In the animal kingdom, there’s the Big Five: the lion, the African elephant, the leopard, the Cape buffalo, and the rhinoceros. But in the marketing kingdom, there’s the Big Three: Web, email, and social.
These three channels occupy most of marketers’ time. According to Econsultancy and Oracle Responsys’ “Cross-Channel Marketing Report 2015,” 54% of the 425 in-house and client-side marketers surveyed say websites are the most time-consuming channels for their teams—followed by 50% who list email and 41% who cite social. Eighty percent of respondents also say they’re most directly involved with the website; plus, 73% and 66% say the same for email and social, respectively.
Given the return, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that marketers choose to invest most of their time in these channels. In fact, 30% of marketers say email provides the best value when it comes to time spent, and 22% say the same about websites; however, only 11% say social provides the best value, falling behind natural (12%) and paid search (12%).
“The report shows that, in terms of time spent, the email and Web channels provide the best value,” says Amy Rodgers, senior research analyst for Econsultancy. “These channels are well established in the arsenal of the majority of marketers, with the technology, skills, and budgets in place to support tried and tested strategies. As a result, it makes sense for marketers to place an emphasis on these channels, which is no bad thing.”
And it doesn’t look like marketers plan on shifting their focus anytime soon. According to the report, websites (57%), email (48%), and social (42%) are all among respondents’ top-three channel priorities for next year. Plus, marketers say social (46%), websites (37%), and email (37%) present the greatest opportunities.
But with so much focus on the big three, it can be easy for marketers to lose sight of other important channels—like mobile. Although 54% of respondents leverage mobile Web, only a third use mobile apps (34%). Just 23% use mobile and Web push notifications, and only 21% send SMS or MMS—all significant drops compared to those who leverage websites (95%), email (91%), and social (86%). Plus, when asked which forms of mobile advertising they use (e.g. mobile search, mobile display, location-based targeting, etcetera), most marketers (40%) responded with “none.”
“For many consumers, mobile is becoming the default access to their digital lives, enabling them to be continually connected to the Web,” Rodgers says. “The number of global users on mobile has now surpassed that on desktop, as has time spent on mobile versus desktop. Spend on mobile advertising is following this trend, but not to match consumer adoption of the channel, indicating that marketers are missing the mobile opportunity. Once the obstacles inherent to marketing to consumers via mobile are fully solved, I think we will see a much larger focus on mobile Web as part of the marketing mix.”
Rather than view the digital and mobile channels as separate experiences, marketers need to take an integrated, cross-channel approach. Respondents know that this approach is important. In fact, 68% of marketers say getting all of their activities to be integrated across channels is a priority.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Less than half of respondents (49%) say their organizations deliver cross-channel marketing activities “to a certain extent”, and only 5% say they are “very much so” set up to do so. Indeed, challenges like lack of defined strategy (21%), inadequate resources (20%), and technology limitations (11%) can prevent marketers from delivering the orchestrated experiences customers crave.
However, that’s not to say that all brands are out of the cross-channel loop. Some marketers have managed to integrate their channels. But again, they tend to focus on the big three. For instance, 58% of marketers say their websites are very integrated into their overall marketing activities, and 47% say the same about email. Thirty-six percent of respondents say their social media marketing is very integrated with the rest of their marketing activities, falling behind paid (43%) and natural search (38%).
As for mobile, only 29% of respondents say their mobile Web activities are very integrated and less than one quarter say the same about mobile apps (22%), push notifications (18%) , and mobile messaging (18%). What’s more, only 13% say they “very much so” have a strategy for integrating mobile into their broader marketing campaigns. And while 58% say they have a very basic plan, 28% admit that they don’t have one at all.
So, what can marketers do to provide a more seamless customer experience? Having a clearly defined strategy is the most important thing for 29% of respondents, followed by understanding the customer journey (21%), and linking up technology systems (11%). Rodgers also emphasizes the importance of integration—across data, departments, and technology—and encourages marketers to just give cross-channel marketing an honest try.
“Marketers need to be bold,” she says. “The case for using new channels cannot be evaluated without testing a campaign first, and too few are attempting to make emerging channels a focus in campaigns. With consumer journeys involving multiple different touchpoints, and expecting relevant, consistent experiences across all channels and devices, those that stand out from the crowd will be those who are willing to experiment with emerging channels and stay ahead of the curve.”