Industry Insights

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The Evolution of Direct Marketing: Social Media and Direct Messaging

September 9, 2019

This post is contributed by Burtch Works’ web and digital analytics recruiting team.

As the digital space continues to evolve, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at how the quest for more personalized Direct Marketing has impacted the way we use different channels today, such as social media and direct messaging.

The Origins of Direct Marketing

Direct Marketing began centuries ago with catalogs that would be sent directly to consumers. As technology developed, Direct Marketing became easier and more popular. The next major innovation in the field was caused by the telephone, which made it possible for companies to reach consumers through telemarketing.

  • Companies can easily reach thousands of consumers
  • More content can be displayed in catalogues than in static placement of advertisements
  • Direct Marketing allows consumers to order products without going to a physical store
  • It’s very costly to mail out physical catalogues or hire telemarketers
  • Advertisements are impersonal and standardized for all customers
  • Outcomes are inefficient due to low response rate relative to amount of catalogues/calls sent out

Despite the dated technology, many companies still rely on printed coupons which are often sent directly to consumers, such as buy-one-get-one-free coupons from sandwich shops or pizza restaurants. I certainly have avoided cooking on days when those coupons arrive in my mailbox!

The Dawn of the Digital Age

The spread of the internet has helped evolve Direct Marketing into a more digital form, with email leading the charge. Display advertisements also began to pop up at the same time, which allowed companies to display their ad on specific websites. Fast forward to today and it’s hard to find a website that doesn’t have a display ad on it.

  • It’s much cheaper than older methods, allowing smaller companies to join in on the advertising
  • Digital Direct Marketing allows consumers to instantly buy the product online
  • Advertisements can be interactive, and allowed new forms like video ads
  • People uninterested in the product might be annoyed by the ads and turned off by the companies as a result
  • Email ads are so cheap that basically every company does it, flooding user inboxes and making each individual offer less noticeable
  • Click-through rates are very low

Companies use Direct Marketing to share information with customers, such as new product offerings or contests. If you’ve ever bought something online, chances are you later got a barrage of emails from that company informing you of everything that’s on sale, trying to get you to buy their products again and again and again. Though email click through may be low and consumers have the ability to unsubscribe, businesses continue to utilize email marketing as an inexpensive way to reach lots and lots of potential customers.

Database Developments

More recently, massive tech companies such as Google and Facebook have used their platforms to gather personal information from millions of their users. Access to their databases is often sold to advertisers, who use this data for Direct Marketing purposes.These databases are much larger than those of almost any individual company, making them irresistible to advertisers. More data allows marketers to decide which users receive which advertisements with pinpoint accuracy, drastically increasing their effectiveness.Additionally, automation has played a big role in recent developments of Direct Marketing. The telemarketing industry especially has undergone huge changes due to automation; nowadays, human callers are very rare, but automated calls have become annoyingly common. You’d be hard pressed to find someone that hasn’t received a “robo-call” in the past month.

  • Advertisements can be tailored for each individual, making it more likely that they respond to an ad targeted to their interests
  • Algorithms allow marketers to endlessly test content offers to consumers
  • Automation massively decreases costs for companies
  • Robo-calls make it less likely for consumers to respond positively to offers
  • Sometimes the algorithms can be so accurate they scare users
  • User data can end up in the hands of untrustworthy companies

Direct Marketing can frequently be seen on YouTube. YouTube collects data on users by encouraging them to create profiles and sign-in to their account. Personalized accounts are beneficial to users because it allows them to quickly find and follow content that interests them. YouTube can then serve up targeted ads before videos based on someone’s preference, previously viewed videos and even search history.

Social Media Madness

So… what’s next? The upcoming frontier for Direct Marketing focuses on mobile technology, since the mass adoption of smartphones in the 2010s changed the way people use the Internet.While social media posts have already begun targeting consumers with ad content, the next evolution is direct messaging through platforms to further engage with audiences, particularly for in-the-moment content.Mobile applications also present a wealth of opportunities to marketers. Many have begun using push notifications to promote content, brand awareness, and even specific sales to consumers. The goal with direct messages like these is to disrupt people who don’t frequently check their emails, or who generally ignore emails from marketers.

  • More consumers can be reached than ever before
  • Social media data allows surgical accuracy, making it incredibly likely for users to be interested in the product
  • Since many people carry their smartphones everywhere, they can be advertised to at any time
  • Privacy concerns among consumers have been increasing, especially after numerous high-profile data leaks
  • Consumers might be turned off by direct messages interrupting their lives
  • Social media advertising goes against the initial goal of social media to connect people, not products

Companies can also use direct messages on social media platforms to help disrupt customers attention. Want to know more about advertising through direct messaging? This area has a lot of potential for marketers, and this article goes into even more depth on how companies are using direct messaging. You can also see examples of a variety of different types of direct marketing campaigns in this post.This evolution has allowed marketers to understand the information customers want to consume and how they want to consume it. Connecting all the dots will help ensure marketers understand digital engagement with their customers and better prepare them for how to lead brand awareness and brand equity into conversion.Curious to see whether we have any roles that fit your experience, or looking to hire web and/or digital analytics experts for your team? Feel free to connect with us.

Learn more about the top 2019 trends in the digital and web analytics space – as well as their implications for professionals and employers – in the video below!