Merkle 2021 Customer Engagement Report Focuses on Data-Driven Conversations in the Cookieless World

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Comprehensive survey explores how businesses are preparing for industry changes ahead

Merkle, a leading technology-enabled, data-driven customer experience management (CXM) company, released its 2021 Customer Engagement Report (CER) of 2021. The report explores data-driven conversations that focus on how businesses are responding to changes in key aspects of customer engagement, including the death of third-party cookies, new strategies required for data and identity, and digital and offline experiences.

Merkle surveyed 800 marketing, analytics, and technology executives of major companies ($100MM+) from the US and UK on the actions being taken and sentiment felt on these topics. The CER discusses the findings from the survey and provides insights on how brands can deliver real-time and relevant customer experiences in the future.

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“The demise of the third-party cookie is driving marketers to rethink media, data, and identity,” said Craig Dempster, global CEO at Merkle. “This moment is forcing marketers to change, and while it initially burdens us with challenges, it also presents an opportunity for radical transformation. The companies that move quickly and smartly may find themselves in a new position that’s more favorable to their customers and way ahead of their competitors.”

Preparing for life without cookies

  • The latest survey results reveal that first-party data is a big area of focus for brands, with 88 percent of respondents identifying the collection and storage of first-party data as a high priority in the next 6 to 12 months.
  • The rise of privacy regulations is another big driver of first-party data initiatives, with 52 percent prioritizing the collection of more first-party data from digital experiences due to regulations.
  • An overwhelming 74 percent of respondents confirmed they are increasing investment in technology and vendor solutions due to rising data restrictions.

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Building data and identity-based experience strategies

When it comes to data driving the customer experience, businesses outlined both integration and technology challenges.

  • Forty-four percent reported an integrated data platform as their biggest gap in delivering real-time, omni-channel personalized experiences.
  • A large majority, 81 percent, indicated that having an audience management platform to centralize and activate data across all online and offline channels is either the highest or a high priority.
  • Other areas of opportunity include customer data platforms (CDP), with “Analytics” and “Identity Management” cited as the highest priorities for a successful CDP, as well as private data clean rooms, with 61 percent reporting increased investment in this area.

Honing digital and offline experiences

The survey also explored customer experience performance across digital and offline.

  • 77 percent of respondents felt they delivered a better customer experience online compared to in-person or over the phone.
  • When a customer provides feedback or a review, 34 percent of respondents say that social media is the channel through which the customer is most likely to receive resolution or feedback from the brand.
  • Less than half, 44 percent, felt their company does very well at capturing and leveraging data to support the customer experience during contactless services.
  • And a majority, 76 percent, stated they do not have full continuity between their brands’ online and in-person experiences.

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