difficulties for data management (18% rated as most difficult) and marketing technology (also 18%). Content marketing and search engine optimization tied for second place in terms of implementation challenges, with both selected by 16%.

Go to https://research.ascend2.com/2018-digital-marketing/ to download a full copy of the Ascend report.