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United We Stand: Combining offline marketing with ecommerce

7th Sep 2009
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Offline marketing is still more powerful that digital marketing when it comes to attracting customers, according to research - but combining it with ecommerce can deliver even better results. Gareth Stoten explains why it's the ultimate marketing mix.

Burgeoning ecommerce activity is developing apace, led by the retail sector where online sales currently account for around 5% of total retail sales across Europe. The growing importance of online sales has led many marketers into the assumption that web traffic and ecommerce is best driven by advertising across electronic channels – email, sponsored links, banner adverts, social network advertising, and so on. This assumption is understandable, yet it has no basis in reality.

Recent research by Pitney Bowes has revealed that more than twice as many UK consumers say traditional direct marketing is more likely than digital marketing to encourage them to go to a website and seriously consider a purchase from a company for the first time.

Mail driving web purchasing

Based on a broader European study, which surveyed 10,000 adults in the UK, Germany, France, Scandinavia and Benelux, 60% of the respondents believe offline marketing in the form of addressed mail or direct response advertising is most likely to get them to visit the website of a company they have not bought from before with the intention of buying a product or service.

Only 24% of the consumers surveyed said that a marketing message delivered through digital media, such as email, a sponsored web link or an ad on a social networking website, would drive them to a company site with a first-time purchase in mind.

UK attitudes

Delving further into the UK results, some interesting differences are revealed. UK women were more likely to seriously consider a first-time purchase from a website after being directed there by a traditional marketing message than men – 63% compared to 57% respectively. But when driven to a website through an online platform, men were more likely to visit with a purchase in mind - 25% compared to 23% of the women surveyed.

Direct marketing was more effective at driving serious consumer traffic than digital activity across all age groups, with UK consumers aged 25-34 (67%) most likely to visit and consider buying from a website for the first time after being directed there by an offline message. The next most likely age group was 35-44 at 64%, followed by 45-54 at 60% and the 18-24 and 55 plus age groups both at 56%.

When it came to UK respondents picking up on digital messages and considering buying from the website of a company they had not bought from before, the 18-24 age group was most responsive at 41%, followed by 25-34 at 37%, 35-44 at 25%, 45-54 at 16% and 55 plus at 14%.

Overall, the UK figure lagged slightly behind the European total of 62% for respondents who said that direct marketing was most likely to drive them to go to a website and consider buying from a company they had not dealt with before, while the figures for digital achieving the same goal was the same at 24% for both the UK and Europe.

Managing the marketing mix

These figures demonstrate how critically important it is for businesses to find the right marketing mix. Online channels such as social networking are a hot topic, but it is the traditional print and mail channels that are driving people to make web purchases. A digital presence on its own does not provide a strong enough impetus for brands seeking to make a connection with prospects – even when it comes to those consumers looking to buy over the internet.

Marketing activities such as mail, inserts and direct response advertising can help companies to reach new customers in a very targeted and personal way, and then entice them onto a website. Digital channels are all too often just not as engaging and targeting as precisely can be difficult given the lack of depth and detail in the online prospecting data that’s available.

Mail remains a particularly powerful tool for moving consumers to take action – either offline or online. Developments in areas such as document composition software and inserting technology make it possible to create more creative and tailored communications packages than ever.

Those industries focused on growing the ecommerce side of their business need to take note of the best ways to drive web traffic. These sectors include retail, banking, insurance, hospitality, utility and charity – all of which are looking to further build their multi-channel service offerings and how best to drive their digital initiatives.

Gareth Stoten is general manager at Pitney Bowes

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