Study: Marketers Go Multi-Channel, Combine Email, Social & Paid Search

Consumers on the path to purchase bounce from media to media, online to offline and back again. This is why marketers started talking about the importance of a “multi-channel” or “omni-channel” approach. Marketers who once saw media in silos are now beginning to approach it holistically, striving to “be there” when and where consumers are looking.

A new report from the Data and Marketing Association looks at how marketers use marketing channels and the interplay between them. The results in the report came from a survey of 592 marketers (252 completes, 340 partial completes) and explored marketers’ perceptions of email, direct mail, paid search, display ads and social media ads.

The biggest takeaway from the study quantifies this shift to multi-channel strategies. According to the study, the average number of channels used by marketers in 2017 hit 3.4, up from 2.7 last year. In addition, only 11% of marketers said they use a single channel while 70% use three or more (up from 52% last year). Given only five channels were measured, the actual number of channels being used is likely higher.

According to the report, of the channels in the study, email, social media and paid search were the most likely to see “simultaneous usage.” While Google and Facebook capture most of the headlines in the digital marketing space, email continues to be a fundamental digital tactic and marketers appear to be discovering a synergy between all three.


As the chart above shows, 92% of marketers said they use email in campaigns, followed by social media (69%). Since 2015, social media has seen the greatest gain, almost doubling in usage. Online display and paid search also experienced large usage gains, up over 20 percentage points. Meanwhile, since 2012, direct mail has dropped 20 percentage points.


While usage appears to be changing to align with the multi-media consumer, marketers are still looking for maximizing ROI. As the figures show, of the media channels featured in the survey, marketers felt all delivered some kind of ROI, but email’s ROI was well above the rest at 124%.

Online display’s ROI is lowest at 16%, but as mentioned earlier, the number of marketers using the channel in campaigns has increased by over 20 points since 2015. This suggests that either marketers have a hard time proving the ROI of display or the more likely scenario is that display is being used for other reasons (awareness, keeping top of mind, etc.).

Marketers are increasingly looking at media holistically in order to deliver consistent brand experiences on all the channels consumers are using to make purchase decisions. If we imagine marketing as a team sport, then media are the individual players that all play a position, serving an important role in driving consumer actions (goals). It is up to marketers to strategize, create and execute the game-plan.

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