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Retail marketers are spending most of their time building their brands and drive sales, and are not as focused on engaging customers or building customer loyalty, finds RSR Research [download page] in a September 2012 report. Asked to rank various priorities according to how much time their company’s marketing department spends on each activity, 29% said building the brand was their highest priority, matched by the 29% who said driving sales was their top priority.

By contrast, building customer loyalty and engaging customers each garnered just 7% of the vote for top priority. Instead, 22% said that building customer loyalty was their lowest priority, and 9% said the same about engaging customers. The lack of an emphasis placed on customer engagement and loyalty is somewhat surprising, given that asked to name their top 3 business challenges, a leading 51% of respondents said that customer retention has become more difficult and building customer loyalty is challenging.

Top Performers More Focused on Social Media, Mobile Ads

Data from RSR’s “Marketing in Retail: Making the Case for the CMO” indicates that retailers with comparable store/channel sales growth of over 5% (“winners”) are more focused on some newer digital channels than “laggards” (those with comparable growth of less than 5%). 61% of winners said they are leveraging Facebook or other community social networks (such as Hi5 or Renren), compared to just 45% of laggards. Similarly, winners are more likely to be using Twitter (43% vs. 29%) and mobile advertising (33% vs. 23%). This focus on social media is understandable given that respondents overall are highly focused on brand building, yet it bears mentioning that social media is now being increasingly viewed as a tool for customer engagement, which is less of a priority among the retailers surveyed by RSR.

Email a Leading Source of Customer Data

Although winners are leveraging email less than laggards (49% vs. 61%), email marketing is well recognized by the RSR survey respondents as a viable source of customer data. Two-thirds of the respondents said they are either currently (47%) using email as a source of demographic data or will do so in the future (19%), making this the leading source of demographic customer data among those identified. (In-store was next, with 59% either currently using the channel or planning to do so.)

Email also leads in adoption among sources of customer behavioral data: 45% are currently using email for this purpose, and an additional 14% have plans to do so. In-store (POS, employee mobile, kiosk) is next on the list again, with 41% using this source for behavioral data, and an additional 14% planning to leverage the channel.

Finally, while the email and in-store channels lead as current sources of customer sentiment data (31% and 29%, respectively), when factoring in planned future use, social media (53%) edges them both for this purpose.

About the Data: The RSR Research survey was conducted online from June to September 2012 and received answers from 131 qualified retail respondents. 28% came from companies with more than $5 billion in revenue in 2011, while 46% had less than $1 billion. Respondents sell a variety of products, and 80% have either their headquarters or a retail presence in the US.

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