A recent Gartner report found that CMOs will spend nearly 12 percent of revenue on technology in 2018—but it’s time for communicators to take a step back and evaluate the long-term impact of their digital investments on current and future customer relationships. New research uncovers fresh insights on the trade-offs between automated tactics and human-driven engagement.

The new study from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services and sponsored by ON24, Scaling Human Interaction in Customer Experiences, reveals a majority of comms pros agree that taking a more personalized approach gives their business a competitive edge—but most digital technologies today only allow for generic, superficial interactions.

In a digital tech world, comms pros face challenge of scaling human engagement

“As digital marketing gets more automated, impersonal and potentially artificial, marketers need to ensure that their current and future customers are being treated as more than just names in a database,” said Joe Hyland, CMO at ON24, in a news release. “This report gives every marketer a business imperative for 2019—find the balance between human engagement and your ability to scale. Then, invest in those digital experiences that offer a unique balance, giving just as much focus on high-quality interactions as high-quantity results.”

In a digital tech world, comms pros face challenge of scaling human engagement

Additional highlights from the study, which featured nearly 300 respondents representing a range of industries:

Personalization matters…

Eighty percent of marketers agreed that the human element in a customer experience gives their organization a distinct competitive edge.

But it’s hard to scale

Nearly 60 percent say it’s difficult to replicate face-to-face experiences with customers by using digital technologies.

Email and social media are popular, but where’s the ROI?

In the past two years, 72 percent say they have used email marketing, and 86 percent have used social media outreach—but 70 percent of respondents say their organizations are not using these tools effectively.

Engagement pays off

Nearly 50 percent of the organizations with the highest levels of customer loyalty say they are trying to maintain the same high level of customer experience across live and automated channels.

In a digital tech world, comms pros face challenge of scaling human engagement

The survey examines the different channels marketers are investing in and which deliver the highest ROI on their bottom line.

“It’s ironic,” said Laura Ramos, vice president and senior analyst at Forrester Research, in the release. “Our marketing technologies target people. But people often play a small role in designing what the systems deliver. Many executives believe they can just plug in the technology and it will magically improve business performance and customer engagement.”

One opportunity for marketers to scale the impact of human-to-human interactions is through webinars. According to the marketing tech analyst firm SiriusDecisions, webinars are the highest-rated human touchpoint for buyers. This has led to a rise in webinar marketing with nearly 60 percent of marketers planning to increase investments in webinars.

“At ON24, we believe marketers need to totally rethink engagement and make the audience experience—not getting a form filled—their number one priority,” said Hyland. “Interrupting prospective customers with unwanted spam and measuring results simply by clicks and views just creates more noise. Through interactive data-rich webinars and content, we believe marketers don’t have to choose between what their audience wants and what their business needs. Creating online experiences that do both is how marketers will win.”

Download the report here.

In a digital tech world, comms pros face challenge of scaling human engagement

The report is just the latest way ON24 helps marketers gain insights into how they can elevate their campaigns and strategy. For more perspectives on today’s challenges and opportunities in digital marketing, tune into the company’s ongoing podcast series, CMO Confessions.

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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