Are we now a nation of “data pragmatists”?

Do people even care about data privacy anymore?

You’d think that with the continuing cascade of news about the exposure of personal information, people would be more skittish than ever about sharing their data.

But this isn’t the case … and we have a 2018 study from marketing data foundation firm Acxiom to prove it. The report, titled Data Privacy: What the Consumer Really Thinks, is the result of survey information gathered in late 2017 by Acxiom in conjunction with the Data & Marketing Association (formerly the Direct Marketing Association).

The research, which presents results from an online survey of nearly 2,100 Americans age 18 and older, found that nearly 45% of the respondents feel more comfortable with data exchange today than they have in the past.

Among millennial respondents, well over half feel more comfortable about data exchange today.

Indeed, the report concludes that most Americans are “data pragmatists”:  people who are open about exchanging personal data with businesses if the benefits received in return for their personal information are clearly stated.

Nearly 60% of Americans fall into this category.

On top of that, another 20% of the survey respondents report that they’re completely unconcerned about the collection and usage of their personal data. Among younger consumers, it’s nearly one-third.

When comparing Americans’ attitudes to consumers in other countries, we seem to be a particularly carefree bunch. Our counterparts in France and Spain are much more wary of sharing their personal information.

Part of the difference in views may be related to feelings that Americans have about who is responsible for data security. In the United States, the largest portion of people (~43%) believe that 100% of the responsibility for data security lies with consumers themselves, versus only ~6% who believe that the responsibility resides solely with brands or the government.  (The balance of people think that the responsibility is shared between all parties.)

To me, the bottom-line finding from the Acxiom/DMA study is that people have become so conditioned to receiving the benefits that come from data exchange, they’re pretty inured to the potential downsides.  Probably, many can’t even fathom going back to the days of true data privacy.

Of course, no one wishes for their personal data to be used for nefarious purposes, but who is willing to forego the benefits (be it monetary, convenience or comfort) that come from companies and brands knowing their personal information and their personal preferences?

And how forgiving would these people be if their personal data were actually compromised? From Target to Macy’s, quite a few Americans have already had a taste of this, but what is it going to take for such “data pragmatism” to seem not so practical after all?

I’m thinking, a lot.

For more findings from the Axciom research, click or tap here.

What are the latest trends in the popularity of different marketing communications channel tactics?

The DMA’s 2015 Response Rate Report provides answers.

marketing channelsPeriodically, the Direct Marketing Association conducts field research to take the pulse of marketers and the various channels they’re employing to support their marketing campaigns.

In the DMA’s most recent survey, conducted online this past December and January, marketers were asked which one of seven channels they utilize in their campaigns.  The seven choices listed were the following:

  • Direct mail marketing
  • E-mail marketing
  • Mobile marketing
  • Online display advertising
  • Paid search advertising
  • Social media advertising
  • Telemarketing

The results of the survey show that e-mail marketing remains King of the Hill when it comes to its popularity as a MarComm channel, with more than four in five marketers including the tactic as part of their promotional campaigns:

  • E-mail: ~82% use as a medium in promotional campaigns
  • Direct mail: ~50% use
  • Social media advertising:  ~34% use
  • Paid search: ~30% use
  • Online display advertising:  ~29% use
  • Telemarketing: ~17% use
  • Mobile marketing: ~10% use

Clearly, the research findings show that marketers are using multiple channels in their campaigns:  Two-thirds of the survey respondents use more than one channel, and around 45% of them reported that they’re using three or more channels in their promotional campaigns.

Social media advertising is a new entrant on the list in the DMA research.  It wasn’t even included in the DMA’s 2012 survey, yet today appears to be an important part of the channel mix.

On the other hand, mobile marketing remains a channel that isn’t being utilized by very many marketers — at least not yet.  In a similar survey conducted by the DMA in 2012, its adoption rate was similar to what the 2015 survey has found.

The graph below compares 2015 and 2012 survey results.  Aside from the lack of movement with mobile marketing, another interesting trend is the significant decline in the utilization of direct mail marketing.  Back in 2012, it rivaled e-mail marketing in popularity.  Today, only half of the marketers surveyed continue to use it as a marketing channel.

And a third big trend is the utter collapse of telemarketing as a popular MarComm channel — likely happening under the twin weight of high costs and massive phone message filtering.

DMA chart

In terms of future anticipated usage, the DMA research found that marketers are, in fact, warming to mobile marketing.  It and social media advertising are the two channels that have the best prospects for new adoption, based on the future intentions reported by these respondents.

The 2015 DMA report is available for purchase here.

So Many Marketing Channels … So Many Vendors …

Managing multiple vendors has become nearly a full-time job for some marketers.

marketing channelsManaging channel communications isn’t very easy for marketers these days, that’s for sure.  It’s because so many companies are using multiple outbound channels to connect with their customers.

Illustrating this point, at the Direct Marketing Association’s 2014 annual conference, some 250 marketers were surveyed by Yes Lifecycle Marketing about their activities.

The results of that survey revealed that more than half of the marketers are using at least six outbound channels to connect with customers.  And another 20% use more than ten channels.

Guess what this means?  Nearly 30% of these marketers report that they’re managing (or more likely juggling) seven or more technology vendors and service providers as part of their MarComm duties.

More to the point, many marketers are devoting huge chunks of their week just coordinating all of these tech and service providers.

For an unlucky ~20% of the respondents, the time commitment is upwards of 15 hours each week – more than a third of the time that makes up a 40-hour week.  (“What’s a 40-hour week in marketing?” one might ask, of course.)

Even for marketers who are using a smaller number of vendors to support their media and communications channel efforts, the involvement of various internal stakeholders is high – more than seven, on average, during the vendor selection process.  So the coordination responsibilities just keep adding up.

What this means … 

The Yes Lifecycle Marketing Survey found a correlation between the “choreography” demands of managing multiple vendors and the fact that other marketing activities suffer as a result — namely, market strategizing, business operations and customer relationship-building.

And even with those duties getting shorter shrift, the marketers surveyed still complained about having too many vendors to coordinate … significant challenges with properly integrating the various functions … insufficient budgets … and above all, a lack of adequate staffing.

To top it off, the typical tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer at a company isn’t exactly lengthy — ~45 months at last count.  It’s enough to make one wonder if a job in marketing is worth it.

The answer to that question can be summed up this way (with credit to Oscar Wilde and apologies for the riff):  “The only thing worse than being busy is … not being busy.”

What’s the very latest on e-mail open rates?

Here’s an interesting factoid to consider: there were an average of 247 billion e-mail messages deployed each day during 2009.

With the plethora of commercial e-mail communications – accompanied by groaning inboxes and all – it’s only natural to wonder if what’s happening to the ones you send correlates to the experience of others.

The Direct Marketing Association helps answer that question with the results of a survey it just completed. The DMA’s 2010 Response Rate Trend Report, conducted with ~475 respondents in March and April, is the group’s seventh annual survey. It found that average open rate for e-mails sent to a company’s “house” e-mail database list is just under 20%, while the clickthrough rate from the e-mail to a web landing page is ~6.5%.

And the average “conversion” rate – taking whatever additional action is desired – is ~1.7%.

[Those figures are for “home-grown” e-mail databases. The percentages would be lower when working with outside/purchased lists.]

How does e-mail performance compare to response rates encountered in direct mail marketing pieces? The DMA research studied that, too. These days, direct mail response rates are running about 3.5% for house lists … but less than half of that (~1.4%) for outside prospect lists.

Commenting on the survey findings, Yuri Wurmser, the DMA’s research manager, said, “Traditional channels are holding their own in terms of response, but it is a multi-channel market out there where everyone is using a lot of different channels,”

Amen to that.

The DMA survey also found – not surprisingly – that while response rates for B-to-B campaigns tend to be higher than consumer campaigns, e-mail tactics are used less often for direct sales compared to postal mail. Which goes to show that despite their added costs and longer lead times, traditional direct mail marketing techniques still have a role to play in the marketing mix.

And what about telemarketing? The DMA survey reveals that outbound telemarketing to prospects provides the highest response rates — around 6% — but also the highest cost-per-lead at more than $300.

A full report is available for a fee from the DMA, and can be ordered here.

An Address: The Next Human Right?

The flag of the Universal Postal Union, the UN agency that coordinates postal policies for member nations.
The flag of the Universal Postal Union, the UN agency that coordinates postal policies for member nations.
Food, shelter, clothing. These are considered basic human rights. But what about a personal address? Is that a human right, too?

That’s the contention of Charles Prescott, a former Direct Marketing Association official who is in the midst of forming a new transnational organization to promote universal “addressability.”

“The consequences of existence, or lack thereof, of an address – especially in the developing world – are dire,” Prescott says. The new group he is organizing (the name isn’t finalized yet – the International Address Data Association is being considered) will promote the adoption of a Universal Postal Union resolution calling for all countries to adopt formal address systems, including change-of-address systems that are available at an affordable cost.

Prescott notes that the cost of change-of-address systems range widely at present, from just a few cents per name in the United States to as high as ~80 cents per name in The Netherlands. If costs are too great, businesses won’t bother using them.

In the U.S., highly addressable mail isn’t that big of an issue, although it’s probably true that a great many catalogues and other printed materials end up in landfills because they’re not addressed to the correct location and never find their way to their intended recipients.

But it’s a huge issue in the developing world. “Address coordinates which can be associated with an individual are extraordinarily important for fostering economic, social and political development,” Prescott emphasizes. But how does this play out in parts of the world where the address descriptions are vague … or non-existent?

I recall when I visited Mumbai, India in the late 1970s, I stayed in a dwelling known as Motiwala Mansion in the Mahim District of the city. Its address was simply “Opposite Shree Cinema.” I asked about the address of the movie house across the street and was told that it was “Opposite Motiwala Mansion.” How’s that for confusion in a city of millions if you don’t know where either one of these buildings is located?

Even more challenging are the slum districts that pepper the world, where addresses basically don’t exist. Today, with the explosion of mobile technology, cell phones reach into every nook and cranny of the world. In fact, cell phones are ubiquitous in the favelas, back alleys and other transient communities that have sprung up in and around every major third-world city. These phones can track the coordinates where someone is living, thereby tagging him or her with an “address” of sorts.

Sound far-fetched? It’s actually happening today, such as with one Brazilian department store chain that is extending store credit to people residing in these localities – once their physical location is known.

But Prescott contends that mobile phone coordinates represent only a partial solution – one that doesn’t allow for the delivery of physical mail. It also doesn’t solve other barriers existing in some countries that have a direct bearing on the economic opportunities for poorer people. One example: the need to show a birth certificate to register children in school … hobbled by the inability to obtain that birth certificate without having a formal address.

Obviously, any new push for a universal “address” initiative faces challenges. As illustrated by the Mumbai example above, addresses will need to be developed using systematic logic that is consistently applied from community to community inside a country. That’s a lot easier said than done.

But as an evangelist for providing every person on the planet an address as a basic human right, Prescott is clearly serious in his endeavor. The advisory board he’s formed includes key thought leaders from business organizations, academia and government in the United States and Europe. This initiative bears watching.

Interesting ROI Trends in Direct Marketing

What’s happening in the world of direct marketing these days, and where is the best ROI to be found?

Certainly, a lot of inboxes are positively groaning under the sheer quantity of e-mail volume, and many people have responded by beefing up their spam filtering. But the most recent economic impact study conducted by research firm Global Insight for the Direct Marketing Association reports that commercial e-mail marketing delivers the best bang for the promotional buck – more than $43 for every dollar spent on it.

By comparison, ROI from Google AdWords and other paid search advertising activities generates about $22 for every dollar spent.

According to the analysis, postal direct mail initiatives deliver lower returns on investment — with catalogs returning just a little over $7 per dollar spent and other forms of postal direct mail around $15.

Depite its stellar ROI numbers, it is true that e-mail marketing is actually showing a slight drop in ROI. And that is forecast to continue to decline in the upcoming years, at least partially because of the reasons noted above. Even so, e-mail is forecast to deliver an ROI of ~$38 for every dollar invested in 2013.

Of course, it’s important to recognize that search marketing is where much of the heavy action is these days. Internet search drives ~$244 billion in sales as compared against a related cost of ~$11 billion.

Commercial e-mail? It drives just ~$26 billion in sales … although the cost to drive those sales is a relative pittance at ~$600 million.

And over on the postal side of the ledger, no one should be surprised to learn that direct mail expenditures, while still large at ~$44 billion, are down ~16% in just the past year alone.

[But you can look on the bright side: Your promo piece is going to be noticed a lot easier among the smaller stack of daily snail mail that’s being delivered!]