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Much has been made of the difficulties marketers face with accessing data, integrating data across technologies, and even trusting their data. But some companies are facing an even bigger problem, according to Widen’s 2018 Connectivity Report [download page]: telling the right story with their data.

In fact, when Widen asked more than 500 marketers and creative professionals the biggest challenge their team faces when procuring, managing and utilizing their marketing data, the largest proportion (21.5%) of respondents said that they were challenged to tell the right story with their data.

This focus makes some sense given that the respondent sample was made up in part of creatives – as storytelling relates to the more creative side of data-driven marketing. In a study last year delving into the areas of data-driven marketing that are more art than science, participants were clear that crafting a narrative from the data to persuade others was the biggest art form.

So while respondents to the Widen study are most interested in adding the data scientist/engineer role to their team over the next 1-3 years (in keeping with a general staffing gap in this area), the results serve as a reminder that there’s a creative side to data-driven marketing that also requires significant talent.

Marketers Focus on Personalizing the Customer Experience

Separately, the biggest trend on which respondents to the Widen survey are focusing this year is personalizing the customer experience. That result puts this sample of marketers squarely in line with others: previous research has likewise found that personalization is the most exciting area for brand marketers this year and “the next big trend” in marketing for this year.

Interestingly enough, of the 8 trends identified in the report, respondents were least likely to be focused on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in marketing. It may be that these marketers feel that these efforts are too distant or complicated for the time being: in fact, just 14% said that they are currently using such tools. And while respondents are twice as likely to be optimistic (37%) as apprehensive (20%) about the use of AI and machine learning in marketing, many seem indifferent on the topic.

Maybe the hoped-for data scientist/engineer hire will help: recent research indicates that customer data analysis challenges are holding back adoption of advanced AI capabilities.

Other Survey Highlights

  • After storytelling, the biggest challenge faced by marketers with respect to data activation is managing data across different platforms for a single view. In fact, a new study indicates that a single record of a customer that the entire organization contributes to is the largest requirement for B2C marketers to achieve a single view of the customer.
  • The vast majority (about 81%) of marketers have already gone or are currently going through digital transformation – defined as the integration of digital technology into all areas of the business.
  • The most important requirements for digital transformation – according to respondents – are technologies that support business operations, system security, and easy-to-use technologies.

The full study is available for download here.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 538 marketing and creative professionals, roughly 60% of whom are from companies with more than 250 employees. Two-thirds are based in North America, and about three-quarters are Managers or Employees/Staff.

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