Will the rift between the way consumers expect brands to communicate with them and the way brands market to consumers ever close?
According to our latest survey research we performed in cooperation with SmarterHQ, Cheetah Digital, and MailCharts, the answer is, “yes.” In fact, marketers are hyper-focused on the customer and their responses speak volumes with their top priority for 2018 being:
Phew, what a relief! Why? Because research from all corners of the earth exposes this rift. For example, in a recent report from The Relevancy Group, 55% of consumers say they ignore or opt-out of email subscriptions due to lack of relevance, and 75% state that frequency overload drives the same behaviors. Since a quarter of consumers delete the message rather than opt out, this doesn’t even present the full picture. As email marketers, we can’t afford for this to keep happening.
Respondents in our “Marketers are on a Mission: The State of B2C Marketing” survey stated that 40% of their digital marketing messages currently consist of newsletter/mass mailings. When asked how their messaging mix will change in 2018, they said every type of communications strategy except newsletters/mass marketing will increase. This includes: personalized dynamic content in mass; personalized by behavior; personalized by demographics; triggered messaging; contextual to time, geography, and device; and predictive.
Travel & Hospitality cater to individuals; Retail invests in personalization tools
Not surprisingly, the Travel/Hospitality industry reports the highest shift already made toward tailored messaging with 63% of its communications catered to individual customers to drive revenue. And the top-two areas where this industry’s digital marketing messages will change most? Increasing contextual messages and personalizing messages based on behavior.
Retail follows in catering to individuals, with 38% of its marketing mix currently focused on individual shoppers. Retail marketers also disclosed plans to send more personalized/dynamic content in 2018, with this being the highest ranked change to their digital marketing messaging mix. And, retailers are “putting their money where their mouths are” with 79% responding that they will invest in personalization tools – more than any other industry surveyed.
In other sectors – financial services and media/entertainment/telecom – approximately three-quarters of marketers are predominantly focused on mass marketing, yet their goal is to send more personalized messaging in 2018. In fact, financial services marketers principally plan to increase their triggered messaging, and respondents in media, entertainment & telecom plot to increase personalization by behavior, followed by triggered messaging.
Email and the digital marketing budget in 2018
It’s been widely reported that email returns the highest ROI, and 54% of this survey’s respondents mirror that point of view. Yet, email is on the low-to-middle end (+7.75%) of where respondents reported channel-related budget changes for 2018 – behind multichannel technology, website/online and social media. While on the outside this seems like a contradiction, marketers also largely said they plan to add more dynamic content and personalized messaging – two key elements that strongly correlate with driving email ROI higher. And even though email budgets aren’t changing all that much, when asked what marketing technologies they’re investing in, respondents ranked data/analytics (83%), content marketing (67%) and personalization/behavioral marketing (57%) in the top four – signaling the move toward creating a more personalized experience.
Closing the gap
In the end, marketers are telling us that personalization and the related activities that increase email ROI – personalized dynamic content, sending more triggered messaging, and investing in personalization tools – are top priorities, and investments will be made throughout 2018 in these areas. As those investments increase, and as the technologies that enable marketers to easily activate customer data become more pervasive, it is certain that the rift will close and email ROI will follow suit.