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Delivering personalized content is the most challenging barrier to marketing automation success, though the integration of all marketing systems is a close second, according to a new report [download page] from Ascend2. Despite the difficulties marketers are having delivering personalized content, the vast majority say that content personalization driven by marketing automation is in fact improving.

The survey was fielded among 250 marketers worldwide, who were fairly evenly split between a B2B (40%) and B2C (33%) focus, with the remaining 27% targeting B2B and B2C equally. The vast majority of respondents are from companies with at least 50 employees.

The delivery of personalized content is one of the top priorities for marketing automation optimization, per the report, though it falls behind more general goals such as creating a successful strategy and improving the user experience.

Personalized content is gaining in importance at a time when 60% of B2B marketers either frequently or always prioritize providing the right content to the right person at the right time. A report last year found that two-thirds of B2B marketers were testing content personalization, perhaps in an attempt to counter challenges with content engagement.

Personalized Content is Both Effective and Difficult

The Ascend2 survey presented respondents with a list of 7 tactics used to optimize marketing automation, asking them which were among the most effective and the most difficult to execute.

The tactic identified as effective by the largest share of respondents was customer experience mapping (53%). Customer journey mapping has been seen as a top practice in boosting conversion rates for enterprise B2B marketers and is a distinctive trait of top-performing marketers.

Close behind customer experience mapping in the Ascend2 survey is personalized/dynamic content, noted as effective by 51% of respondents.

These two tactics are considered effective by a wider swathe of respondents than other tactics such as landing page and form CTAs (35%), AI and predictive modeling (34%) and A/B or multivariate testing (28%).

The relatively low level of perceived effectiveness for AI and predictive modeling is curious given other research indicating strong enthusiasm surrounding its use. It may be that marketers simply don’t have much experience in this area: research suggests that predictive data is the least-used martech feature by B2B firms.

In fact, AI and predictive modeling emerged as one of the most difficult tactics used to optimize marketing automation. Cited by 45% as a difficult tactic, it was narrowly behind only one other tactic: personalized/dynamic content (46%).

The full list of effective and difficult tactics can be viewed by expanding the chart above, and the full Ascend2 study is available for download here.

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