Why Marketers Struggle to Leverage Their Customer Data

April 26, 2016

Despite the positive impact customer data can have on the precision and effectiveness of digital media, advertisers still struggle to use their data efficiently. And today, this data is vital to success because it gives brands a competitive advantage by enabling them to garner deeper and more actionable insights into consumers and how to segment audiences. Despite this value, a 2015 survey of more than 100 advertisers by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Winterberry Group found only 34.8% of respondents in the survey said they have used data to help grow their revenues.

However, in today’s always-on world, marketers must tackle the challenge of using their first-party data to recognize and reach real people, regardless of how frequently they change channels and devices. So why is it that, despite the growing amount of valuable data available, marketers still struggle to capitalize on this resource? There are four challenges, in particular, that stand in the way:

1. Organizational Inefficiencies

One reason marketers struggle to be more data-driven is organizational challenges that interfere with their access to data. According to Forrester, most companies estimate they are only using 12% of the data they have available. So why is this valuable resource sitting idly?

One of the key organizational hurdles that hurts marketers’ ability to use their data is that the information they have is in silos. The unfortunate reality is that in many organizations, CRM, email marketing and display teams all collect data but are operating in silos rather than sharing that data collaboratively. However, to be successful with addressable media, data-driven teams throughout an organization must be willing and able to share that information across teams.

2. Skills Gaps

The data skills gap is very real, creating a major challenge for marketers who hope to be more data driven. In fact, a study by RJMetrics found in late 2015, 52% of all data scientists had earned their title in the past four years, and only 11,400 professionals identified themselves data scientists. Even more, Adobe found less than [tweetable]50% of digital marketers would declare themselves highly proficient in digital.[/tweetable] This means that regardless of the vast amount of data available, many marketers are not prepared to turn that information into actionable campaigns that drive conversions.

3. Lack of Modern Technology

While advertisers and media buyers must have the capability to target real customers in real-time across channels, the existing cookie-based model most marketers – and their technology partners – depend on today is prohibitive to cross-channel success. Consumers are interacting with brands everyday via multiple connected devices, but they are viewing the brand through a single lens. Legacy technology prevents marketers from connecting a customer with his or her multiple connected devices. With people-based marketing platforms, they can see customers as real people, rather than devices or cookies, for improved measurement, targeting and more personalized engagement across the shopping journey.

4. Real-time capabilities

Marketers operate in a fragmented ecosystem where slow and disconnected platforms present a technological challenge to leveraging customer data while it’s fresh. Even when a marketer determines the value of leveraging data from one channel and activating it in another, the process of doing so can become quickly convoluted, involve a handful of technology partners and take days or weeks to complete.

For example, if a marketer analyzes a piece of data tied to an email address and determines that delivering a display ad to that consumer would result in a purchase, he or she would need to then work with an email marketing provider, DMP and DSP to act on that insight. By the time the marketer navigates each of these moving parts, the message may no longer be relevant or timely, and the consumer may have purchased elsewhere.

First-party data is the lifeblood of addressable media and a solution to the cross-device challenge all marketers face today. However, to really turn this data into a source of revenue, organizations must overcome data silos, acquire the right knowledge and talent, and work with technology partners that transcend the increasingly inefficient cookie-based model and provide an end-to-end solution to activating on first-party data.


Todd Schoenherr was formerly SVP of Product Strategy at Signal. Prior to Signal he was a VP at Guild Capital, a venture capital firm focused on media and technology companies. He also led product and marketing teams at Orbitz Worldwide and consulted for Fortune 500 clients at Accenture.Todd received a B.S. in Engineering from Purdue University and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

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