Marketers harvest data like Kansas harvests wheat – and just like those farm silos, marketers’ data stores are bulging. But too often, that data just sits there.

According to a recent Neustar-Digiday report, 35 percent of marketing professionals say that their data collection is only “moderately effective” in meeting business needs – while thirteen percent said it “isn’t very effective.”

That’s nearly 50 percent who think their data should work harder. What gives?

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Abundant data is great… if you can use it.

In our report, Jason Kint, president of the Online Publisher’s Association, points out that data collection is much cheaper than in the past.

“If you go to some websites, there’ll literally be more than 100 tags and cookies on a single webpage collecting data for third parties,” he says. “The cost of collecting that data is almost insignificant now.”

If collecting data is cheap, why not collect more? Sounds good. Until you try to make sense of it all. Asked to name their biggest data challenges, respondents to the survey feeding the report listed technology limitations, internal resources and the need for better systems and practices. Together, they add up to the mother of all challenges.

June 2014 State of the Industry Report FINALsnipets 5 Why Can’t My Marketing Data Work Harder?

Where do you plug this stuff in?

 

According to the report, half of marketers can’t link data across their growing channels. With up-to-date cross-channel data, you’re able to create profiles of individual customers. In turn, you can send relevant messages across touchpoints and devices. Without cross-channel links, your data isn’t combining in useful—sorry, “actionable”—ways to drive conversions.

The plot thickens. The report shows that even those who can link are using traditional data points, mostly location information, like phone numbers and home addresses, as well as demographics. Surprisingly, only 35 percent are incorporating psychographic profile data (likes, values, attitudes) into customer profiles. There’s a ton of opportunity to create richer profiles.

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Opportunity #1: unifying and reusing customer profiles across channels. Roughly 25 percent of respondents are unable to pull this off. For them, cross-channel targeting is a migraine-inducing problem. How do they know, for instance, if a desktop user is the same person who visited on a tablet, due to mobile’s inability to drop cookies?

The forecast: cloudy today, brighter tomorrow.

Again, the report shows that only 35 percent of respondents said their data collection was even moderately effective. On the slightly sunnier side, 94 percent said the effectiveness of their data collection is just as good, if not better, than a year ago.

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What’s improved? Fifty five percent said the ability to target customers, while 48 percent said the impact of marketing campaigns. However, this still hasn’t changed the game. Roughly a third of survey respondents find it difficult to predict customer purchasing behavior.

The report’s findings track with other Neustar research. In an early 2014 report with Multichannel Merchant, Neustar found that 70 percent of marketers think a better cross-channel strategy is either “important” or “very important”—but only 19 percent are currently linking data across channels. Over 60 percent either have or will soon have an omnichannel strategy—presumably one that calls for investing in data solutions.

So there’s reason for hope. Said one respondent to the Neustar-Digiday survey, “More knowledge means the ability to better both our product and the user experience.” And more and more and more and more knowledge? Better systems, please.