The CMO report by Conversant, parent of affiliate network CJ Affiliate, has revealed a shocking batch of findings regarding marketers ability to identify their customers across devices, and between online and offline activity.

A survey of more than 60 international CMOs – nearly two thirds (61%) of which claimed to aim for “close customer relationships” – found a general failing in implementing basic steps to reach customers on a personal level.

According to the report, just 16% of CMOs were “very confident” that they could identify the same person over multiple devices online, despite cross-device analytics and attribution having been a frequently made claim and point of discussion for several years.

When it comes to “tying” together online and offline customer data – a notoriously difficult chasm to bridge – the majority (85%) have reached a dead end.

Annoying customers, wasting spend

“The word personalisation is often bandied about by marketers, but few are actually doing it right,” said Elliott Clayton, VP of media UK, Conversant.

“In fact, the large majority of marketers don’t have sufficient clarity to tell if it’s the same customer online and offline, or between their smartphone and laptop. Not only will this annoy customers, but it’s a waste of marketing spend – you could easily be advertising a product to a customer who just purchased it.”

Almost two-thirds of the sample (65%) admitted to not tracking both online and offline sales, while just 24% actually use real-time customer activity to tailor their marketing communications.

Meanwhile, a third (34%) only measure channel impact based on click data.

“A big obstacle to delivering one-to-one marketing at scale is correctly measuring and tracking customer data,” continued Clayton, “To see clearly and reach customers on a personal level, marketers need to analyse their customers’ purchasing habits and behavioural data online, offline and across devices.”

With 17% of all retail occurring online, said Clayton, it’s essential for today’s marketers to have an increased understanding of activity occurring offline. However, while data is essential here, “lazy metrics” like clicks simply don’t gauge return.

“And if you can’t identify your customers,” Clayton adds, “nor identify incremental improvement from your marketing activity, then you don’t actually know who you’re communicating with and how these communications are affecting your business.”