SparkPost Global Survey Reveals 74% of Marketing Leaders Concerned with Impending Privacy Changes

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Uncertainties Related to Privacy Regulations and Changing Industry Rules Are Driving 82% of Organizations to Prepare; Causing 95% of Leaders To Commit to Better Organizational Alignment

SparkPost, the world’s largest email sending and optimization platform delivering nearly 40% of the world’s email, today released its annual email benchmark report, titled Email in 2022: The trends, behaviors, and benchmarks driving email forward. The report closely examines how digital marketers and email marketers have adjusted two years into the pandemic, and what digital marketing strategies they’ve leaned on to accelerate growth and connection with key audiences. The report includes data from two global surveys: 1) of 2,000 marketing leaders that looked at changes in strategies and budget, teams and workload, effects of privacy changes, and email marketing value and investments; 2) of 224 email marketing practitioners focused on how industry and economic changes have affected their ability to execute and succeed.

The marketing leaders survey found that while businesses are showing a strong rebound from two challenging years, they are very mindful of how privacy can and will affect their future digital marketing success. The good news is most leaders recognize the importance of investing in aligning each marketing discipline, shoring up solid data practices, and bolstering their arsenal of branded content and communications channels.

2021 Proved Most Businesses Have Recovered Economically

Businesses, for the most part, are bouncing back to pre-COVID levels, but marketing leaders are more mindful of where dollars are spent. Last year, only 42% of leaders were optimistic that economic recovery was within reach. Now, 63% report their budgets and priorities reflect pre-COVID levels. Priorities are shifting in that advertising and wide-net marketing efforts like social media marketing are too much of a gamble for organizations. Instead, they are investing in building out content and branding, which points to organizations knowing the value of investing in themselves.

  • 91% of leaders say their team has been successful this year, signaling changes brought on by the pandemic have allowed marketing teams to prioritize budget and energy to their benefit.
  • Consistently positive performance is good news for business: 71% of businesses have grown their marketing teams in the last year, reflective of a strong industry landscape, prioritization of marketing to the business, and appetite for good talent.
  • 70% report business performance as better overall compared to last year. In 2020, only 42% of leaders said their businesses were performing better than the previous year.
  • Comparatively, in 2020, 32% of leaders said business performance was worse. Fast forward one year, and that figure shrunk to 15%.

Budgetary spend has shifted in the last year, with 2021 ranked budget priorities: 1) Branding, 2) Content Marketing, 3) CRM and Email Marketing, 4) Digital Advertising, 5) Social Media Marketing, 6) Demand Gen, 7) Website. In 2020, the top three areas of spend were (in order): Digital Advertising, Content Marketing, and Social Media Marketing.

Email Marketing Continues to Perform as a Trusted Channel, Delivering Against the Bottom Line

In years past, email marketers have been viewed as siloed parts of the marketing organization, but the tide is turning in a major way. Alignment across all marketing channels has skyrocketed in importance to marketing leaders in the last year, with 95% of leaders noting email marketing specifically is more tightly aligned with the marketing ecosystem compared to last year.

  • The effort is paying off, with 76% of leaders saying their email marketing program has made a positive impact on the business in 2021, compared to 58% in 2020.
  • 52% of marketing leaders deem their teams as “highly efficient,” due in large part to bringing the email campaign production and management work in-house.
    • Globally, 63% of leaders say everything is done in-house. This is mostly true in North America, where 76% of leaders have taken the work completely in-house.
  • With returning budgets alongside bigger objectives and goals, workload is also on the rise – 69% of leaders say their teams are “busier than ever” (compared to 48% in 2020); 77% of North America leaders say there is a significant workload increase.

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Privacy-Related Changes and Challenges Continue to Worry Marketers

The overall fragility of privacy – regulations, consumer behavioral shifts, and big changes coming from the likes of Apple and Google – are having both short- and long-term implications on business. Changes in privacy regulations and a shift in consumer perception of personal data are a big factor in marketing leaders’ commitment to invest in earned and owned marketing channels.

Email continues to grow in importance for CMOs, as many audiences have leaned on it for information and connection throughout the pandemic. The boom of email in the early stages of the pandemic shows no signs of slowing in 2021 and beyond. As such, marketing teams are prepping now for changes that are expected to come, with an overall approach of proactively respecting customer privacy.

  • 82% of leaders are actively preparing for privacy changes.
  • 67% of practitioners say they’re concerned with how privacy changes will affect their ability to perform.
  • 59% of leaders report their organization’s email engagement data has “taken a hit.”

Specific changes that are keeping leaders up at night: Apple’s iOS 15 changes are of most concern (81% rank it medium to high concern), followed by Google’s third-party cookie tracking (77%), government regulations (72%), and deprecation of app tracking data (72%).

Future of Work Success and Employee Happiness Hinge on Improved Collaboration and Communication

Globally, nearly half (49%) of companies are still fully remote; 41% are hybrid. When asked if they love it, hate it, or are indifferent to working remotely, 85% of marketing leaders say they love it; 90% of practitioners agree. Despite significant workload increases, it’s clear most companies have rebounded financially, and the increased investments in hiring and collaboration tools is allowing workers to succeed, mitigating frustrations, bottlenecks in work, and redundancy. For those fully remote:

  • 98% actually say their collaboration is either the same (16%) or better (82%) compared to being in-office.
  • 96% say communication is the same or better.
  • 95% say productivity is the same or better.
  • When gauging how changing work situations have impacted happiness: 95% of fully remote workers say it’s the same or better, compared to 89% of hybrid workers and 89% of those in the office full-time.

Work situations related to on-site, hybrid, and remote work still vary, yet it’s clear that workers are happiest (and most productive) when they have the flexibility to determine their own ideal work-from-home/office routine. For the 41% of companies that have a hybrid work set-up:

  • 71% of marketing leaders say they love it; 45% of practitioners agree.
  • 94% say collaboration is the same or better compared to being in-office.
  • 93% say communication is the same or better.
  • 90% say productivity is the same or better.

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