Better together: 5 surprising insights into marketing channel relationships

When you make a complex or significant purchase decision – such as choosing a superannuation fund, or switching credit card or electricity providers – your choices will be influenced by many different marketing messages on an increasing number of communication channels. Some may filter through your subconscious without really registering, but each of these touch points will play a role (no matter how small) in the battle between brands for conversion.

This creates a challenge for marketers who want to optimise their marketing strategy and show measurable return on investment across multiple marketing channels: which channels are actually making an impact?

To find out which channels truly influence service purchase decisions, and the most effective ways to combine digital and traditional channels to get closer to customers, Australia Post commissioned its second piece of research into media channel effectiveness.

Launching the new report, Creating connections that matter: Optimising the advertising mix for services, in Sydney and Melbourne with ADMA, Australia Post’s Paul Fanthorpe joined a panel of industry leaders to discuss some of the more unexpected insights from the research findings.


Measurability doesn’t always mean effectiveness

“Our challenge is understanding the relationships between all the different traditional and digital channels,” said Michelle O’Brien, Group Client Service Director with Dentsu Mitchell. “The assumption is traditional channels are less accountable because it’s so much easier to measure digital. However, just because you can’t measure it, doesn’t mean it’s not effective.”

For example, this research found radio is particularly effective at the end of the purchase journey, where it contributes 31 per cent to the final purchase decision. Michelle said many of her clients might find that surprising.

“We’ve always known radio is an action-oriented channel,” Michelle said. “It’s high frequency and you can do retail offers. However, proving it works is quite difficult, because when you’re driving you’re not online making a purchase or clicking through to a website. We’ve done some econometric modelling recently for one client which clearly demonstrates its effectiveness.”

Derek Laney, Salesforce’s Head of Product Marketing, believes financial services firms are leading the way with holistic multichannel campaigns – and seeing measurable impact.

“By linking channels they’re lifting conversion. For example, we saw one provider increase conversion by 22 per cent by linking Facebook campaigns with eDM activity. Just by taking two channels and sticking them together.”

Jonny Clow of GPY&R agreed it was increasingly difficult to identify the influence specific advertising has on a decision. “The research I’ve seen shows people use an average of 11.7 different sources to make an insurance decision - whether conscious or unconscious,” he said.

Michelle said clients often focus on performance media (search) thanks to ‘last click attribution’, but it needs to be seen as a team effort between channels. “It’s like soccer: Google might kick the goal but in reality there have been a number of assists to get there. I think this research goes some way to understanding that further.”

The real power of multichannel campaigns can be enhanced when channels are combined in the perfect blend, for optimal effectiveness.


Making mail personal really works

The research also found personalised direct mail played a key role in influencing decisions – contributing 21 per cent overall, with a greater impact during the early consideration stage of the purchase journey.

“We will spend a lot of time evaluating our options for services – we need to understand how it relates to our own situation,” explained Paul. “We’re seeing direct mail grow, because there’s now less clutter in the physical mailbox compared with the past – and brands with personalised offers are doing this really well.”

Derek said he sees direct mail as a useful channel for reaching customers who may have disengaged. "With one campaign, a superannuation provider saw a 40 per cent lift by re-engaging digital natives through personalised direct mail.”

Similarly, catalogues and flyers (contributing 17 per cent to overall influence) can be useful at cutting through the digital clutter. Paul cited Aldi as another example of brands that have changed the potential value of this channel.


Social has less sway with youth than you might think

Social media advertising failed to register in any audience group’s optimal advertising mix, or at any stage on the customer journey. Not even for millennials – a finding that may surprise brands targeting the youth market. When asked why, consumers said social ads were ‘easier to ignore’ (64 per cent) and ‘less trustworthy’ (22 per cent).

“Because social media advertising is cheap, there are many competitors and they aren't all trusted brands… so it looks like spam,” commented Jonny.

Jodie Sangster, CEO of ADMA, commented she’s seen similar research outcomes about the impact of Facebook ads. Online banner ads, social media ads and telemarketing also performed poorly in the research.

“Consumers know the difference between organic and paid search, they know the banner displays on the top and right hand side of the search are paid for and some will reject those on principle,” said Paul. “They talk about having ‘blinkers’, they want to feel in control.”


Retirees may watch TV. But that doesn’t mean they like ads

TV advertising rounds out the top three channels of influence overall at 19 per cent – but it’s not part of the optimal mix for retirees, a finding that challenges industry assumptions. TV audiences may be skewing towards older age groups as younger viewers switch to TV streaming. But that doesn’t mean they’re influenced by TV advertising.

“It was interesting to see 65 per cent of retirees find TV ads annoying and even devious,” said Michelle O’Brien, Group Client Service Director with Dentsu Mitchell. “There may be scepticism because of the sheer volume of messaging that is not relevant to them.”

However, the panellists agreed it was time to put aside sweeping statements about the ‘decline of TV’.

“TVCs cost money to get reach, but you can emotionally connect people with an idea. You can’t do that on digital banner ads alone,” commented Jonny.


Context is king across all channels

No matter which channels you choose, what really matters is whether the content is relevant. “The power of context and quality creative hasn’t really changed,” said Derek. Customers now expect tailored messages ‘about me and my life’ so the idea of clustering ‘segments of one’ together to group similar niche segments will become increasingly important. Derek believes the high cost of acquisition will also drive this.

“The insurance industry was a quick adopter of search, but now it’s so highly competitive on key terms it has to focus on retention. How do you acquire a customer once? You need to create a journey through identity based marketing.”

The real power of multichannel campaigns can be enhanced when channels are combined in the perfect blend, for optimal effectiveness. What that perfect blend looks like will depend on your target audience’s needs and behaviours at each stage of their journey.

Download the full research report to find out more.

This information is provided for general purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for your business needs.

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