Digital messaging plays an ever-increasing key role in business-to-consumer (B2C) selling as marketers face immense challenges in the post-Covid era in terms of messaging and customer data access, according to a survey from customer marketing platform provider MessageGears.
A key takeaway from the survey released in April is that B2C marketers are planning to significantly increase the number of digital messages they send. One-third of the respondents reported they will double the number of messages sent by the end of 2021. Slightly more than half (53 percent) said their total would double by 2024.
The post-pandemic era is bringing many changes to how the marketing industry interacts with messaging strategies and how marketers work. Chief among these changes is the technology they use and the frequency with which they visit company offices. But one essential industry staple is not changing. This element is the extent to which B2C marketers rely on digital messaging to engage customers and prospects.
Survey respondents almost universally (91 percent) said digital messages were extremely important relative to their organization’s other marketing strategies. An almost identical number (90 percent) said digital messages were extremely important relative to the goals of their company overall.
In reviewing the survey results, the biggest surprise researchers experienced is the rapid expansion of digital messaging programs, noted Will Devlin, vice president of marketing at MessageGears. The survey confirmed the importance of digital messaging to the average B2C brand.
“But the speed at which the programs are growing is still surprising. It is another reminder of the importance of truly knowing who your customers are and when and how they want to engage. Smart messaging can launch a company into the stratosphere of the biggest brands, while poor messaging habits can be a company’s death knell,” he told CRM Buyer.
Top Tool Uncovered
If one point was ironclad about trends and the ongoing challenges in the year ahead, the survey underscored a golden rule of B2C marketing. Never underestimate the importance of digital messaging.
Nearly half (49 percent) of respondents said they sent at least 100 million digital messages in 2020. That is a 10 percent increase over 2019. More than half (58 percent) said they plan to send at least 100 million messages in 2021.
Those messaging efforts pay off. Nearly 60 percent said that at least 60 percent of their organization’s sales come from digital messaging efforts.
The digital messaging strategy is so keen that marketers take no breaks in bombarding customers with content, reminders, and anything else that might keep them engaged. A solid 61 percent of the surveyed marketers spent at least 20 hours per week on digital marketing strategy and execution in 2020.
Repetitive efforts is the goal. Some 80 percent expect that number to increase in 2021. Plus, 45 percent of respondents said they send digital messages multiple times per day, and 66 percent said at least 10 million different people are receiving their organization’s digital messages.
Know Thy Customer
Sixty-five percent of survey respondents said their organization’s primary digital messaging goal going forward is to improve personalization, and 58 percent said the top goal was consolidating customer data.
Another 58 percent said the top goal would be modernizing their digital messaging technology stack. Half (51 percent) said they would need better access to live customer data to make their digital messaging strategies successful in 2021.
In terms of challenges, 36 percent of the survey respondents said their biggest digital messaging challenge continues to be how best to communicate with customers during the pandemic.
Along the same lines, 90 percent of respondents said they are somewhat or very concerned about consumer overload from digital messages right now, and 92 percent are somewhat or very concerned about consumer financial distress.
When it comes to digital messaging, money talks.
Again, 51 percent of marketers responding to MessageGears’ survey said they spent at least $5 million on people and tools related to their organization’s digital messaging programs in 2020.
A very significant number of respondents (80 percent) expect their messaging budgets to increase in 2021. Meanwhile, 47 percent said at least half of their organization’s overall marketing budget is spent on digital messaging.
When it comes to the payoff, 53 percent of survey respondents said that data access must be a priority for all marketing teams going forward. Personalization in messaging would be more important than ever, according to 51 percent.
Top Level View
The surveyed marketers were all managers or served in higher positions with companies having at least $100 million in annual revenue. Each marketer’s organization sent at least five million email marketing messages per month.
Participants were interviewed through the consumer data platform Upwave Digital Network in exchange for access to content or service and received no monetary payment for their participation.
The complete MessageGears 2021 B2C Digital Marketing Trends Report can be found here.
Part of the Digital Transformation
The anticipated onslaught of digital messaging from businesses to consumers falls into the growing trend dubbed digital transformation. Depending on the industry and previously-established sales practices, selling post-pandemic will look very different in the short term, and maybe even for the medium term too, observed Gee Ranasinha, CEO of Kexino.
“Pre-Covid, the way businesses looked at their balance sheet was one where revenue, by and large, was treated as a given. Sure, businesses wanted to grow market share, audience, and so on. But it was just as important to keep costs down. ‘Efficiency’ was treated as a proxy for ‘effectiveness’,” he told CRM Buyer.
Today, that has to change. Businesses need to be asking more questions from a behavioral or psychological position than a commercial one. At least in the short term, sales post-Covid needs to embrace and offer a solution to a more digital-focused interaction model, Ranasinha explained.
“I don’t just mean Zoom calls and Google docs. I mean bringing your customer acquisition and customer fulfillment processes into a digital-first position,” he added.