For the second time in a week, a study reported a big gap between what marketers think about customer experience (CX) and what they're doing about it.

Last week, IDC analyst Mary Wardley noted the challenges faced by marketers who want to optimize customer experience within their organizations. This week, CX technology provider SDL is reporting "an important disconnect" in perceptions among retail marketers that may give an advantage to competitors.

Retailers are overwhelmed by the complexity of data, technology and understanding of the customer journey, SDL CMO Paige O'Neill noted in a statement that accompanied the study. Echoing Wardley's take, O'Neill said the "mastery of customer experience is a challenge with many facets."

According to SDL, which conducted the survey during the fourth quarter in collaboration with Econsultacy, respondents included more than 250 senior marketers at North American retailers with average sales of almost $500 million.

Important, But Not Operational

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About 97 percent of the marketers responding rated CX technology as "important" or "essential" to their growth. But only 40 percent described their systems as integrated and cross functional.

And while the vast majority of large retailers own CX tools, only 37 percent have they testing tools needed to optimize their use, the study said.

"It's not that easy," Howard Beader, vice president for product marketing at SDL, told CMSWire. "There's tons of data, there's multiple new systems, there's integration that needs to be done. They recognize those integrations are necessary, but they're not there yet."

Beader said he believes C-level executives are now in sync with marketers on the need for enhancing CX. "I don't think by any means that it's just the marketers," he said.

Emulating Apple

Some companies, like Apple, are ahead of the curve in their customer-centric stores, Beader said, and others know they need to get there.

The report said many of retailers understand customer experience is a tool to enhance conversion and retention, "but don't necessarily see the connection to acquisition. This is an important disconnect, and one that creates a competitive advantage for those who are emphasizing content and social marketing. A customer can't be captured with a single metric or data point. That they're using a mobile device at a store or viewing a particular landing page may be important, but it's far from the whole picture. At the same time, retailers can't optimize if they're inundated with information."

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Untapped Mobile

Mobile CX remains an untapped resource, the report indicated. Mobile has been a priority for retailers for the past two years and the investment is starting to pay off. Half the retailers reported they have a strong understanding of the mobile user experience, but only 35 percent of the marketers think they can differentiate their efforts using mobile.

Spending on CX technologies is rising. Four in five retailers plan to increase their spend for customer experience management in 2015, and none expect to cut it.

"The opportunity in that investment is to grow revenue on the back of deeper, value-based customer relationships," the study found. "The challenge for many will be building their expertise in customer experience management, not simply investing in more tools and more data."

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Title image by Ben30.