Delivering personalized communications that drive customer engagement at every touchpoint continues to be a challenge for most marketers. And with a plethora of channels to choose from, it can be difficult to determine where to allocate budget and resources to ensure the best customer experiences — and drive the best outcomes.

Earlier this year, performance marketing agency Merkle surveyed over 200 North American brand marketers to learn more about their digital priorities when it comes to customer engagement. Survey respondents indicated they want to invest more in technology, data and analytics, and that email is consistently a valuable channel for customer retention, personalization and gaining customer insights.

According to the Merkle Customer Engagement report [registration required], evolving CRMs are positioned to support marketers in adopting data-driven marketing strategies. CRM plays a pivotal role in how many marketers manage the facets of customer engagement — even offline engagement — and can help marketers facilitate better personalization strategies. Without the tie-in to email, it will be nearly impossible to create layers of rich engagement data necessary for personalized communications.

Marketers need better data and analytics

According to the Merkle Customer Engagement report, marketers want to increase their martech investments to bolster their data and analytics capabilities and build out more robust customer profiles in their CRM systems. Thirty-two percent of those surveyed said they would invest more in data, technology and analytics before anything else.

single most significant area of investment for marketing resources and programs, with CMOs reportedly spending roughly 29% of their budgets on martech in 2018. The findings from Merkle point to the ongoing need to harness our data and analytics from all of these different resources and programs in order to improve our marketing efforts and outcomes.

While the report doesn’t distinguish the specific type of tech marketers are after, the need for data and analytics continues to be a driving factor for marketers who recognize the need to embrace it. As the customer data platforms (CDP) industry sees rapid expansion and larger tech companies developing their own CDP-like solutions, the demand for more data — and manageable methods for translating it into actionable insights — is increasingly become a highly visible part of our job as marketers.

Email address is the highest priority data point to marketers

That wealth of rich data will be all but meaningless if you don’t have an email address associated with the data. Approximately 68% of survey respondents said that a customer’s email address is the highest priority data types to acquire – prioritized over all other data points. An email address is the most valuable piece of data that we can collect from our customers.

When asked what the most valuable marketing channel is for customer retention, 52% of respondents cited email as the most valuable marketing channel for customer retention.

research [registration required] published by Merkle’s HelloWorld team indicated that 80% of people would provide an email address as part of a promotion to win an award.

An additional 84% of those surveyed said that they would review a brand or product online, with 83% saying they would watch a brand video. These findings can help marketers start thinking outside of their promotional marketing to shift towards a more engaging experience for the customer.

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