Just about all marketers agree personalization is a big priority, but data privacy and integrating marketing channels are major challenges. About 64% of marketing executives say they want to increase spending on personalization in the next year.

Using data to personalize the communications brands and retailers have with customers—or prospective customers—is becoming standard practice among marketers tasked with courting consumers’ wallets, according to a recent survey conducted by Forrester Research Inc. and commissioned by Conversant Media, a division of Conversant Inc. that sells digital marketing software and services. But the extent to which marketers are personalizing their promotions varies because of ongoing concerns about data privacy, their ability to integrate data across marketing channels and their ability to secure the resources to execute on programs that would take personalization to the next level.

The survey of 101 marketers in business-to-consumer industries found that while 94% of respondents say personalization plays an important role in helping them meet short-term goals and 97% say it is important for long-term objectives, most marketers today use basic or limited personalization techniques. An example of a basic technique is to address a customer by name in promotional e-mail messages. A limited personalization technique is to segment customers and send the same message to consumers in a particular segment; 95% of respondents say they do at least that. A third of respondents say they use advanced techniques to personalize in at least one channel. An advanced technique would be to include multiple, real-time personalized elements in communications, such as product recommendations based on past purchases. E-mail marketing today is the digital channel where 33% of top marketers say they are using the most advanced personalization techniques; 25% say they are applying them in social advertising; 25% in online display advertising; 23% in online video advertising; 21% in paid search; and 18% on their web sites.

About 64% of marketing executives say they want to increase the amount of money they spend on personalization in the next year. But challenges persist: 66% say securing internal resources to use on personalization is a major or extreme challenge; 65% say it’s similarly difficult to build or integrate the technologies that would give them a single view of customers across all channels; and 63% say the same about data privacy remaining a challenge to broader implementation of personalization techniques.   

“We believe the study quantifies a trend we’ve seen in countless meetings with publishers and advertisers where marketers are struggling to turn their big consumer data assets into actionable personalized communications,” says Scott Eagle, chief marketing officer at Conversant Media.

The report recommends implementing personalization technologies that will give marketers a single view of customers across all channels and help automate content creation as the first step to implementing more comprehensive personalization programs.