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Each year, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) publishes its Statistical Fact Book. Now in its 39th edition, the 2017 Fact Book includes facts and figures from over 80 leading research sources and marketing experts covering the adoption of emerging technologies, response rates across all marketing channels, and shifting industry priorities. Tuesdays with Tukaiz has been reporting on key trends from this important publication for a number of years. Here are some highlights from the DMA 2017 Statistical Fact Book and a brief discussion of what these trends mean to marketers.

Data Fuels Marketing and Advertising Growth

Marketing and advertising spending continue to increase, and data remains a key driver of this growth. Savvy marketers understand that today’s consumers are seeking a personalized experience, and they are leveraging quality data to create the most relevant communications possible. According to the Winterberry Group, businesses invested approximately $11.9 billion on data in related services in 2016, which represents a 4% increase from the previous year. Although mail’s overall share is decreasing, direct mail still accounts for the largest share of this spending (nearly $8.2 billion in 2016). Meanwhile, spending on digital data (including data management, analytics, and technologies) is growing rapidly and currently accounts for $2.3 billion.

Mobile devices and data will increasingly dictate how brands interact with consumers and prospects as time goes on. Moving forward, marketers will rely on data, more complex technologies, and outside service providers to better understand their audiences and develop more personalized, interactive campaigns.

Thinking Beyond the Channel

Although marketers once relied heavily on direct mail to reach their audiences, they are now expanding to include a number of additional channels, including e-mail and mobile. Furthermore, consumer demand for relevancy has prompted many marketers to gain deeper insight into who their customers are as individuals. Today’s consumers can interact with brands in a variety of ways, including mobile devices, social networks, and apps. Although the accessibility of data is a good thing because it enables marketers to deliver one-to-one communications, deriving true insight from a huge repository of available customer data can be daunting. Fortunately, tools are available to help improve message relevancy, and marketers are taking advantage of them. The share of businesses that were using data management platforms (DMPs) more than doubled year-over-year, rising from 12% in 2015 to 26% in 2016[1].

Each individual will interact with a brand in his or her own unique way. To succeed in today’s complex environment, marketers must put the customer at the center of their marketing strategy. Rather than relying on basic demographic information, marketers must focus on technologies, data resources, data management practices, and partnerships so they can communicate only the most relevant messages to individual consumers, regardless of channel. Messages were more segmented in the past, but today’s marketers must find a way to deliver a cohesive story across all devices and platforms.

Mobile is a Catalyst for Marketing

Mobile has become an important channel in a short amount of time, largely due to its influence across the marketing landscape. When it comes to the mobile experience, today’s consumers are demanding easier navigation, enhanced security, improved speed, and greater simplicity. Mobile is a truly personal marketing channel, and it is prompting consumers to expect a more personalized experience from other marketing channels as well.

Today’s marketers are working to understand the customer journey, and mobile provides valuable insight into how consumers engage online with their phones and across other connected devices. Mobile data on location and dwell time can also map the customer journey in the physical world, which is important since over 92% of retail sales still occur in brick-and-mortar stores[2]. Location-based mobile alerts can provide customers with relevant, real-time offers when they visit retail establishments. Although it is a digital channel, mobile is especially compelling because it can trigger offline patterns and decision-making.

Social Media: A Two-Way Street

Today’s social platforms continue to evolve as they strive to improve the user experience and satisfy consumers’ growing demand for personalization. Social networks are no longer a one-way street that organizations can use for self-promotion; they now offer the opportunity to engage in a conversation with consumers while delivering more targeted messaging. Marketers appear to be getting the message—although social media spending currently accounts for 11.7% of marketing budgets, this share is expected to reach 22.2% in the next 5 years[3].

Although data is the key to personalization, many businesses haven’t yet figured out how to tap its true potential. Social media makes it easier to deliver ads directly to prospects, but today’s consumers are inundated with information from all channels. They have therefore become much more selective about the ads with which they choose to engage. Irrelevant information will be discarded, so marketers must rely on data to create messaging that will trigger engagement. They must also strike the right balance between relevant and promotional content. Social media enables organizations to have conversations with their customers and create a truly customized experience, but these organizations must first understand more about their audiences in terms of demographics, lifestyle, and preferences. As brands get to know their customers better, they can implement digital strategies that will help propel social media success.

Conclusion

The 2017 edition of the DMA Statistical Fact Book contains a great deal of useful information concerning data, mobile marketing, social media, retail, and direct mail. It also explores how savvy marketers are leveraging customer data to create an interactive, engaging, cross-media experience that can increase response rates and yield a better return on investment.

[1] Source: Econsultancy and Oracle, “Marketing Budgets 2016,” 2016.
[2] Source: The Best Retailers Combine Bricks and Clicks, Harvard Business Review and the Census Bureau
[3] Source: The CMO Survey (CMOsurvey.org), Highlights and Insights, August 2016