Covid-19 may have knocked many companies’ marketing plans for six but more than half (52%) have actually increased their spend during the pandemic as they embrace a more data-driven approach to their operations.
According to Merkle’s latest quarterly Customer Engagement Report, which quizzed 400 marketers in both the UK and the US, the main sectors which have seen spend increases are health, where 70% of firms have upped their budget, insurance (60%), and retail (59%), however, media and entertainment (53%), financial services (49%) and technology (48%) have also seen rises.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the dire warnings from the sector, charities have witnessed the biggest fall in spend, with 70% of organisations cutting back.
Marketers have also been using the time to cut waste in their marketing programmes, with the overwhelming majority (90%) saying they are reassessing historical practices to eliminate under-performing activities or campaigns.
Meanwhile, over two-thirds (67%) have implemented new strategies to improve first-party data capture, and nearly three-fifths (57%) have invested more in existing programmes. In addition, three-quarters (74%) have changed their approach to content developed for consumers and an overwhelming 96% of respondents state that their organisations will continue with their recent customer marketing innovations once the crisis is over.
When asked to select the top three tactical priorities during the pandemic, respondents cite trying new marketing technologies or features (50%), becoming more consumer-centric in marketing messaging (45%), and developing new transaction fulfilment capabilities (42%) as their top three priorities. These are followed by adding a new marketing channel (39%), with over a third (37%) planning to both embrace a new creative deployment strategy as well as develop new data analytics models.
When asked to select their top “pain points” since the pandemic, 46% of marketers chose “taking too long to make a marketing decision”. However, data issues also featured prominently, with “data being in too many places to be useful” coming in second place (43%), followed by “we don’t leverage the data we have” (38%).
The research also indicates a specific acceleration of multi-channel addressable campaigns during the pandemic. In fact, over three-quarters (77%) of marketers indicate an increase in these campaigns, further pointing toward greater personalisation and consumer-centric messaging aimed at improving the total customer experience.
Overall, the study points to a move toward more efficient, customer-centric campaigns during this time of crisis. Marketers are finding ways to cut out underperforming campaigns and accelerate addressable campaigns that capture more first-party data.
Merkle senior vice-president of marketing strategy Jose Cebrian said: “The world has been significantly disrupted by Covid-19, and as marketers, we’ve had to find new ways to innovate in order to thrive during this time.
“Our research indicates that despite the challenges, marketers have found a silver lining and adopted new and innovative solutions with customer-centricity as the common theme. Our findings highlight how the power of data and the importance of the customer are encouraging signs that we can move forward as an industry.”
The Merkle report appears to back Salesforce’s recent State of Marketing Report, which reveals that personalised, empathetic engagement is now front of mind for all brands, with marketing transformation taking on a new urgency. In the UK, innovation is a top priority for marketing leaders, while unifying customer data sources is their top challenge, the study showed.
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