Retail is leading the way when it comes to more customer-focused modern marketing practices, according to a Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Oracle.

Andrea Ward, vice president of marketing, Oracle Marketing Cloud, said the retail industry has a long tradition of being customer-centric. "By embracing new data technologies and taking an integrated marketing approach, retailers are able to create a digital dialogue with their customers and deliver the right messages at the right time," she noted.

Forrester surveyed 523 marketing decision-makers across a range of industries in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France and Australia to evaluate marketing’s maturity in targeting, engagement, conversion, analysis and technology.

The first part of the study, released last October, found that organizations embracing a modern marketing strategy make more money, are seen as industry leaders and create better workplace environments.

Further analysis of the data, released this month, found modern marketing adoption rates vary from industry to industry, with some industries embracing marketing technologies and associated best practices faster than others.

What's 'Modern' Anyway?

According to the study, modern marketers use real time predictive models and statistical techniques including intelligent targeting and cross-channel marketing attribution to ensure personalized customer engagement throughout each stage of the customer journey. Oracle, it should be noted, has its own marketing cloud after its acquisition of Eloqua.

The research found some 46 percent of retail organizations fit that definition: They're using technology to provide targeted, real-time feedback and insights to help tailor content to their customers.

Only 31 percent of total respondents in the all eight industries surveyed (electronics, energy, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, media, retail and telecom) can say the same.

Ward told CMSWire that retail has historically excelled in customer experience because it knows "unsatisfied customers will protest with their wallets.”

More recently, retailers have been quick to embrace technologies that support e-commerce and website sales — and help them get customers to the right sites at the right time, she said. “Many of our retail customers have data showing dramatic increases in website traffic, shopping cart conversions and sales as a result of enhanced audience targeting and their ability to deliver relevant content to the right audience,” said Ward.

She specifically cited Kirkland’s, a specialty retailer with more than 320 stores in 35 states, which attributed a 70 percent increase in email open rates, 55 percent more click-throughs and a 300 percent increase in revenue per email to use of robust marketing technologies.

Teradata Chimes In

Just this week, a survey released by Teradata (which has its own marketing cloud) basically concluded the same things. According to Teradata's 2015 Global Data-Driven Marketing Survey (registration required), a well-integrated data-driven — aka modern — marketing program that provides "a single view of the customer is the path to such individualization, and can result in business benefits that are just waiting to be tapped."

“What makes modern marketing transformative is that the ability to truly connect 1:1 isn’t purely academic – it’s real and available, through data, analytics and marketing solutions," said Jenne Barbour, Solutions Strategy lead for Teradata Marketing Applications.

But many brands and companies, across all industries, still fall short. Only 50 percent of marketers routinely apply data to engage consumers, Barbour said. Another 44 percent admit a lack of consistency in omnichannel marketing. And 80 percent say silos within marketing prevent them from knowing how campaigns are performing across different channels.

Most marketers want to do better, she said: “They want to move beyond segmentation to true one-to-one conversations in a right-time context."

The question is how to get there.

Integration is Key

One way to get your efforts moving in the right direction is to complement your cross-channel strategy with a content strategy that doesn’t focus on selling but instead help build relationships and brand loyalty among your customers, said Ward. 

“But these strategies will be ineffective without the right customer intelligence and visibility. Integrating data from third-party service providers and comprehensive identity mapping are becoming key capabilities for executing the most effective cross-channel content marketing strategies,” she added.

Oracle found that 42 percent of retail organizations currently leverage a fully integrated cross-channel marketing platform for enhanced marketing orchestration, while only 14 percent of respondents from other industries cited a similar level of integration.

Other suggestions:

Tweak your campaigns when necessary to make improvements based on the information you’re gathering, said Ward. “You can’t manage a modern cross-channel content marketing strategy without knowing what works and what doesn’t. This is also essential for proving return-on-investment  of marketing efforts, justifying further investment in marketing.”

Invest in a comprehensive data strategy to gain greater understanding of your customers. "Organizations should look to combine marketing automation technology with content marketing strategies to deliver the right messages to the right people, at the right time,” said Ward.