Study: Marketers Struggle with Measuring Digital ROI

Despite the increasing investment in digital advertising, a new study suggests that many marketers are frustrated by their online efforts and inability to determine ROI.


In a survey of 198 senior marketers, IBM and the CMO Council found that 38% feel digital strategies have mixed results and only 7% said they exceeded expectations. About 43% said that the shift to digital experiences has revealed cracks in their systems.

Marketers “went whole hog into that digital ecosystem, and we bought into this idea that yes, we need to be omni-channel,” said Liz Miller, senior vice president at the CMO Council. “We really did think that this was where the payoff was going to come. To now realize that really isn’t happening, it’s quite frustrating.”

Miller said marketers are confused by the differences between multi-channel, cross-channel and omni-channel. Multi-channel means that a brand has a presence in print, television, web or other forms of media. Cross-channel means that the brand’s presence is uniform across the website, mobile app and in the physical store. Omni-channel means that a customer’s history with the brand continues into future interactions through all forms of engagement.

The survey found that marketers struggle with omni-channel as 27% said they aggregate data but don’t use it. Those that do use the data (14%) report no advancement because they’re unsure how to utilize it. When asked for their first reaction to the term “cognitive computing,” 24% of the marketers surveyed said that they weren’t sure what it was, much less the value it could bring to their brands.

Although they admit confusion, 42% of marketers surveyed said their top digital experience goal in 2017 is to better connect their campaigns into a comprehensive experience that drives engagement. Miller said that marketers should gain input from everyone in the company, from senior management to customer service representatives and in-store employees, to create a clear, digital strategy.

“Marketing really needs to step into that role of being the change agent, having the data that proves that it’s worth it, that it’s actually improving and moving the bottom line,” Miller said.