Spending on personalization is on the rise this year, with 83% of businesses worldwide planning to budget more -- 32% by significant amounts, according to Trends in Personalization, a study by Sitecore and SoDA.
The top investment areas in 2019 are data & analytics (41%) and technology platforms (36%). And those two areas will receive significant boosts in 2021, with 38% expecting them for data & analytics and 33% expecting them for technology platforms.
In addition, 85% of marketing leaders and C-level executives feel digital personalization is an important part of their marketing ecosystem, and 35% call it a major competitive advantage. And 67% rate themselves as masters or experts.
But budgets remain an obstacle for many companies. And other challenges and gaps in practice are hurting their effectiveness.
For example, many brands fail to leverage basic personalization targeting variables. Only 38% utilize geography, while 38% utilize purchase history, 30%, age; 28%, browsing history; 26%, shopping cart history, 24%, referral source; and 20%, click-stream data.
Moreover, fewer than 45% are using AI to improve content targeting and to become more responsive to user actions or for scenario planning. And less than 33% rate themselves as advanced in email, web, mobile or other channels, or in cross-channel integration.
Also, 52% lack an adequate roadmap or strategic investment plan.
Meanwhile, businesses face these personalization challenges:
In another potential issue, almost 80% have experienced some level of data breach. But only 35% indicate that data privacy is a major priority at their firms, and even fewer — 32% — are actively improving their data privacy practices.
At the same time, 55% rank producing personalized content more quickly as a major priority, and 42% say it is a moderate priority. But creating it more cost-effectively is seen as a high priority by 47% and as a moderate goal by 49%.
Sitecore and SoDA surveyed 351 marketing executives worldwide. There was an almost equal split between those at firms, with digital marketing budgets of $50 million or more and those with less.
The findings vary little across the globe.
The survey found that spending is more of a priority for pure online businesses and for firms with digital marketing budgets of $100MM, and those that see personalization as a competitive advantage. Only 1% are decreasing their personalization budgets in 2019, and 15% are remaining at the same levels as in 2018.
Oddly, 13% see personalization merely as a cost of doing business.