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Digital marketers still use email marketing as a primary function of their marketing strategy, measure success by visits to their websites and have yet to abandon traditional marketing outlets like print.

Those are some of the findings in a new Sitecore trends report, "Uncovering the realities of today’s digital marketing landscape."

Numbers Digging

Sitecore surveyed 330 digital marketers. The research produced some interesting results,  just like this one did last year. Some of the findings were predictable, such as 73 percent of marketers reporting they are investing more in digital in the next 12 months and only 17 percent noting the use of a single digital marketing platform.

Some key findings included:

  • 82 percent currently feature print in their marketing mix
  • 65 percent currently feature trade shows in their marketing mix
  • Email marketing takes up 85 percent of marketers' efforts
  • 73 percent of marketers measure success of digital marketing activities by visits to the website 
  • In the next year, 44 percent of marketers plan to use a predictive analytics tool. Only 18 percent use one today.

Lars Birkholm Petersen, global director of business optimization services for Sitecore, told CMSWire the two channels with the highest ranking in the digital marketing mix were email to own database and social media.

"It was no surprise to see these two top the list," he said. "Email is a proven and effective channel, and customers are increasingly engaging with brands through social media. For many organizations, increase in social spending reflects their race to catch up with customers’ changing behavior."

Birkholm Petersen said marketers need to focus on why they're spending most of their efforts here. Why do we send these emails? Why do we invest in social?

"The answers to those questions should be tied," he said, "to both the intent and lifecycle of the customer as well as overarching business objectives. Marketers should increase their focus on collecting, connecting and analyzing individual customer behavioral data across all channels. Those data-driven insights will increase marketers’ ability to create relevant content, and to deliver that content to the right customer at the right time, increasing their efficiency and effectiveness."

One Platform: Good or Bad?

Most marketers are using multiple digital marketing tools, according to the Sitecore survey. Is it a bad thing if marketers use more than one platform? 

Five years ago, marketers were focused on managing websites and email campaigns, Birkholm Petersen said. Enter mobile and social, and marketers are "tasked with measuring their initiatives more effectively while optimizing the customer experience across channels and devices," he added.

And this means more systems to their existing architecture, or different systems for different needs: marketing automation to nurture known contacts, web content management to manage content, analytics to track performance, social analytics to track social performance.

"This patchwork solution has been pretty effective, but isn’t necessarily sustainable," Birkholm Petersen said. "Marketers need to recognize the customer across an increasing number of channels and have meaningful, personalized interactions that create a connected experience. They need a single view of the customer that they can leverage in real-time."

Operating on a truly connected platform is the ultimate goal.

"You don’t have to go into different systems to do daily marketing tasks like setting up a test or launching a new campaign, which reduces time to market," Birkholm Petersen said. "Using a single platform will become even more valuable as the marketing landscape becomes more complex."

Predictive Analytics Gets Popular

According to the Sitecore report, 44 percent of marketers plan to use predictive analytics in the next 12 months. That topped the list of new ventures in the next year.

What about predictive analytics is so attractive? 

Predictive analytics can shed light on patterns, Birkholm Petersen said, and can inform tactics that will improve important outcomes.

"Most marketers have been hearing about big data for the past three years, but big data is not enough, especially if you can’t do anything with it," he added. "Predictive analytics allow marketers to leverage their insights intelligently."

Analytics today are underutilized, Birkholm Petersen said. A Sitecore recent trends report found that 62 percent of organizations don’t track digital outcomes that are aligned with their business objectives.

"With the need to create world class connected customer experiences, there is also a need to fundamentally change how we use analytics," Birkholm Petersen said. "Traditional analytics will need to evolve into experience analytics."

Sitecore believes in an "engagement value," a metric that can be used, Birkholm Petersen said, to measure marketing effectiveness from cross-channel initiatives.

"Predictive analytics will play a central role in driving the best possible customer experience in real time, based on history and in-the-moment behavior," he said. "The key is to do this at speed and scale."

Why Engagement Value?

This metric is the key to solving the headache of having too much to measure on ROI without value, Birkholm Petersen said.

"It will give them a cross channel metric that takes their most important digital goals and weighs each accordingly to their contribution for achieving the business objective," he said. "With a cross-channel metric, the comparison is apples to apples. By measuring what matters for the business, marketers can unlock true ROI."