Marketers appear to have two main digital marketing priorities in mind this year, according to ExactTarget’s newly-released “2014 State of Marketing” [download page] report. Given a list of digital marketing priorities and asked to identify their top 3, almost half of the respondents pointed to driving increased conversion rates (47%) and increasing and improving brand awareness (46%). No other area cracked 30% of respondents.
Not surprisingly, data figures rather prominently in the survey – 29% of respondents said that collecting, measuring and using behavior-based data is a top-3 priority this year, good for the 3rd spot. Despite all the attention paid to ROI last year, fewer respondents (24%) indicated that one of their top-3 priorities is improving measurement and results of digital channels. In fact, respondents were about as likely to say that adding new digital marketing channels is a top-3 priority. In other words, marketers appear to be confident that digital marketing ROI is either already strong or eventually will be, and are just as focused on reaching target audiences in the newer channels.
Perhaps the greater focus on conversion rate improvements as opposed to ROI owes to the former being a more popular success metric. According to the survey results, respondents are most likely to be using conversion rate (sales directly attributed to digital marketing campaigns) as a top-3 success metric, with 67% doing so. Next up, 64% name engagement rate (opens, clicks) one of their top-3 metrics, likely a reflection of the high focus on email marketing among respondents. Return on investment emerges as the third-most popular success metric, a top-3 choice for 61% of respondents.
The topic of conversion rate improvements cropped up at various points last year. A study released in October by Econsultancy found 6 in 10 company marketers from around the world (but primarily UK-based) saying that conversion rate optimization is “crucial” to their overall digital marketing strategy. In line with that importance, almost 9 in 10 reported that their organization’s focus on conversion rate optimization had increased over the past 5 years. Encouragingly, for the first time in several years, respondents claimed a slight uptick in satisfaction with their conversion rates.
Earlier in the year, a survey of PPC professionals conducted by Hanapin Marketing found that conversion rate optimization will be their top area of focus this year: 85% planned to focus more on the area this year, compared to just 2% who expected to focus less.
Turning to budget plans, the ExactTarget survey finds that among other channels, email marketing (58% increasing), social media marketing (57%) and SEM/SEO (54%) are set for spending hikes. Interestingly, those channels were in the same relative order of budget priority for respondents to a recent StrongView study. Absent from the StrongView survey (which was more evenly weighted between online and offline channels) were data and analytics (61% planning an increase) and marketing automation (60% planning an increase), the top areas where ExactTarget respondents are expecting to increase their budgets.
As for the digital marketing areas that are most commonly-used among the survey base, the study finds that the top 5 are:
- Email marketing (88% currently using);
- Data and analytics (81%);
- Social media marketing (78%);
- Landing pages (75%); and
- SEM/SEO (73%).
On the other end of the totem pole, many respondents don’t have any plans to use mobile push notifications (53%), guided selling (51%), SMS messaging (49%), offer management (48%) and personalized web (42%) this year.
About the Data: The 2014 State of Marketing survey was conducted online from October 24, 2013, until November 1, 2013. The survey was sent to more than 48,000 marketing professionals and a total of 2,651 marketers started the survey, with 1,959 surveys completed (74% completion rate).