What Are Retailers Finding Tough About Customer Acquisition?

June 21, 2022

Retailers are not faring as well in their acquisition marketing efforts this year as they have in recent years, according to new research [download page] from CommerceNext. Some 57% say that their acquisition marketing efforts are meeting or exceeding expectations year-to-date; while that’s a solid result, it’s down from 65% who said the same last year and 76% the year earlier.

By contrast, this year respondents seem to be having a better go of it with brand marketing (73% meeting or exceeding expectations, up from 69% last year and 61% in 2020), and are also forging ahead with their omnichannel marketing (57%, 50% and 48%, respectively).

In fact, the 114 retailers (incumbent and digital-only) surveyed have the least confidence in acquisition marketing and omnichannel marketing of all their initiatives, with these trending in opposite directions.

A crucial issue appears to be rising customer acquisition costs (CACs). When retailers were asked to look ahead and identify their greatest challenges to achieving their 2022 e-commerce goals, 61% pointed to rising CACs. This was far and away the leading answer: the next-most cited, finding and retaining top talent, was reported by fewer than half (46%) of respondents.

Previous research from CommerceNext has come to a similar conclusion, with retailers responding to that survey saying that rising CACs were one of their biggest threats to their 2022 sales objectives.

Top Acquisition Marketing Challenges

The report delves into the greatest challenges experienced by retailers around acquisition marketing, finding that the top response this year again is diversifying marketing tactics beyond Meta and Google (45%). This is reflected by the aforementioned earlier CommerceNext research, in which retailers pledged to increase their spending on paid social despite disappointing performance.

Even so, it seems that retailers may have cottoned on to a new marketing channel beyond Meta and Google: TikTok. Fully 69% of respondents expect to invest more in TikTok as an acquisition channel this year, with 14% maintaining their level of investment and 6% planning to decrease it.

For comparison’s sake, the retailers surveyed were more likely to be cutting (32%) their level of investment in Facebook/Instagram than increasing it (27%), per the report.

Other areas that look set for a net increase in spending include influencer marketing (57% expecting to increase versus 8% planning a cut), connected TV/streaming (42% and 10%, respectively), and direct mail (38% and 15%, respectively).

Meanwhile, returning to the greatest customer acquisition challenges, the survey reveals that retailers are also having trouble measuring attribution (43%), while also complaining of justifying investments in hard to measure campaigns (37%).

On a more positive note, fewer respondents this year than last say that they’re struggling with securing and prioritizing budget, facing internal prioritization towards other marketing efforts, and scaling marketing investments.

For more, download the report here.

About the Data: The results are based on a February survey of 114 senior marketers at digital-first and incumbent retailers, half of which have annual revenues of at least $100 million.

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