To continue our examination of how big brands and merchants use digital marketing locally, I wanted to take a look at what kind of tools they use to manage and analyze the effectiveness of their efforts. Street Fight’s recent survey revealed that many appear to rely on cobbled-together – not to say “kludgy” – solutions of tools and corporate data. As we wrote earlier, they rate integrating tools and data as pain-points that suppliers of marketing solutions could help alleviate.
Street Fight surveyed 200 managers and decision makers at big companies about their strategies and tactics for digital marketing used to support local stores, branches, and partners. Nearly half of them told us they spend a third or more of their digital marketing budgets on local results, and 40% of them expected to increase that mix this year. Social media and mobile topped their spending growth; they also said they’d increase dollars for email marketing, display advertising, and local websites.
Though they used a broad variety of digital and traditional techniques, many considered digital tactics less effective than things like direct mail, local print, and local TV and radio. No doubt some emphasize digital for driving traffic to their corporate site, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to back up the survey’s implications of incompatible marketing technologies and data sources, as well as data and process silos limiting campaign efficiency and ROI.
For example, relatively few of these sophisticated companies make use of a common tool for managing and coordinating campaigns. That’s the case even though a third of respondents said various local programs were centralized at headquarters, and another fifth to a fourth described them as overseen by HQ but with lots of local management input. (Only 10% to 15% of those managers said any given program’s strategy, tactics, and operations were managed locally with HQ approval.)
As shown in the figure above, only a slim majority (55%) of national-to-local marketers used social media management tools to manage and coordinate marketing between offices. Somewhat over a third used a digital dashboard for ROI assessment, and a similar number used media-mix modeling techniques. I concede that media-mix modeling – measuring local print, TV, or digital campaigns against local store sales to compare effectiveness and adjust spending – is expensive, but it’s well-established among packaged goods and retail advertisers. What’s surprising is that small business marketers Street Fight has surveyed use dashboards and social media management tools almost as much as these much larger companies.
The good news is that companies that used a common tool got better results. The dashboard users – over 60% of whom also use social media tools – were more likely to rate their digital efforts as “very effective” across various marketing objectives than non-users were. More of them appear to be better at new customer acquisition and upselling. They need the most help on customer conversion, much like non-dashboard users.
The tools users are backing up their success with budget. Dashboard users (55% vs. 40% of national-to-local marketers overall) were more likely to say they would increase the digital proportion of their local marketing budgets. And more dashboard users said they’d increase social (64%) and mobile (62%) spending this year – also the overall respondents’ top two – but they’re more aggressive on display (58%) and paid search (46%).
So what kind of data feeds brands’ local marketing programs? Overall, the national-to-local marketers deem their own customer data more effective than that of third-party sources.
As shown above, about two-thirds of the survey respondents said their company’s customer data was “effective” or “very effective” for local marketing, with email addresses close behind (59%). It’s hard to fault this reliance on home-grown data, but as these companies become more dependent on cross-media and mobile marketing, they’re going to have to coordinate and sync up multiple sources. When they run into the walled gardens with which Apple, Facebook, and Google surround mobile users, even these sophisticated marketers are going to need to do more “look-alike” customer targeting. They won’t be able to tag existing customers across devices and channels simply. And, judging by the survey, they’re just starting to get their minds around real-time location data.
The dashboard users are already running into this. Overall, the marketers we surveyed listed making marketing technologies work together (43%) and overlapping or contradicting data analytics (39%) as their most difficult challenges. For the dashboard users, the corresponding percentages were 50% and 51%.
Would-be suppliers of marketing technologies and services can use Street Fight survey analysis to help them identify opportunities at national-to-local marketers and fine-tune their offerings and marketing pitch along the following lines:
- Acknowledge that even big brands and merchants struggle to knit together common metrics and processes for coordinating local marketing. Even though operations are often centralized, they appear to have silos blocking efficient ROI evaluation.
- These companies will not be able to rely as much on their own proprietary customer data. Suppliers should help them map and synchronize disparate sources to minimize potentially jarring incompatibilities. This won’t be easy, and it won’t be turnkey: pure-play tech companies will need help from agencies or consulting operations.
David Card is Street Fight’s director of research.