As old tools for ad targeting dry up, marketers are getting savvy about owning relationships with consumers. Instead of reaching customers by banner ads or renting that reach on social media alone, brands are finding ongoing direct relationships can be more stable, lucrative and mutually rewarding, according to a new study by Marigold that looks at the perceptions and attitudes of more than 6,800 consumers representing eight countries.
“Listening to consumers is more important than marketing to them,” according to the 2023 Digital Consumer Trends Index. “Understanding them as individuals and meeting their unique needs in the right moment is core to developing trust and loyalty for the long term. Technology has finally caught up to consumer demand in this respect…”
The study was conducted by Econsultancy and Marigold, the new corporate name announced today for the global marketing tech firm formerly known as the CM Group.
Marigold focuses on relationship marketing solutions using zero-party data approaches that eschew more traditional third-party data to target consumers. Instead, Marigold’s product portfolio with more than six marketing solutions suggests using email, SMS/MMS messaging and other communications tools to acquire, connect with, and build ongoing relationships with consumers, rather than just flogging ads at them.
Among Marigold’s survey findings released today are:
- More than half of consumers have bought a product directly from an email pitch in the past year. The 52% sell-through rate is up four percentage points in a year, and more than double the rates for both SMS and banner ads.
- Cookie-fueled ads remain a creepfest for a solid majority of consumers at 61%, but conversely the approval numbers nearly flip when it comes to getting personalized content and offers from a brand they trust.
- Consumers will pay more for products from a brand they like and trust (59%). Two-thirds of the time, consumers actually will cite a brand’s loyalty program as critically important in building their lasting devotion. But screw up the loyalty program, and they’ll walk, as a third of respondents said they’d done in the past year.
- Consumers are down on the state of the economy, with 60% “very pessimistic” about inflation and the overall outlook. Half said they are doing fewer impulse purchases, and most are doing more research before they buy. Nearly half are waiting for sales and relying on loyalty benefits.
“Topically, we see some positive trends continuing to give marketers strong signals on where they can win,” the report says. “Messaging trends continue to point to email and SMS/MMS as the go-to channels to drive revenue. Lacking algorithms (or) heavy censorship and being ubiquitous, these channels should continue to be the mainstay for marketers’ efforts. They are also the easiest to personalize and build relationships with existing consumers.”
The report includes plenty of other prescriptions, like how to maximize email responses, beyond basic best practices, because it’s the most efficient way to connect with customers.
“To win, the emails you send should offer products your customer has expressed an interest in, that fits their declared budget and contains dynamic content that uses keywords you know will elicit engagement from them — and that’s just in the subject line and preview text,” the report says. “Of course, marketers need a strategy that leverages all channels, but brands own their database, so not only is email the most effective channel, but it’s also comfortably the most cost-effective, too.”
The survey results suggest that not everything in the marketing quiver hits targets the way it once did. Or perhaps more accurately, even the older approaches need to be rethought, employed with a more defined and specific approach to navigate a highly skeptical audience willing to click off anything they find boring, irrelevant, or annoying.
That’s particularly the case with online banner ads, which the report said “just aren’t clicking anymore” for consumers, many of whom are “banner-blind” when they visit sites. Only a quarter of survey respondents had bought something through a banner ad in the previous year, a 29% drop from the previous year. Marketers have been reacting, too, telling the survey it would be their least-used channel going into 2023.
“Advertising continues to wane when it comes to impacting sales directly, but it can be meaningful in starting conversations with new contacts and getting them into your database,” the report says. “Customers have shown they are open to spending more on the brands they love, but a strong loyalty offering is required to achieve that result.”
Instead of “spray and pray” shotgun blasts of banner ads, companies should be shifting to more targeted approaches that give consumers something of value – a discount, a deal, entertaining content – in exchange for valuable things like the consumer’s email and name.
The survey was conducted with 6,833 people from eight countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Japan. To see the entire report, interested parties can download the report here.