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The Forest and the Trees

Posted on  9 January 13  by 


Say what you will about marketing, but it damn sure ain’t small.

I mean, maybe it is if you’re a small business or you sell commodities. In those cases your market is well-defined and your opportunities limited. That’s not to say that marketing isn’t important for businesses like these – it definitely is – it’s just that getting the job done resembles something more like a checklist than a universe of possibilities. It’s like the difference between Super Mario Brothers, where the imperative is to simply move forward and kill the bad guys, and a game like Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto IV, where it’s the player’s job not only to play the game, but to figure out how to play it.

This is what makes our work so exciting, but it’s also what makes it so dangerous. Marketing – more than just about every other function within an organization – is capable of charting its own destiny. But the enormity of that task makes us susceptible to heuristics and groupthink that provide mechanisms for simplifying the vast array of choices marketers must make every day.

How does this work in practice? Well, we’re told Demographic X are the hot new spenders in our category, so we create a plan to capture them. We’re told that Channel Y is what all the cool people are using, so we launch a brand presence right away. And so marketers end up focusing on change rather than levels; on the first derivative rather than the function at hand.

The Ad Contrarian – one of my favorite bloggers on marketing and advertising topics – has a decent example of this in his latest post. The USA’s biggest group of spenders on consumer goods – by far – is our Baby Boom generation, and yet they are a target for a small percentage of advertising. The reason usually given for this is that older consumers are, for various reasons, less effective as advertising targets (they’re more or less brand loyal, they’re more price conscious, they spend less money, etc.). Marketers also believe that marginal dollars are better spent on youth as these dollars will have the greatest impact on lifetime value. But a new study shows that beliefs and preferences remain just as transient in older folks as younger ones – potentially telling us that the dollars of older people are as up for grabs as any other.

In the Ad Contrarian’s telling, this giant market remains untapped because of heuristics and mental shortcuts that are fundamentally misinformed. Boomers are as willing to spend as everyone else, he says, but no one wants their money.

I don’t want to endorse everything he says – for instance, it appears as though the study he cites might have some serious limitations – and I also don’t believe marketers and advertisers are stupid. But the point remains the same: because of the tremendous complexity of our jobs, we’re likely embracing heuristics and shortcuts that cause us to ignore giant growth opportunities, and we should try really hard not to do that.

In addition to the New Years’ Resolutions we’ve already listed, seeing more forest and fewer trees might be one to add.

6 New Years’ Resolutions for Marketers

Posted on  9 January 13  by 


It’s January 9th, and chances are that some of you have already given up on your New Year’s resolutions. That’s OK – most people fail, January 1 is an arbitrary date, and most New Years resolutions are so vague as to be unactionable anyway.

So we’ll try to be different here. Here are six things that Marketing and individual marketers should be resolving to tackle in 2013 – along with example goals for each.

Focus. Our 2012 research for B2Cs told us something simple, yet revolutionary in today’s marketing environment: the marketers and marketing teams that focus unswervingly on goals related to business (not marketing) success are those that win.

Naturally, this should lead you to ask a few questions of your team: 1) are your goals truly related to the success or failure of your business? and 2) is your team single-minded in the pursuit of those goals? If not – it’s time to start driving that change, an admittedly difficult prospect in the chaotic consumer world.

Here’s what this might look like in practice: “Our team will focus on raising share of wallet with our core segments, and activities that don’t help with that are out.” Then be ruthless in excluding those activities that aren’t sure to lead to increased share of wallet.

Cull. Of course, the chaotic environment doesn’t just affect B2Cs. B2Bs last year told us that their number one problem was that their customers and prospects simply didn’t have time for them anymore: cost pressures have led to more independent research, and the staggering volume of information available to B2B buyers crowded out the content that B2B teams are increasingly producing.

The bad news? That content is the biggest part of the problem. Most B2B content marketing efforts are unfocused attempts to push suboptimal buying buttons, and the sheer volume of those attempts is crowding out content that can make a greater impact on the purchase decision.

So the imperative for B2B marketers this year is to cull content creation and limit it to those efforts aimed at disrupting customer buying criteria – taking the elements of a buying decision and turning them on their head in a way that favors your solution. A sample resolution? “We will only create content that changes how our customers think, rather than merely informing or entertaining them.”

Learn. The world of marketing is probably the fastest-moving of any corporate function; it’s imperative that everyone stay tuned in to cutting-edge thinking that helps them get their jobs done easier. In that spirit, we’ll recommend staying tuned to MLC’s 2013 webinar series (bookmark that page, check it weekly, and watch out for new additions in our weekly newsletter). Once a week or so, we run webinars featuring in-depth looks at our latest research and interviews with prominent practitioners and thinkers. We also have a monthly development series aimed at teaching new-to-role marketers the basics of the function.

Sample resolution: “I will attend one MLC webinar per month.” :)

Think globally. If you’re reading this, chances are you work for a large, multinational firm. And if you work for a large, multinational firm, we can nearly guarantee that you aren’t taking full advantage of the wealth of experience and opportunities a large, global footprint offers businesses like yours.

That’s why one key resolution for anyone working at a big company should be to take better advantage of global opportunities. Start the process by viewing and taking our diagnostic, the Anatomy of a Best-in-Class Global Marketing Organization.

Sample resolution: “We will build a knowledge-sharing system to ensure that best practices and ideas flow across all of our global teams.”

Think cross-functionally. Marketing often gets into trouble when working with other functions around the company. From finance to legal to IT, as Marketing’s scale increases, many members are finding that working with partners around the firm is the most difficult part of the job.

Too often these skirmishes can devolve into full-blown conflicts, something that could be easily resolved with a little communication and empathy. One of our best cases is all about expressing Marketing’s priorities in language the rest of the firm understands – check it out.

Sample resolution: “When we need something from IT, we won’t tell them why Marketing needs it – we’ll tell them why the firm, or better yet, IT needs it.”

Think holistically. We talk about this a little bit in another post this week, but it’s worth reiterating here. A lot of times, the complex world of marketing means we don’t have time to critically examine our assumptions. As Orwell put it, “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle” – and we don’t make much time for that.

This year, resolve to think more broadly than small marketing metrics. See the forest for the trees.

Sample resolution: “Every time we spend money or allocate time, I’ll think of one thing that we’re not allocating our time to.”


4 Design Principles of Customer Centricity

Posted on  7 January 13  by 


Being good at everything would be a phenomenal problem to have.  Unfortunately, that’s just not the case for most of the companies in the world today.  But bear with me for a moment and visualize this utopian state at your company:  Marketing planning is optimized.  Your go-to- market approach is winning.  Operations, finance and service are all working in lock step.  Everything is perfect.

If this was the case, what would you do?

Many of my members would say: look for areas of constant improvement.  And many more members would say: we can be more customer or consumer centric than we are today.

Being more customer centric is a lot to bite off and chew.  That said here are four design principles that can guide your own conversations on the topic:

  1. Start with the customer experience.  The customer experience is often considered the central role in defining a firm’s level of customer centricity.  While MLC has many helpful resources here, I’d particularly recommend our case study from United Services as a starting point.
  2. Create an executive-level chief customer experience officer.  Many members have expressed a keen interest in this topic – so much so that there have been some peer forum discussions on the responsibilities of the role.
  3. Rotate employees into customer facing roles.  Many firms intent on developing a customer first culture see the value in rotating key employees into the front-line.  We’ve profiled a few rotational programs that get after this including GE’s commercial leadership program.
  4. Flatten and decentralize your organizational structure.  Many may consider this a bold design principle and one that diverges with centralizing a chief customer office, but it should be in the conversation.  On a related note, one of the reasons members opt for a decentralized marketing structure is to place more focus on differing customer dynamics that occur throughout their markets globally.  Our overview of org structure models can be found here.

Curious to hear from you.  If you have any other design principles to add, let us know in the comments section.

The Essential Challenge of Marketing Technology

Posted on  7 January 13  by 

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A recent Economic Intelligence Unit survey asked business executives (not necessarily in Marketing) about what areas they found it most imperative for Marketing to invest in in the next three years to improve Marketing’s business impact.  Their responses were overwhelmingly skewed toward technology: eight of the top twelve investment areas (customer analytics, CRM, social media, mobile app development, reputation management, marketing automation, collaboration tools, and web optimization tools) rely heavily on technology, while only four (brand advertising, training employees, direct marketing, and new hires) don’t.

But many marketers aren’t prepared for these technological challenges.  Last year IBM’s Global CMO Study From Stretched to Strengthened showed that CMOs aren’t yet prepared to tackle technology; it found that CMOs’ top three areas of being underprepared are tech-related: the data explosion, social media, and the growth of channel and device choices.

Part of the struggle with keeping up with constantly changing technology is from trying to get IT and Marketing to work together.  This is a challenge, because they each have distinct goals, and most teams aren’t incented on working together.  Marketers are tasked to increase quarterly sales, so they focus on speed to act quickly on new opportunities, maximum experimentation, and short-term wins.  IT, on the other hand, is responsible for maintaining an organization’s technical stability, and focuses on long-term stability, risk mitigation, and process discipline.  As one VP of Marketing put it: “IT’s mission is to keep our company off the front pages for being hacked. IT isn’t evaluated on their work with Marketing, so it isn’t a priority.”

So how can Marketing deal with these unaligned priorities?  At a recent forum on digital marketing, three experimental structural solutions to help marketers work with IT emerged: collaborative processes that engage both teams (e.g., budget signoffs), an IT-led team that focuses on marketing innovation, and a Marketing Technologist, who reports in through Marketing.  MLC members, you can find resources on these experimental structures here.

Marketers, how have you worked with IT to achieve your digital goals?

Two Visions for the Future of Retail

Posted on  19 December 12  by 

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I was on a flight from Atlanta to Washington, DC last week and had the pleasure of meeting a very friendly woman from somewhere in Louisiana on her way to a company holiday party.  In her early thirties, she was generally wide-eyed and enthusiastic about everything.  At one point a colleague and I got into a discussion about Peapod – the grocery delivery service.   “What’s Peapod?” our seatmate asked.  When we explained what it was, she exclaimed incredulously, “You can have groceries delivered?!?”  She looked like someone had just told her they’d found life on Mars.  It was also eye-opening to me – it was sort of like meeting someone who doesn’t know who the Kardashians are (other than my mother, I mean).

As a city dweller and member of the digital native generation, it was interesting to me that she didn’t know you could have groceries delivered.  As a marketing consultant, it was completely fascinating.  There have been so many innovations in the way we get the basic items we need for everyday life from the shelf in the store to the shelves in our cupboards.  If you think about it, grocery stores were sort of step one – a central place you could go to buy all the things you need to feed your family, keep your body clean and your house tidy rather than visiting the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker.  Peapod and companies like are the next iteration – in short, someone to go to the grocery store for you and deposit the spoils on your doorstep.

We are currently in the midst of another round of innovation, but the path is splitting with a few new directions emerging.  On the one hand you have, which has added a number of CPG products to its offerings through both its central distribution system and through partner networks.  After visiting every hair salon in a 15 mile radius, I recently bought a hard to find hair product through Amazon and was delighted to find it on my doorstep a few days later.  Not only can you buy things like hair gel, toothpaste, and diapers through Amazon, but you can subscribe to a service to have them “magically” sent to you at regular intervals and usually for a great deal.

It is hard to out-Amazon Amazon at this business model, but a few companies are trying.  The folks who launched in the mid-2000’s have recently started up a bevy of other commerce sites including (selling home and personal care items), (homegoods), and (organic and natural packaged goods). is another player in this space.

Some consumer packaged goods companies are starting to dip their toes into direct commerce –cutting out the middle man entirely (whether that middleman be of the bricks and mortar or “e” variety).  Procter & Gamble seems to be the most advanced here with the PGEStore launching in 2010 and offering a wide variety of products under the P&G banner.  This dynamic is a bit trickier for CPG companies because of their vital relationships with the Wal-Marts and Targets of the world.  P&G in particular has been very careful to note that their foray into direct sales is more about gathering consumer data and insight rather than directly competing with stores.

The innovation is sure to continue and it’s unclear who will emerge victorious.  Whereas Amazon likely has the greatest variety and reach, the specialty aggregators can sometimes offer a more cultivated, service-oriented approach and CPG directs likely have the greatest ability to specialize and personalize products for individual needs and preferences.

And then of course, there is the good old fashioned grocery store for those who still like to buy their dish soap, toothpaste, and granola bars from a person in a smock.

The B2B Digital Challenge of 2013

Posted on  19 December 12  by 


Do your customers ignore you? In 2012, B2B marketers discovered that buyers are readily turning to their personal networks and publicly available information—increasingly via digital and social media channels—to self-diagnose their problems and form opinions about solutions. Take heart, this is a pain felt across the B2B marketing game board.

So how do you get back in the “conversation”? The truth is, you really can’t. Our research suggests that customers are delaying conversations with companies till they are 57% through the purchase process. So if you’re not being talked to, why not put up a best face for when you’re being researched? Companies that fail to “show up strong” in digital spaces where customers learn and form opinions are at risk of losing mindshare and, ultimately, sales opportunities.

Leading B2B companies are now realizing the importance of digital marketing as a strategic asset in influencing their customers’ purchase process. Not surprisingly, many of these companies are now upping their investments in building out digital marketing infrastructure and capabilities. However, few companies are able to reap the benefits of their enhanced digital marketing efforts.

Where are companies going wrong in their digital marketing strategy? Earlier this year, Google and MLC joined hands to research the best-practices in digital marketing strategy. Our results report titled The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing reveals three key take-aways for marketers:

    • Focus on Digital Integration, Not Campaign Integration: Companies typically integrate different digital touchpoints in the last phases of campaign planning. Since this is often an afterthought, companies fail to realize the full potential of the selected touchpoints. Leading companies, however, integrate different digital functions right from strategic planning to execution, to ensure maximum gains from their digital efforts.
    • Create a Quality-Focused Content Organization: Digital marketers are focusing their efforts on churning out larger quantities of mediocre content. While this content may add to the number of publications, it has limited customer-impact. Leading companies focus their content development efforts on developing quality content that adds value to their customers and results in commercial success.
    • Avoid the Analytics Trap: Marketers try to adopt a multi-channel digital outreach strategy, often investing in various analytics software and techniques for channel mix selection and optimization. By over-emphasizing analytics techniques, and underplaying human expertise to synthesize data, marketers report poor results from their analytics investments. Companies focus their analytics investments on developing human analytics capabilities that help them maximize their data investments. How does your company rank on analytics effectiveness? Take our diagnostic to know better.

Want to Learn More? MLC members can sign up for our upcoming webinar titled the Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing. Here, we will review the highlights from MLC and Google’s recent research, covering such topics as:

  • The state of digital marketing structures and approaches to ongoing collective management of digital tactics
  • The rise of content marketing and structural models for bringing scale to content production
  • The hype surrounding digital analytics and lessons for focusing improvement efforts

Is Your Marketing Team Antifragile?

Posted on  18 December 12  by 


Nassim Nicholas Taleb isn’t what you’d call a nice guy. He would, for example, look down upon my background (economics) and fact that I considered academia a viable career option. It was by chance I didn’t go to Harvard and was decades too late to be a Soviet central planner (he hates those too). But I nonetheless read his books because it provokes the mind, even if you end up disagreeing.

His new book “Antifragile – Things That Gain from Disorder” is intended as an answer to the questions raised in “The Black Swan” where the world is mostly at the mercy of catastrophic and unpredictable events (and smaller ones too). But true to his nature as an anti-guru-guru, he offers few how-tos and best practices, preferring instead to answer in theory.

It is worth reading, especially for marketers, because we’ve been hearing loud and often from our members in the past year about the increasingly volatile marketing environment, something that drove our research on how to build marketing teams for such an environment. While you would think (we did too at first) that the best marketers are agile ones able to anticipate change and react accordingly, only 1/3 is semi-good at it, the other 2/3 do badly. The best marketers are those who thrive in ambiguity and remain persistent through setbacks whenever they occur.

This brings me to the central idea in the book – “antifragility” – a third dimension added to our common perception of things as either fragile or robust.  When in harm’s way, fragile things are hurt or destroyed, robust things are unmoved and “antifragile” thing are made stronger – think the many headed Hydra in Greek mythology that grows two heads for every one that’s cut off.  Or the freakish regenerative ability of the humble starfish when cut to pieces.

Antifragility also turns risk assessment on its head – instead of trying to identify and prevent bad things from happening, it favors a defensive strategy, finding fragility and replacing it with antifragility before a shock occurs so that when it does, even though we may lose a battle, we will not lose the war. In that sense every shock, so long as it is not enough to take you out of the running, is useful information despite the pain it incurs, summed up in the notion of “Post-traumatic Growth” where “people harmed by past events surpass themselves”.

As Taleb argues, small units, or a conglomeration of smaller units such as the city-state of Venice, the cantons of Switzerland or the decentralized Ottoman Empire are more antifragile than the modern nation-state. Learning strategies that favor trial and error (speaking to a Frenchmen) are more antifragile than those emphasizing rule following (studying French grammar). Artists are more antifragile to gossip than bankers.  Certain financial contracts such as the option that gives one the right to buy an underlying asset or instrument at a pre-determined price, is also antifragile because of its limited downside (lose what you paid for the option) but potentially unlimited upside (price swings in your favor). His “this vs. that” examples in nature are fascinating, but I often wish they had not left me the burden of figuring out of how to get to “that” state if I happen to be in “this” state already.  I struggle, for example, with how to make cantons out of the 50 US states, or artists out of bankers.

For marketers, Antifragility holds two implications: one, instead of wishing the marketing environment will somehow become less volatile, one should focus on learning from shocks to the system that come our way and eliminate organizational fragility preemptively. As a thought exercise, imagine what happens if a group of your high performers were to suddenly defect to your competitor, where in your organization/company will you be hit hardest? How would you fix the broken chains of command? How fast can you regroup? Two, artificially imposed stability tends to lead to one off, Black-Swan-esque shocks in the long run. Instead, try fostering healthy volatility by encouraging test and learn, especially where new channels/touchpoints are concerned. Fail small, fail early, fail fast is indispensible to innovation. “Incubators” that lend a temporary independence for these efforts are also helpful. Don’t frown on those who rock the boat – if the boat is still, it’s probably not going anywhere.

It is perhaps impossible to achieve true Antifragility and be invincible against all manner of shocks (even the mystical Hydra proved vulnerable to fire). Building antifragility in one part of organization could also divert resources from other parts, making them more fragile. But living in a world where the only certainty is the certainty of change, it’s not a bad idea that we aim not only to survive, but to thrive.

4 Ways Personalization Goes Wrong

Posted on  18 December 12  by 


Recently in NYC, CEB hosted 23 digital marketing leaders from top B2C brands, and personalization was one of their top challenges.  As marketers struggle to utilize digital data to personalize consumer experience, a couple of examples came up highlighting how personalization can go wrong.   Some of the mistakes are funny.  Some are a bit disturbing.  The key is to learn from history and avoid repeating it.

One example from the discussion in NYC was Tivo’s early attempt to use viewing history to recommend shows.  “My Tivo thinks I’m gay” first appeared in a WSJ article, which reported on a film studio exec who recorded a show he helped develop.  Tivo noted the show had a gay theme and began making similar recommendations. Another was the famous one from Target.

Mistake #1: Transparency. In the Tivo case, there was no transparency into how the algorithm was using information to make recommendations.  The viewer could not anticipate how their viewing would be interpreted.  Improved transparency could have alerted the viewer to the potential implication and reduced the negative surprise.

Mistake #2: Control. My favorite part of the Tivo story is when the self-described ‘straightest guy on earth’, tried to change TiVo’s view of him by recording war movies.  This resulted in Tivo concluding he had a Nazi fixation.  Using only the crude tool of recording other shows produced undesired results, which highlights the value of giving consumers precise control of the personalization inputs.

Mistake #3: Privacy. Recently, Forbes reported on a case where a father learned his teen daughter was pregnant when Target started sending her diaper coupons.  Target used data on everyday purchases like unscented lotions that were strong predictors of pregnancy.  The mistake was failing to recognize that the conclusion (predicting something as personal as pregnancy) required sensitive handling even if the data used (lotion purchases) did not.  With privacy expectations varying significantly between segments, this will likely be the area where the next funny or painful story emerges.

Mistake #4: Targeting. The Target case also highlights the potential targeting problems that can occur in message delivery (the daughter’s mail was received by the father).  Delivering personalized content with privacy implications to the wrong audience is a critical mistake to avoid.

If you are interested in other findings from MLC’s Digital Forum, please click here.

Digital: Is the Party Over?

Posted on  11 December 12  by 


We recently hosted a meeting on digital marketing for heads of digital/marcomm from 24 leading consumer brands.  And something strange happened.  They talked about shifting budget to traditional media and away from digital. Certainly a first for us at a meeting full of digital evangelists. So why the disillusionment?

ROI measurement was, as always, a hot topic, but this time there was a particular focus on new tools, such as Nielsen Cross-Platform Campaign Ratings and AdSafe or ComScore adEffx, that are shedding new light on campaign reach.  Unfortunately though, instead of helping prove ROI, these tools are currently showing that ROI is nothing like what’s being promised by agencies.  It seems the internet isn’t as efficient and targetable as once hoped.

Nielsen AdSafe shows what percent of “served” display ads are actually viewable, i.e., appear within the screen rather than below the fold and load in time for the consumer to see them. The results aren’t good.  Several brands reported that viewable ads made up just 30% of all paid-for ads.  70% waste is a pretty eye-opening figure!  And we’re not talking about whether the ad was actually viewed – just whether it was even visible.  Given everything else competing for attention on the page, being visible in no way ensures being noticed.)

But even if your ad is noticed and clicked on, there’s more bad news. ComScore adEffx evaluates the degree to which validated impressions reach the campaign target audience.  Again, it’s scary stuff.  Marketers told us that when agencies promised over 90% of their target market (e.g., females 18-34), they often reached less than 50%.   One brand said their campaigns regularly achieve just single-digital reach of their target. And yet you pay for every click – even when half (or more!) aren’t relevant.

Taken together, it’s clear that major changes to digital and cross-media planning are required. But before that, the first step is to get the agencies/ad networks to deliver on what they promise – so that advertisers are paying for what they get, as with traditional channels.  Luckily, the IAB and many of our members (and attendees) are taking matters into their own hands.

So what should you do?

  1. Ask how much you can rely on digital alone for reach.  A few of our digital meeting attendees had been using an almost purely digital strategy for some of their smaller brands (with small budgets) and said they’d come to realize that digital isn’t enough.
  2. Set more realistic reach and frequency goals and ask agencies to guarantee them.
  3. Pay for ‘viewable’ impressions.
  4. Demand make goods if you don’t receive the percent of viewable impressions and target clicks promised.
  5. Start working out how to achieve reach via digital. Will it require a longer tail of, say, 30 rather than 15 sites?   How is that additional complexity going to affect planning? And budgets?

The good news is that the IAB is currently leading an initiative to establish industry-wide standards for online ads that will match TV.  As such, ad networks are fast realizing that they’ll lose business and have to give a lot of money back if they don’t comply with emerging standards.  And as more advertisers start applying pressure, change is sure to take hold pretty quickly.

Ultimately, these new tools will make digital more targetable and efficient. More accurate data will help define the role digital should play in the media mix and enable better decisions. So the party may be over for the agencies and ad networks, but digital is about to reach maturity. The real value is yet to come.

We’ll be studying omni-channel marketing next year – so look out for more insights and tips on optimizing the role of digital in the mix.


Holiday Marketing 2012

Posted on  10 December 12  by 


Every year, it seems that the holiday season hits us more and more suddenly.  Here at CEB headquarters in Washington, DC, where it’s still 60?F outside, the lit-up snowflakes and blaring carols seem a bit out of place.  What’s not so surprising anymore: holiday shopping offers.

Yes, the shock of that first spinning ornament on my TV screen passed way back before Halloween.  As expected, marketers were in some sort of race to be the early bird this season: a full 60% of marketers sent their first holiday-related email before November (nearly 30% sent them by the first week of October).

Now, as an analyst, I’d be worried about the potential overload problem – 3 months of similarly-themed emails?  Hardly seems like a wise idea.  But as a consumer, I must admit that the holidays create an exceptional circumstance.  After two months of offers, my bank account is begging me to set up email filters before it’s too late, but the offers haven’t become less appealing just yet.  (I won’t say the same for TV ads – I can’t wait for those ringing bells and bouncing ornaments to disappear.)

Marketers seem to have caught on to consumers like me.  About 75% say that their 2011 holiday email campaigns were successful, and this year, 22% are increasing their holiday email marketing spend.

Where is that money going?  Well, for one thing, over half are increasing their total holiday email volume.  And since holiday season 2011, retailers have invested in the following:

  • New email service provider (50%)
  • Email subscriber acquisition (46%)
  • Automated/triggered messages (43%)

On the other hand, only 36% of marketers have invested in email personalization, and 21% in segmentation, since 2011.  Takeaway for 2013: If you haven’t already, consider these overlooked opportunities to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Another place the money is going: combating online cart abandonment.  Among the marketers who have a plan, the most popular options are to email cart abandoners with a free shipping offer (43%) or with a dollar-off promotion (35%).  Takeaway for 2013: If you’re one of the 8% of online retailers who are not sending abandoned cart reminders, it might be time to reconsider.

So email is winning the holiday campaign race (closely followed by Facebook) – who’s losing?  Not surprising, over 30% of marketers are not investing at all in Pinterest boards.  For those who did, we’ll have to wait and see the effectiveness ratings.

(Data from Experian (SM) Marketing Services’ The 2012 Holiday Marketing Checklist and Retail Systems Research’s Loading the Sleigh: Marketers’ Plans & Expectations for the Holiday Season.)