Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
A study commissioned by Australia Post and developed, conducted and analysed by the Australian Consumer, Retail, and Services (ACRS) Research Unit within Monash Business School's Department of Marketing, found just four advertising channels (websites, personalised direct mail, TV ads and catalogues and flyers) influence up to 92 per cent of a consumer’s service-related purchase decision.
The study – which surveyed over 8,500 Australians across seven audience segments – explored consumers’ conscious and unconscious channel preferences, to find the ideal blend of channels for optimal influence at three key stages on the journey to purchase: initial consideration, evaluating options and purchase decision.
Websites dominate purchase decisions
The report revealed websites have the greatest influence on service purchases – from choosing a superannuation fund, to switching credit card or electricity providers – driving 35 per cent of the decision overall. According to the study, the importance of a service provider’s website in the advertising mix is indisputable as the primary source of all product, service and company information.
However, offline channels also interplay to influence the choice of service provider and product. Personalised direct mail drives 21 per cent of a consumer’s overall decision with particular importance in the initial consideration stage of their purchase journey. TV ads are also well received by all demographics except retirees, with 19 per cent purchase influence overall, while catalogues and flyers round out the top four channels at 17 per cent.
Radio ads lag behind at only eight per cent purchase influence, however, they are particularly persuasive when consumers are at the end of their purchase journey, where they sway 31 per cent of the final choice between alternatives.
The report also found that as consumers age, the number of channels that influence their purchase decision grows. For example, the youth segment focuses on just four channels, whereas retirees consider up to seven channels.
Social media ads most effective when combined with other channels
Most interestingly, social media ads do not contribute to the optimal advertising mix for service purchases in any audience segment, even for millennials. In fact, the report suggested the optimal ad mix for youth is websites, TV ads, followed by catalogues and traditional print ads in newspapers and magazines.
When asked openly about their drivers for using or not using channels, consumers said social ads were ‘easier to ignore’ (64 per cent) and ‘less trustworthy’ (22 per cent).
“Consumers know the difference between organic and paid search. They know the banner displays on the top and right hand side of the search are paid for and some will reject those on principle,” said Australia Post’s general manager for customer data and insights, Paul Fanthorpe. “They talk about having ‘blinkers’, they want to feel in control.”
But the research found that when paired with specific channels, social ads do have more relevance and effectiveness increases. For instance, finance marketers can improve the effectiveness of social ads by pairing them with catalogues or newspaper ads.
The ‘perfect omnichannel blend’
Salesforce’s head of product marketing, Derek Laney, stressed the real power of multichannel campaigns can be enhanced when channels are combined in the perfect blend for optimal effectiveness. But what that perfect blend looks like will depend on your target audience’s needs and behaviours at each stage of their journey.
Interestingly, he believes financial services firms are leading the way with holistic multichannel campaigns – and seeing measurable impact.
“By linking channels they’re lifting conversion,” Laney claimed. “For example, we saw one provider increase conversion by 22 per cent by linking Facebook campaigns with eDM activity. Just by taking two channels and sticking them together.”
Report shows the optimal multichannel mix is actually quite simple
There is no doubt multichannel marketing is a powerful strategy for service sectors, and it’s essential for marketers to balance their online and offline mix to reach the right audience with the right message, at the right time. But given the pressure to juggle more with less while showing return on investment, the power of a relatively simple multichannel strategy for Australian consumers is good news for service-based marketers.
Fanthorpe said despite new opportunities available to target and engage customers, this report highlighted the value in continuing to invest in so-called ‘traditional’ channels.
“These findings are timely, given the need to find balance between ‘push’ and ‘pull’ marketing strategies – between offline and online marketing – and could signal an opportunity to achieve more marketing impact, with less,” he added.
And as this is the first time that quantifiable data against the influence of channels in complex purchasing decisions has been captured, Fanthorpe highlighted the report opens up an opportunity for marketers to re-evaluate their multichannel advertising strategies moving forward.
“The report shows that there is an opportunity for marketers to refine the messages they send through their channels to meet different expectations,” he added. “In the long run, this means that advertising and marketing dollars can be better optimised to create awareness, familiarity, trust and finally, lead to a purchase.”
For more information, or to download the free ‘Creating Connections that Matter: Optimising the advertising mix for services’ report please click here.