Companies across industries cite the growing importance of data analytics to improve sales and marketing effectiveness and decision-making. But many struggle to piece together siloed data, properly define the business need or design a solution. As a result, they often fail to realize widespread business impact from their efforts, according to a new report conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and sponsored by global sales and marketing firm ZS.

The study, “Broken links: Why analytics investments have yet to pay off,” found that 70% of respondents described sales and marketing analytics as “very” or “extremely” important to their organization’s competitive advantage. About half (52%) said their organizations invest heavily in analytics. But only 2% think transformations in their sales and marketing analytics capabilities thus far have had a “broad, positive impact” on their company.

“While nearly all companies invest in analytics, few organizations are getting it right and generating meaningful business impact,” said Dan Wetherill, an associate principal on ZS’s Analytics Process Optimization (APO) team and leader of the study.

“Our study indicates that strong collaboration between executives and analytics professionals and a willingness to embed analytics processes more closely into the fabric of the business can help companies increase customer engagement and profits,” Wetherill said.

The EIU surveyed nearly 450 U.S.-based senior executives across industries to assess the current state of sales and marketing analytics, as well as the obstacles companies face as they seek leading-edge analytics capabilities and better customer insights.

“As our research illustrates, there’s been substantial progress on the technology side of sales and marketing analytics,” said Gilda Stahl, the EIU’s managing editor of content solutions. “On the business side, however—i.e., making sure the organization actually uses and benefits from this capability—companies are still struggling. Those who get it right in the near future will have an important competitive advantage.”

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