Results of new studies reported this week indicate that despite “big data” and various attempts to create customer intimacy, many marketers still do not understand customers and prospects. Specifically, while many marketers are moving away from email, customers are indicating a preference for email as the communication platform for key product information. Similarly, while many marketers are focused on greater personalization in market communication, many consumers no longer notice it.

The recent research by The Economist Intelligence Units and Lyris simultaneous surveys of marketers and consumers in the US and the UK ran during March 2013. There are important insights in the data for small businesses and for all marketers. The findings were first reported on June 12, 2013.

The first findings of the study concern how consumers prefer to receive information from companies.

  • 37 percent of consumers rank email as the most important source of information prior to purchase
  • 52 percent of consumers rank email most important for communication after a purchase
  • 68 percent of marketers do not use or support email marketing and do not understand email best practices.

When asked how they prefer to be introduced to products, the survey revealed that

  • 35 percent prefer email
  • 35 percent prefer printed catalogues
  • 33 percent prefer personal referrals
  • 30 percent prefer referrals by trusted websites
  • 24 percent prefer in-store promotions
  • 21 percent chose company social media/blogs
  • 18 percent chose 3rd party  social media/blogs
  • 16 percent prefer postal mail
  • 8 percent prefer product inserts
  • 3 percent chose mobile devices
  • 1 percent chose telephone

purchase influence of marketing messages

This chart clearly indicates a significant gap between marketers and consumers regarding how purchases are influenced.

Many marketers have focused a great deal of attention on personalization in communication with customers and prospects. In fact, according to the same study, personalization is the second most popular marketing strategy reported by participating marketing executives. Consumers said, however, that personalization is so common that it is widely ignored:

  • 63 percent said they “have grown numb to it”
  • 33% said it is “one of their top annoyances”
  • Only 14 percent said they are “more likely to read personally addressed messages.”

Gratuitous personalization and attempts to deliver “personalized” content selections are not appreciated or valued by consumers. Customized product recommendations are valued, however. Does your marketing team understand this about consumers?

Recent revelations of NSA spying via the Internet have made privacy a hot button issue this week. Consumers have been concerned about their privacy for some time. Again, many marketers are misreading customer sentiment according to this study:

  • A mere 23 percent of marketers believe their organization’s customers are concerned about the privacy of information shared with the company.
  • Yet 21 percent of consumers were “very concerned” about the privacy of information shared with companies.
  • 39 percent of consumers were concerned about information tracked by cookies when they visit corporate websites
  • 33 percent of consumers are “very concerned” about the privacy of personal information shared through opt-in processes

consumer attitudes to data collection practices

In fact, regardless of stated company privacy policies, at least one-third of consumers participating in this study were ”very  concerned” about the privacy of their information.

Another very important gap exists between what consumers seek on websites and what marketing executives believe they are seeking. The Economist Intelligence Unit and Lyris study (2013) reveals this misunderstanding:

Information sought from   company channels consumer rank by preference marketer rank of consumer   preference
Pricing/promotions 1 1
Product features 2 2
Product reliability/warranties 3 3
Expert reviews 5 3
Reliability/reputation 7 5
Peer reviews 8 5
Tips about product use 6 7
New product referrals 4 8

Every business owner must answer a critical question: “Does your marketing team understand consumers?” Unfortunately (although they might protest vehemently), the truth is probably “No,” at least according to recent research. Business owners must decide if their companies can survive a marketing team significantly disconnected from their customers and prospects.

For many small and micro businesses, it will be very difficult to survive without a marketing team that actively monitors, analyzes, and applies the latest research, industry best practices, and consumer insights. Marketers who ignore this information will be left behind, along with the companies they represent, while effective marketers utilize this information to improve marketing strategies and tactics daily. Does your marketing team understand consumers?