Customer Experience

How far should you push your marketing?

Michael Baker
Smarter Writer

Michael Baker is a retail consultant and vice-chair of the ICSC's Asia-Pacific Research Council

Michael Baker
Smarter Writer

Michael Baker is a retail consultant and vice-chair of the ICSC's Asia-Pacific Research Council

‘Push’ marketing has some converts among shoppers – but there are still plenty of doubters. When it comes to 'push' marketing by brands and Retailers, less is usually more. But even then, consumer preferences are a hotchpotch with respect to what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

When it comes to 'push' marketing by brands and retailers, less is usually more. But even then, consumer preferences are a hotchpotch with respect to what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

For companies using digital marketing, three questions need to be answered:

  1. Do consumers want to hear from us at all?
  2. How would they like to hear from us?
  3. What would they like to hear from us?
Push marketing infographic

Do consumers want to hear from brands?

The answer to the first question depends a lot on the brand that’s doing the communicating. In a recent survey of more than 3,000 US adults by SAP/Ipsos, the majority of respondents were unwilling to give brands a free pass to send them marketing messages.

While 38 per cent were okay with a company keeping them up to date on new products, 37 per cent liked tailored offers based on where they lived. Tailored offers based on purchase histories were acceptable for 33 per cent, although a similar percentage in each case said it really depended on the company sending the message. The remainder said they disliked brand communications for any of these reasons, or were unsure.

How retailers should communicate with shoppers

On the second question, sending alerts to a person's mobile phone was a practice frowned upon by 34 per cent of respondents to the same survey, while 29 per cent said it depended on the company and only 27 per cent liked it.

Marketing communications by emails generally seemed to be looked upon more favourably than other channels, and so they have the highest return on investment for digital marketers, far ahead of mobile at this point.

This could be partly because email marketing has a long history and people have gotten used to it, but may still feel more intruded upon receiving a text message or push notification on their mobiles.

Even so, many consumers still don’t care much for email marketing. According to a recent survey of more than 33,000 US adults by Forrester Research, 42 per cent of respondents “delete most email advertising without reading it”. The silver lining for marketers is that this was down from 59 per cent when the same survey was conducted in 2010. 

Personalisation – the key to successful marketing messages

On the third question, of what type of digital marketing, the SAP/Ipsos survey found consumers seem to most like being kept up to date on new products and receiving personalised offers.

Personalisation comes up repeatedly in such surveys as an important component of successful marketing. Although personalisation seems to be the marketing Holy Grail, it continues to collide with privacy. And the more sophisticated the personalisation becomes, the harder the collision.

For marketers this is one of the most important challenges to be addressed over the longer term – how to maximise the relevance of their messages without appearing to be constantly conducting surveillance over their target customers’ digital ‘footprints’. And even if they master that challenge, they need to know where the limits are in terms of the volume of marketing messages their customers can tolerate.

Will they know when to stop, or will they kill the goose that lays the golden egg?

Key Takeaways
  1. Many consumers are okay with brand communications but it’s preferred the brand does the communicating. Retailers using mobile marketing need to make it easy for consumers to opt in and out easily.
  2. Email is still the most favoured and accepted form of digital marketing, with a big lead over mobile notifications. Even so, a large number of people say they delete the messages automatically.
  3. Both consumer and company feedback indicate that personalisation is a key ingredient of digital marketing. Businesses should customise marketing messages based on purchase history and on product preferences gleaned from past digital or personal interactions.
  4. Companies should ensure they are set up to be able to gather feedback and measure return on investment from their various digital marketing programs (email, mobile, search engine optimisation and so on).
  5. Privacy is still a huge issue for marketers, and it’ll take time for many consumers to be comfortable with ‘push’ marketing methods. Even then, there will be varying tolerance levels for message volumes, which marketers can’t exceed without risk of alienating the customer.

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