The 2011 study is the latest in a series of studies conducted by Epsilon around communication channel preferences. In the latest study, it was found that the preference for direct mail extended to the 18-34 year old demographic, highlighting the risk in making assumptions around age and channel preferences. Part of this preference bias compared to email and other channels could be caused by the level of trust associated with the channels reviewed, since 26% of U.S. consumers found direct mail to be more trustworthy than email. The least trustworthy channel continued to be social media, with the channel only being viewed as trustworthy by 6% of consumers. Consumers also found direct mail to be more 'private' than email or online channels (important for 37% of consumers).
"Consumers use and trust certain communication channels more than others," states Warren Story, VP of product marketing at ICOM. "This means that marketers need to understand which channels resonate most at various stages of the consumer purchase cycle and incorporate a cross-channel strategy that leverages data and technology to communicate on a 1:1 basis." Story also suggests starting with direct mail and layering other channels into the marketing mix for message reinforcement.
Not only do consumers seem to prefer direct mail communication, but there seems to be an increasing frustration with the amount of email received and the level of satisfaction received from receiving emails. The study showed that 75% of U.S. consumers get a lot more emails that are not opened, with 65% saying they get too many emails overall. Conversely, 43% of consumers surveyed still enjoy receiving emails from brands on new products, indicating that targeting and messaging of communication is needed to capture attention.
For financial services communication, consumers also overwhelmingly preferred personally addressed mail as opposed to 'dear occupant' mail that doesn't have the emotional pull of a personally addressed communication. (This should be tested on an ROI basis however, since I have found that the financial benefits of less personalized direct mail can work in some instances).
Even with the strength of direct mail indicated in this study, financial marketers should not exclusively use direct mail or remove email from their marketing mix. In fact, the Epsilon study showed a greatly increasing use of Facebook and mobile phones as communication channels, while showing that the most trusted channels were newspapers, company websites and television. The study also showed that there were many perceived benefits to both direct mail and email as shown below from people who preferred direct mail to email and visa versa..
In this time of communication message overload, financial marketers need to balance the use of multiple channels based on consumer preference, financial considerations, objective of the marketing program, and the results of multichannel effectiveness measurement initiatives. Bankers also need to continue efforts to improve the targeting of messages through all channels from both a financial and customer satisfaction perspective.
And while social media did not perform well from the perspective of trust, social channels provide several benefits that should be leveraged in a multichannel communication program due to economic considerations and the expanded use and reach of social media. Mobile channel communication should also be tested as we enter the new year and are building our marketing plans.
Of greatest importance is the development and use of advanced metrics that can assist you and your team in measuring the effectiveness of channels and channel mix. As opposed to measuring only single channels independently, advanced analytics are now available that can provide a view into the consumer's media consumption patterns and the impact of different channels.
As we enter 2012, the importance of an effective and efficient marketing communications mix is important. Budgets should be shifting to digital and social channels to build a reservoir of learnings that can be leveraged in the future, but it appears that the projected demise of traditional channels such as direct mail has been overstated.
How will your team be shifting marketing channel dollars in the new year? How will you be measuring the impact of your efforts?
I would love your comments.