Adobe conducted a global survey for the ninth edition of its report, “The 2019 Digital Trends Advertising in Focus,” which revealed that brands are intent on taking control of their data to improve customer experience. 

The data found that the ultimate differentiator between brands is a personalized experience, largely driven by customer data. Digital-first companies are 64 percent more likely than their peers to have exceeded their goal of improving customer experience. Still, two-thirds of respondents admit they have a fragmented approach to marketing and customer experience technology. Only one in ten organizations see themselves as “very advanced” regarding customer experience—a two percentage point improvement since 2015. As for what prevents them from advancing digital plans, 38 percent of marketers cited a lack of internal resources.

A major theme emerging from Adobe’s research is the importance of harnessing data for commercial gain. Fifty-five percent of marketers are prioritizing better use of data and more effective audience segmentation and targeting, followed by what 42 percent of respondents considered their second priority—improving customer intelligence insights for a holistic customer view. Similarly, 24 percent of the largest organizations surveyed regard data-driven marketing that focuses on the individual the most exciting opportunity for their brand.

Conducted in partnership with Econsultancy, the report surveyed 13,000 marketers, creatives and IT professionals in North America, APA and other regions to determine the digital trends driving marketing experience strategies with a focus on understanding companies’ priorities and greatest challenges.

“While customer experience is widely recognized as crucial for commercial success, the research suggests that organizations are struggling to translate this conceptual understanding into an operational reality. Whether CX is a mindset, philosophy or a discipline, too many companies are failing to seize the initiative,” noted Econsultancy founder Ashley Friedlan.

Despite this, brands are ready to change the way they view and utilize data collection to serve their audience in new and exciting ways. For example, half of client-side respondents said their companies plan to increase customer experience technology spending in 2019. Better use of data is also important for improving the design and delivery of digital experiences. Brands like Dell, General Mills and Visa are actively working to improve custom data integration.

While marketers are keen on leveraging data, protecting customer privacy is a top concern for them. More than a quarter of marketers, namely 28 percent, said that personalizing customer experience without violating consumer privacy keeps them awake at night. Fifty-two percent of customer experience leaders, however, reported a positive impact from an increased focus on consumer data protection versus eight percent who see a negative impact.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has gained considerable momentum, with a 50 percent increase since last year in the proportion of larger organizations stating they already use AI. There are still barriers preventing advertisers from reaping AI’s full benefits, as 37 percent concede that a lack of knowledge on how they can use AI is holding them back from adding it to their business. 

Adobe’s report reflects the magnitude of the task before advertisers when it comes to doubling down on data. If brands want to attract and keep customers in a market brimming with choices, they must use insights to inform all aspects of the customer journey and provide a more personalized experience.