If we believe what we’re being told, marketers in 2016 should be able to take the overabundance of data at their fingertips and leverage it for their benefit, day in and day out.

But according to a new study, released today by the CMO Council and conducted in partnership with Pegasystems, it appears this isn’t the case at all.

In the report — entitled “Predicting Routes to Revenue” — only 5 percent of marketers say they have mastered the ability to adapt and predict the customer journey and truly understand which actions will derive maximum value.

That’s a pretty grim finding, but it gets worse.

The study — which is based on insights from more than 150 senior marketing executives surveyed primarily across North America and Europe during the fourth quarter of 2015 — also reveals that only 3 percent of respondents said they were realizing the full revenue potential of their customers. Almost half (47 percent) said they were not maximizing revenue, 44 percent said they were working on it, and 6 percent revealed that they simply didn’t know how well they were doing at all.

When it comes to delivering on brand promises to customers, the outlook is equally bleak. Only 16 percent of marketers feel that their organizations are delivering customer experiences that fulfill their brand promises, while two-thirds say their efforts in this area are hit or miss, and 14 percent say they are completely missing the mark.

“So the cynic in me says this is an age-old marketing story that spans from the early days of sales force automation and data aggregation, and seems to just morph into new buzzwords every few years,” Liz Miller, senior vice president of marketing at the CMO Council, told me. “It feels like the more things change, the more the challenges stay the same. But the realist says that the reason for the bleak picture has more to do with the rapidly evolving marketing landscape that must race to meet the continuously shifting customer consumption behavior. Both customer and marketer are moving on equally fast hamster wheels!”

There is certainly a case for this idea. The number of products available to help marketers do their jobs over the last year has seen triple-digit growth (for the third year running), the number of marketing channels has exploded into the hundreds, and mobile is the fastest-growing, most competitive marketplace we’ve ever experienced.

“In reality, this bleak picture is really a statement about the next big leap in marketing,” Miller said. “I think of it as a shift from ‘campaign-brain’ to customer life cycle experiences. We have to stop thinking about customer experience as a loosely connected tapestry made up of random acts of marketing. And while yes, we now have ample data to refine, optimize and even personalize those random acts, we need to take that next step to remove ourselves from the marketing bubble and think of the customer experience across every touch point.”

But it isn’t all bad news.

Personalization remains a high priority for marketers, and 31 percent of respondents say that they are able to provide better customer experiences, largely due to the accessibility of customer intelligence data.

This enables them to become more relevant to customers, which is critical, in light of how customer expectations for personalized experiences have skyrocketed. My study of how consumers feel about personalization concurs, finding that almost 78 percent of “digital natives” now expect a personalized web experience.

“It’s funny,” Miller said. “When many CMOs hear talk of a ‘single customer data record’ thoughts immediately shift to the painful task of corralling legacy infrastructures, fighting for compliance, ownership, governance, and negotiating with operational silos about where systems can reside. In other words, many think of hard work and the impossible. I think of it in the terms of a single instance of customer truth — a single decision hub that the entire organization (and not just the entire marketing organization) contributes to and benefits from.”

And are the bigger companies in the survey more prone to these issues? Do the smaller businesses have an advantage over those that might be working to update legacy systems and data?

“We actually did not see any data differences between company size,” Miller told me. “I can say, from my conversations with CMOs, that the issues we face are universally around experience, data and how we turn our customer service strategies into revenue. The difference is often that large companies have large legacy processes, cultures, and silos to overcome. Small companies have resource constraints that span every conceivable aspect of the business, from talent to technology. What can be said for smaller companies, especially those in the venture funding stage of business, is that there is an opportunity to build the culture of the organization to be centered on the customer from the ground up.”

In general, however, the report offers a hard reality check, showing once again that in the real world of marketing, having access to the data isn’t, in itself, that useful. Having clean data that provides a full 360-degree view of the customer, thereby opening up the opportunity for personalized marketing, does help. Unfortunately, most marketers just aren’t there yet.

The full report is available to download from the CMO Council website today.

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