One of the pandemic’s perceived long-term impacts for marketers is a greater focus on digital media, an understandable feeling given the ways in which the pandemic has led consumers to rely more on digital goods and services. Within this context, The CMO Survey’s latest report [pdf] examines the investments that senior marketers have made over the past year to improve the performance of their digital marketing activities.
At the top of the list sits data analytics. Some 77.5% of respondents said they’ve invested in analytics for a digital marketing performance boost, with this representing a significant 37.5% increase over the share of respondents (56.5%) who said the same a year earlier. The study notes that investment in data analytics is particularly high among larger companies, 92% of which have made this investment. Those companies will be hoping to enjoy the range of benefits attributed to analytics, including improved customer experience and better marketing campaign outcomes.
Beyond analytics, almost 3 in 4 (74% of) marketers have invested in optimizing their company’s website. This figure remains at a sustained level from the year earlier, as marketers recognize augmented digital media use among their customers, many of whom point to websites as the critical channel for showcasing product benefits.
Digital media and search (71%), marketing technology systems or platforms (70%) and direct digital marketing (e.g., email; 68%) have also been on the investment agenda for many CMOs, with the portion of marketers spending on martech representing a considerable 30% increase from the year-earlier survey.
Meanwhile, about 1 in 3 (35%) have invested in managing privacy issues to improve the performance of their digital marketing activities. Though this activity remains relatively lower than others, it is up by almost a quarter from last year’s survey, and comes as more than 8 in 10 (85% of) marketers believe respecting customer privacy would be a competitive advantage.
CMOs Confident in Testing; Less So in Measurement
When looking at where marketers do well – and not so well – in marketing activities and practices, the report finds that a leading two-thirds (67%) continuously test and iterate in using digital marketing. Respondents are also confident that they have a good understanding of the technology roadmap and capabilities they can use to do great marketing (65%) and that they are able to connect their digital marketing data with other intelligence they have about their customers (59%).
It’s also true that many (59%) say they’ve been able to link digital marketing returns to business outcomes such as incremental revenues or profits. While this suggests a level of comfort around digital marketing measurement, other results call that into question. For example, fewer than 1 in 3 (32%) have been able to combine digital and offline data to create a unified data foundation for measuring the impact of digital marketing investments. Moreover, advanced measurement remains out of sight for many, as a relatively small portion (28.5%) have invested in advanced measurement techniques and analytics to bring more rigor – such as artificial intelligence/machine learning, attribution mix modeling, etc.).
Alignment is also escaping some marketers: only around 4 in 10 say that the CTO/CIO or equivalent is aware of and aligned on the objectives and path to activate KPIs in digital marketing (43.4%), or that the CFO is aware of and aligned on these (40%).
To some extent, contributions from digital marketing have suffered. Some 21% of respondents rated the contribution of digital marketing to their company’s performance over the past year as a 7 on a 7-point scale. That’s down from 32.5% who reported the same a year earlier. This may be a result of a cooling down of improved contributions during the earlier times of the pandemic, or, per the report, it may be coming as “expectations heighten and attribution analyses become more advanced.”
About the Data: The results are based on a January-February survey of 320 top marketers at for-profit US companies, 96.6% of whom are VP-level or above.