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Integration of multichannel data remains a challenge; some further along than others

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Integrating customer data is the greatest challenge for marketers, according to a survey of marketing industry executives by Alterian. The enterprise marketing software company conducted the survey at its Annual Summit last month.

Forty-three percent of respondents said their e-mail marketing channel is integrated with offline channels such as direct mail, according to Alterian, and 12% said it is integrated with online channels such as search, Web sites and RSS. A third (33%) said e-mail is a standalone channel for them.

Of the executives surveyed by Alterian, about were from 60 brand marketers, marketing service providers, systems integrators and agencies. The survey was conducted in real time at the event, using an audience response system.

“We suspect that marketers are challenged because they are organizationally not aligned to consider these channels together,” said David Eldridge, CEO of Alterian.

“For example, they have separate e-mail and direct mail groups as silos and maybe bring the data together only periodically.”

More than half of the 160 respondents to the Alterian survey acknowledged gaps between data collection and use, and 60% attributed that to organizational inefficiencies.

Twenty-nine percent said marketing to and tracking multiple channels is their greatest source of concern; 24% said their biggest hurdle is “closing the loop on campaigns by merging response and transactional data.”

Alterian said marketers need three key things: “To successfully integrate online and offline data, marketing need a marketing platform that can automate the receipt and storage of this data so that it can be analyzed and used as a whole rather than separately; a set of processes to enable this efficiently as an ongoing activity; and experts to help who have done this before and know what the hurdles and issues are,” Eldridge said.

By contrast, more than half (54%) of respondents to another survey—conducted by the Direct Marketing Association, with the participation of database marketer Epsilon and Haggin Marketing, a direct marketing agency—said they have fully integrated marketing and advertising across sales channels. The survey, DMA’s Multichannel Marketing in the Catalog Industry, focuses specifically on the catalog industry; report findings were based on an online survey of 474 catalog marketers in April.

Alterian’s Eldridge said catalogers are more sophisticated than others because of their database expertise.

“We see catalog marketers as being quite advanced in this regard, as they are truly database marketers and this is the core of their activity,” Eldridge said. “They have done good work in ensuring that the database is at the heart of their multichannel strategy, although there is still some way to go with just under half [still] needing to carry out the integration.”

DMA senior research manager Anna Chernis agreed.

“Catalogers have more experience working with customer databases,” she said. “Our numbers support that.”

Dave Frankland, a senior analyst at Forrester Research said that is because “catalogers were forced a few years ago to accelerate their move to integrate multiple outbound and inbound marketing channels. Once they realized that catalogs weren’t being killed by the Internet but were in fact a major driver of online sales, catalogers invested heavily to integrate marketing tools and sophisticated match-back techniques.

And while catalogers have integrated marketing and advertising, when it comes to profiling customers in the database, the numbers are not as good. Thirty-five percent of respondents to the DMA survey said customer profiles are not integrated. Just over a third (34%) are fully integrated.

“f you look at customer profiles, the numbers are very low,” Chernis said. “For example, your catalog customer can also buy from retail and the Web. In some cases, it is as if they are three different people. For example, you might buy from Macy’s by mail, and you are considered their catalog customer and you can shop at retail as well—and you end up with two different profiles.”

She added: “These divisions are still operating separately. They still have not figured out how to integrate all this data together because of the complexity of databases.”

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