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The six factors that dictate marketing channel preference

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Consumers are spoiled for choice when it comes to long distance communication, but it wasn’t always the case. Just a little over two decades ago you had two whole options: mail and telephone.

In today’s mobile, post-PC world, consumers can communicate instantly with both each other and brands. But with so many marketing channels available, it can be hard as a brand to know where to make contact.

ExactTarget vice president of marketing research and education, Jeff Rohrs, says: “Post-PC devices have accelerated the fragmentation of once-reliable direct marketing channels.”

“Marketing communications are now a 24/7 affair in which consumers serve as gatekeepers to channels that can amplify their praise – and complaints – in unprecedented ways.”

“As businesses seek to maximise their marketing ROI, it is crucial to stay in tune with what consumers want, as they can make or break a brand’s prosperity.”

Australian businesses must remain in the loop regarding trends across all channels; consumers’ messaging habits continue to evolve at a cracking pace.

ExactTarget’s Digital Down Under report found that 84 per cent of Australian consumers check their email at least once a day and 71 per cent check email the first thing in the morning.

Meanwhile, consumers are more likely to get their Facebook on at night (27 per cent) than in the AM (17 per cent).

Not a fan of interacting with brands via social media? Chances are that’s ‘cause you’re old. According to the study, young adults (18-24) are more likely to interact with brands on social media (68 per cent); this drops to 30 per cent as the age-range increases to 65 and older.

Different channels fulfil different needs, ExactTarget claims. Brands should remain mindful of this and continuously monitor usage. And remember, just because more and more people are using a particular communication channel, like text, doesn’t automatically mean they want to hear from you there.

So how does a brand determine the right marketing channels for its customers?

ExactTarget’s 2012 Channel Preference Survey settled on six factors business owners and marketers should consider before sending each and every message…

1. Content

Is this a marketing message? Consumers are more selective about the channels through which they allow marketing messages than they are with personal or professional communications.

Consumers don’t necessarily want to be friends with brands. They still draw hard and fast lines about when and where marketing communications are appropriate.

2. Immediacy

Does the consumer need to send or receive the message straight away? Folks often select a communication channel based on speed. Text messaging, telephone, and instant messaging through social networks tend to be the channels consumers use when time is of the essence.

If your message is imperative (from the consumers’ perspective) and you have permission, these “urgent” channels will perform best. If not, you should consider moving communications to less urgent channels.

3. Accessibility

Will your customer need to reference the message later? Then make sure it’s easy to archive and access.

While smartphones and tablets replicate much of the desktop messaging experience, many consumers purposely park messages to action later from their computers.

Email remains a powerful channel for its ability to bridge the three-device environment of smartphone, tablet, and PC.

4. Privacy

Privacy remains a hot topic and a source of confusion for many consumers. Where privacy is crucial, consumers gravitate towards channels with an established track record of protecting conversations (text messaging, telephone, and email).

This isn’t to say that consumers don’t send direct messages through Facebook and Twitter, just that they proceed with greater caution.

5. Formality

Does your marketing message need to convey a level of professionalism? When a task calls for a degree of formality, consumers favour more established channels.

Across all age groups ExactTarget surveyed, job seekers indicated a clear preference for contact through the company website first, followed by sending an email or making a phone call.

6. Invitation

Where did the conversation start? This factor can trump all the rest. If the consumer initiates communication with your brand, then the channel they choose may be deemed appropriate for response.

However, the nature of the conversation (and possibly laws regulating your industry) may necessitate that you move it from a public space (Twitter, for instance) to a private one (Twitter direct message or email) especially if the subject matter is of a sensitive nature.

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