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All of this talk about rogue YouTube ads, fake Likes on Facebook, and Snapchat vs. Instagram is fascinating, but how much of it is relevant to a marketer's daily job?
To find out, we surveyed hundreds of marketers and asked them which channels they are really using these days.
Part of what makes marketing interesting is that the discipline is constantly evolving. Hardly a week goes by without some major change to a consumer service or a new way to use a platform to engage with our audiences.
Yet sometimes the pace of change can be overwhelming. It's often difficult to both keep up with the latest innovations and stay on top of daily marketing tasks.
To find out just how necessary it is for marketers to be familiar with the latest platforms, we surveyed over 200 marketers in Australia and New Zealand about the channels they use for their marketing efforts. Below are some of the surprising findings along with some commentary.
For more data from the survey please refer to the Econsultancy report, Cross-Channel Marketing in ANZ, produced in association with IBM Marketing Cloud.
1. Conventional digital channels still rule
First off, the survey results make it clear that marketers are most frequently using familiar digital touchpoints for their marketing efforts. Social media, email, and SEO (natural search) are all used by more than eight in ten marketers (87%, 87%, 81% respectively).
One reason these channels are the most popular is because companies tend to use channels which are well-understood and easy to integrate into overall marketing activity.
The conventional channels are also where the brands' customers are spending their time.
- Email: According to the Radicati group, more than 2.5bn people use email every month.
- Social: The largest global social network, Facebook, is now approaching 2bn monthly active users (MAUs).
- Search: Google has announced that its search platform has at least 1bn MAUs.
When the usage of these platforms is compared to, say, Snapchat, we can easily see why marketers are so much more likely to use them.
2. Offline touchpoints are still relied upon by many brands
A somewhat surprising result from the survey is that offline touchpoints are still a significant part of the marketing mix. While point-of-sale and call centres are only used by around one in three companies (34% and 31% respectively), traditional media and events are used by significantly more (47%, 71% respectively).
The popularity of offline touchpoints makes a bit more sense when data from recent research from Google is considered.
Google recently surveyed consumers in Australia and New Zealand and reported that only just over half of consumers (58% Australia, 53% New Zealand) used an online channel to research or purchase a product.
So to reach customers where they are likely to research their products and buy them, marketers must still operate offline to a significant extent.
3. Mobile is not as popular as you might think
Another interesting survey result is that mobile touchpoints are less popular in Australia and New Zealand than offline channels.
Though the mobile web is used by nearly half (49%) of client-side respondents, mobile messaging, mobile apps, messaging apps and mobile push notifications are each only part of less than one in four companies' marketing efforts (23%, 22%, 10%, 7%, respectively).
This apparent lack of enthusiasm for mobile is even more confusing considering the relatively high penetration of smartphones in the region. More than 80% in Australia and 70% in New Zealand use mobile devices with internet connectivity.
But going back to Google's Consumer Barometer data offers a reasonable explanation. When asked where in the buying cycle did people use a smartphone, fewer than 50% use a smartphone for anything at all in the buying cycle and only around 10% use a smartphone for buying.
So while there is a lot of advice out there about how brands should 'embrace' mobile and aim to be 'mobile-first', it seems that consumers are not quite there yet with mobile.
4. Messaging apps hardly appear on brands' radars
From our data, it seems that the biggest chasm between conventional wisdom and reality concerns messaging apps. If you read the tech press, you'd be forgiven for thinking that messaging apps dominated our culture and each change to these apps affects millions of lives. Marketers, one might think, should be flocking to them in droves.
While there is some chance that this is true in China, marketers in Australia and New Zealand indicated that messaging apps are not popular channels for marketing in the region. A mere 10% of client-side marketers use messaging apps and only 15% of agency marketers said the same.
From other data, it's clear that the problem with messaging apps isn't consumer interest. According to messaging app agency On Message, Australia will have over 11m messaging app users in 2017 and messaging apps are the primary form of contact for more than half (54%) of 15-19 year olds in the country.
Instead, it is much more likely that messaging apps are still simply too difficult to use for marketing. Besides some basic self-service ads on Facebook Messenger, engaging with messaging users requires dedicated resource to build contact lists, 'man' the consumer outreach or customer service desk, and build bots to handle incoming traffic.
This is not to say that marketing via messaging apps will never happen, but rather that it is likely that it will be some time before most brands have to worry about engaging their customers on these platforms.