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Digital fatigue sees marketers turning to proven channels and strategies

by | Jan 4, 2024 | Marketing, Public Relations

Like most other business fields, marketers embraced a whole new way of working in 2023. But amid all the technoprogress, new research from marketing solutions firm R.R. Donnelley Sons & Company () found that the lingering economic uncertainty, increasing privacy concerns, and consumer fatigue toward marketers’ digital strategies drove the resurgence of “tried and true” marketing channels. 

The firm’s fourth annual Modern Marketers Report revealed that marketers’ preference for channels with proven return on investment more than doubled over the past year (38 percent compared to 15 percent). In addition, managing vendors was reported as a more common top organizational challenge this year than it was in 2022 (23 percent compared to 7 percent).

The report compares 1,000+ US consumers’ purchasing behaviors and preferences and attitudes toward brands’ marketing tactics with how 500+ U.S.-based marketing professionals are planning, executing, and adjusting their strategies.

Digital fatigue sees marketers turning to proven channels and strategies

“During the holiday shopping season, consumers are thinking twice before they open their wallets or provide their personal information to receive deals,” said Al duPont, Chief Commercial Officer at RRD, in a news release. “Results from our latest report show that marketers pairing their most reliable channels with positioning that blends convenience and savings stand the best chance for fostering customer loyalty in an increasingly competitive market.”

Inflation is influencing how and where consumers spend

The report reaffirms that inflation is changing the way consumers shop, with eight out of 10 reporting that it’s impacting their purchasing behaviors. The majority of consumers (78 percent) report consolidating their shopping to fewer stores and brands, switching to more cost-efficient brands, and using customer loyalty or reward programs more often. Moreover, while gift shopping for the 2023 holiday season, over 40 percent of consumers expect to use discounts and promotions more often than last year. 

Looking ahead, nearly half of consumers expect to spend less on dining out (49 percent), events, and leisure activities in the next 12 months. In the past 12 months, 74 percent of shoppers agreed they spent more time researching before purchasing, which shows consumers are also dedicating more time to finding the best products and deals. As consumers become more selective and judicious about their purchases, marketers are challenged with driving customer loyalty.

As consumers grow tired of digital communications, direct mail reasserts its presence

While marketers grapple with cultivating and retaining brand loyalty, consumers report being overwhelmed by digital brand communications, especially via email (69 percent) and social media (61 percent). At the same time, one in five consumers report having deleted a social media account in the last year, and nearly half (46 percent) are more cautious about sharing personal data online. Fifty-six percent report being at least sometimes uncomfortable disclosing personal information online with brands or companies offering rewards or personalized experiences.

With looming privacy concerns, nearly all marketers (93 percent) report that these growing concerns have influenced their digital marketing strategy. Seventy-five percent report reallocating some of their marketing budget into direct mail.

“Direct mail offers marketers a means to connect with customers and prospective customers in a way that feels intimate without feeling invasive,” said Stefanie Cortes, director of strategic analysis, direct marketing at RRD, in the release. “This tried-and-true marketing channel serves as a personal and tangible method that continuously proves to perform over time.”

Consumers mirrored this increased interest in direct mail, particularly among the younger generations. Nearly half (42 percent) of consumers reported an increased interest in receiving direct mail compared to a year ago. Younger generations were most interested in direct mail, with 61 percent of those aged 18-26 agreeing with this sentiment. Consumers report an affinity toward direct mail because they like having a physical copy of information to refer back to (47 percent), it being easier to remember than email (30 percent), and it being fun to open (28 percent).

Digital fatigue sees marketers turning to proven channels and strategies

Marketers are prioritizing sustainabilitdy for future generations as consumer values shift

Virtually all marketers (99 percent) agree that their brand’s sustainability practices will become increasingly important as younger generations represent a greater share of the market. Over half of marketers feel that changes are necessary in the areas of quality (61 percent), value (59 percent), commitment to diversity/inclusion (56 percent), sustainability (55 percent), and stance on political/social issues (42 percent) in order to keep pace with generational changes.

However, marketers overestimated the importance of sustainability on consumer purchase decisions. Gen Z (66 percent) consumers were not nearly as likely as millennials (80 percent) to weigh a brand’s sustainability practices when making a purchasing decision. Among Gen Z consumers, the top driving factors when making purchasing decisions include the value of products/services (77 percent), brand’s reputation (73 percent), and treating employees fairly (71 percent).

Read the full report here.

RRD commissioned a survey of more than 500 marketing decision makers based in the United States with in-house roles across a variety of industry sectors as well as more than 1,000 US consumers (aged 18+), representative of the US population in gender, age, region, and race/ethnicity. The fourth annual survey, conducted by FINN Partners in September 2023, was conducted online and is weighted to be nationally representative. Prior studies include the 2020 Pivot Report, the 2021 (Un)Expected Report and the 2023 Macro Marketing Report.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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