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Marketers are adjusting their budgets and tactics to become more consumer-centric. But they need speed and agility to keep up with today’s demanding customers, according to a new report.

Leapfrog Marketing Institute, a unit of Evanston, Ill.-based digital agency Leapfrog Online, published the report, Evolving Strategic and Financial Plans for the Always-On Consumer (registration required).

It's based on a December survey of marketing and digital executives who all identified themselves as budget owners or budget influencers. More than 65 percent also described themselves as executive managers.

More Touch Points

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“For those who have their finger on the pulse of where digital trends are heading, the findings reinforce the belief that more people are moving towards being engaged at any point in the customer life cycle,” said Rob Roy, group vice president of e-commerce and interactive marketing at Time Warner Cable, who contributed to the report.

Roy said brands need awareness that they are "potentially interacting with customers across many touch points they don’t know about or haven’t even thought about, whether a smart phone, social or other outside forces.”

According to the report, marketers are beginning to align investment and actions when it comes to being customer-centric. More than 80 percent of marketers surveyed stated that they are shifting budgets to become more customer-focused, rather than allocating by channel or product.

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When asked how they planned to align their budgets, the majority of those moving to a customer focus (52 percent) said they are concentrating on customer life stages. That includes acquisition, retention, loyalty and customer relationship management.

Far fewer (29 percent) plan to shift to cross-functional alignment or shared budgets. That is likely a reflection of changing organizational structures, the report noted.

Mobile Shifts from Device to Consumer

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Aligning with the shift from channel to consumer focus, 83 percent of marketers indicated that mobile spend would be integrated into a larger marketing budget rather than being given its own budget.

However, among that group, 52 percent said mobile would be folded into a digital marketing budget – one that tends to be more channel based. Although the report states that the shift to a digital budget appears contradictory to a consumer-focused organization, Roy disagrees.

“Digital is the new advocate for the customer journey,” he said. “If I look at my personas, I think of them as the always-connected individual. What better a channel to be tied into that lifestyle than digital?"

He added that “putting all of the digital dollars within the same team that is also driving the digital experience for the customer helps it become a richer experience.”

Flat Budgets, Data-Driven Efficiencies

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More than half of those surveyed (54 percent) stated that their 2015 budgets would remain flat, while 35 percent indicated an increase.

Interestingly, the report indicates that with new tools and insights, marketers are able to make faster, data-driven decisions, allowing them to maximize their spend.

“If you look at a flat budget, that doesn’t mean it’s flat across all verticals,” commented Roy. “As more people move toward online becoming one of their primary resources, certain budgets will start to move down, but you’re moving your digital budgets up to accommodate that shift in behavior.”

He added that the shift to digital brings added efficiencies.

“Things stay flat, but you’re going further with your dollar because you can expand to multiple digital channels, and be more efficient with spend because you know whom you’re targeting.”

Alignment is Key

Roy concluded that, in order for organizations to be successful in the market, both finances and action must be focused on the same goal.

“As customers move toward the always-connected mentality, you need to make sure your spend and experience are running parallel,” he said. “The end-to-end experience must be well-tuned to maximize dollars and opportunities, as well as maximize usability and the experience the customer has with your business.”