Though there are customers who prefer social media and others who prefer e-mail for communicating with companies, firms themselves still largely use the communication channel that they, rather than the ones that their customers prefer, according to Carrie Scott, director of product marketing for Message Systems, Columbia, Md.
About half of customers prefer each channel. Yet most businesses have yet to determine which channels different customers prefer, Scott added. “If they monitor customer behavior they can get out in front and communicate with customers in the way they prefer.”
In other words, if the customer communicates with the company via e-mail, that is likely the preferred channel. The same is true of social media. Many customers will switch between the two.
In its inaugural Marketing Channel and Engagement Benchmark Survey, Message Systems found that e-mail remains the most popular marketing channel, with 97 percent of respondents leveraging it for marketing campaigns, yet social media is rising in popularity, with 70 percent indicating that they market through social networks.
“Social media enables companies to capture dialogue in the moment,” Scott said. But e-mail still tends to be more efficient for presenting larger amounts of information.
According to the survey, social media and mobile are changing the customer communications landscape, yet email marketing still greatly outperforms social media when it comes to driving sales and delivering return on investment. E-mail is the most successful and profitable marketing channel, with 63 percent of respondents reporting that email delivers the greatest ROI compared to only 10 percent for social.
E-mails superior performance is likely because it is a more established communications channel, Scott said. But, as the survey indicated, social media is quickly gaining ground.
“Despite recent reports that the return on investment with email marketing has been declining over the past few years, our survey found that email is thriving, and driving more revenue and conversions than any other channel,” George Schlossnagle, CEO of Message Systems, said upon release of the survey findings. “In fact, nearly 70 percent of our customers reported that their email marketing returns have actually trended upwards in the past five years. Additionally, the survey findings that engagement efforts are often held back by difficulties around data sourcing and technological shortcomings fall completely in line with our market position that a single unified platform for integrating customer data and customer communications makes the most sense for today’s customer-centric organizations.”
Other survey findings:
• Social marketing is growing, especially for engaging customers. Although most customers prefer to be contacted via email, marketers are increasingly using social media to engage with customers and interact in a two-way dialogue – 64 percent of respondents said they added social media in the past year to obtain greater engagement.
• Businesses are using SMS text more often for engaging customers versus directly marketing products. Companies plan to invest mainly in social media (44 percent) and email (40 percent), but SMS text came in a solid third (22 percent), to revamp customer engagement strategies in the next year.
• Marketers see the highest returns on holiday marketing in December and January. As expected, December delivers the highest returns for holiday marketing, with 50 percent reporting their highest ROI in the month. Yet surprisingly, the study revealed that companies see their second highest holiday marketing returns (38 percent) in January – generally considered after the holiday season.
• Nearly half – 47 percent – of companies responding have adapted social media (listing Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter specifically) as a channel for two-way customer dialogue, trailing only phone and email, and far outpacing SMS text and IM chat, both at 8 percent.
• Nearly 58 percent of respondents feel that issues around data sourcing and technological shortcomings are currently holding back their email / customer engagement efforts, or have in the past.
• A majority – 51 percent - of respondents do not yet offer their customers a preference center or have the ability to track customer preferences for how they prefer to receive communication.
• Seventy-two percent of respondents feel that if they were to consider adding new channels (SMS, IM, Social etc.) to their engagement program that it would be more advantageous to manage those channels on an in-sourced basis.