By Claire West

A survey of 409 consumers and 257 marketing executives conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and sponsored by Lyris reveals gaps in marketers’ perception of how consumers want to engage with brands and what influences their purchasing decisions.

Consumers say they appreciate e-mail offers that are customised to their particular needs based on previous purchases. Yet the transition to more sophisticated customisation has been relatively slow and the majority of marketers surveyed by the EIU continue to stress simple personalisation. The majority of consumers (63%) claim that personalisation is now so common that they have grown numb to it, with 33% of consumers citing superficial personalisation as one of their top annoyances.

Marketers’ inability to interpret ‘Big Data’ is a principal stumbling block to more and better customisation--cited by 45% of executives as the biggest obstacle to more effective digital marketing strategies. These were a few key findings from the EIU report, Mind the marketing gap: Sizing up marketer and consumer perceptions, sponsored by Lyris.

Other key findings include:

•Understanding and capturing customer data is a challenge. Data analysis to extract predictive findings from “Big Data” is now seen as the most necessary skill for marketers (37% of respondents)–a significant increase from the 17% who said this was true five years ago.

•Consumers say they most prefer e-mail for initial product research and post-sale follow-up. For an initial introduction to a product, consumers prefer e-mail (37% of respondents) followed by printed catalogues (35%) and personal referrals (33%). E-mail is also a preferred channel for post-purchase follow-up. And yet marketing budgets are still skewed in favour of company websites over e-mail.

•Marketing executives underestimate consumer concerns about privacy. Some 21% of consumers say they are “very concerned” about the privacy of information contained in e-mail communications with vendors; 39% say they are concerned about information tracked by cookies when visiting company websites. In contrast, only 23% of executives say their organisation’s customers are very concerned about the privacy of their information in the company’s marketing databases.