Of the various digital marketing tactics available, US digital marketers deem email the most effective for awareness, acquisition, conversion and customer retention, per results from a Gigaom Research study [download page] sponsored by Extole. Email’s influence is most pronounced when it comes to retention, beating out social media marketing and content marketing, among others, by a wide margin.Â The results may be attributable in part to email’s widespread use: some 86% of the survey respondents use it regularly, making it the most widely used digital marketing tactic, ahead of social media marketing (72%) and SEO (70%).
Earlier this year, an Econsultancy survey of global marketers revealed that email was rated the top channel by ROI, ahead of SEO and content marketing.
While email may be digital marketing’s “workhorse,” per the GigaOm Research study, social media marketing is most in line for budget increases, with 38% of respondents saying it’s receiving more spend. Nevertheless, despite its relative maturity as a digital discipline, one-quarter of respondents said that email is getting more spending.
The budgets keep flowing to social despite persistent questions about ROI. Indeed, a majority 52% of respondents agreed that it’s difficult to prove ROI for social media marketing, the highest level of agreement with any social media marketing characteristic identified. (To be fair, a comparable 51% agreed that social media marketing enables them to engage with their customers on a regular basis.) Overall, the largest share of respondents felt that social was best used for customer retention (33%), with branding objectives (28%) closely following. Similarly, content marketing was seen as more effective for awareness and retention than for acquisition and conversion, an unsurprising result given how inter-woven the tactics are.
The study also points to the “dark horse” of digital marketing: referral marketing. In contrast to email, social, and content marketing, respondents tended to ascribe value to referral marketing for acquisition and conversion, with more than one-quarter saying that they get a majority of their new customers from referral marketing. Of the various referral marketing characteristics identified, marketers were most likely to agree that it generates valuable new customers and is a way to reward existing customers; few agreed that it’s too complex to manage.
Overall, respondents were most likely to say that acquisition and awareness are their most important digital marketing objectives, with roughly 9 in 10 rating those “extremely” or “fairly” important objectives. By comparison, a relatively smaller 7 in 10 rated conversion as an important objective. While a recent report found that few digital marketers believe that digital has delivered on its promise as a branding vehicle, more than 40% of digital advertising dollars are spent on branding objectives, with that figure expected to rise to almost half by 2017.
About the Data: The data is based on a Gigaom survey of 300 US digital marketers representing a wide range of industries, sizes, and marketing spend volume.