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Adobe-Most-Important-Future-Area-for-US-Marketers-Mar2014There’s plenty of enthusiasm among US marketers for digital marketing tactics such as social and mobile, according to a recent study [pdf] from Adobe. But asked to choose which of 5 areas they felt will be most important to their company’s marketing moving forward, a plurality 33% of respondents chose personalization, significantly outpacing big data (22%), social (21%), real-time (14%) and, surprisingly, mobile (11%).

Although personalization was tops for marketers with both high and low digital spend, the order of importance of the other areas differed by digital spend.

For those with high digital spend (>25% of marketing budgets), mobile (14%) edged in front of real-time (12%) in importance. For those with low digital spend (<10% of marketing budgets), though, real-time was third-most important, ahead of big data (17%). Also of note, just 7% of those with low digital spend named mobile their most important area going forward.

That discrepancy showed up separately in the report, too. Asked to choose up to 3 (of 9 listed) channels they felt would be most critical in one year, 57% of high digital spenders cited mobile, compared to just 39% of those with low digital spend. And while there were similar gaps in perceived importance for online ads (43% and 28%, respectively) and search (33% and 17%, respectively), high digital spenders’ preference for digital tactics was not consistent across the board. In fact, low digital spenders were slightly more likely to choose social as the most important tactic (64%) than high digital spenders (61%), with both choosing this as their top channel. Low digital spenders’ affinity for social over other digital areas may be related to their perception of social’s low cost relative to the others.

(Not surprisingly, low digital spenders were much more likely than their high-spending counterparts to value events, PR and print as important future areas.)

Returning to personalization, the survey reveals that most marketers are completely or very focused on personalizing experiences for their customers, with this sentiment more pronounced among high performers (those who out-performed key competitors in sales or revenue) than low performers (who self-reported average or below business performance).

Marketers’ affinity for personalization is expected given the growing body of research supporting its benefits. Some recent examples:

Even so, earlier survey results from Econsultancy indicated that while marketers value personalization, they still struggle with it.

Given the priority they’re placing on it, there’s reason to believe that marketers will address their challenges with personalization (whether those be IT roadblocks or resource constraints) in the year to come. After all, relevance is key.

About the Data: The online survey was conducted February 19-27, 2014 by ResearchNow among 1,004 US marketers.

The results have a margin of error at the 95% confidence level, for the total sample, of +/-3.1%.

Some 465 companies had high digital spend, while 153 had low digital spend. High performers numbered 409 and low performers 595.

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