Ignore Consumers' Channel Preferences

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The results of a new study (for more details and good insights on this study, see Bank Marketing Strategy) found that:

“50% of U.S consumers prefer direct mail to email.”

But wait. One of the leading social media gurus wrote:

“…with social networks becoming the preferred channel of communication among connected consumers, businesses are losing ground and faith. “

Hold on. Crossview found in 2010 that:

“37% of US in-store shoppers’ preferred method of recieving retail promotions in via email. Only 9% of US in-store shoppers prefer to receive promotional messages on social media sites.”

So who’s right?

My take: It doesn’t matter. Marketers should ignore studies like these (not to mention seat-of-the-pants remarks from social media gurus).

Why ignore them? Because these studies are designed — and used — to do nothing more than allay the insecurities of marketers who have a vested interest in the channel that comes out on top of the study.

These studies violate the principles of right-channeling which states that there is a “right” channel for each type of transaction, interaction, or message. What’s “right” is determined by a number of factors including the consumers’ preferences and behaviors, the cost (to the firm) of delivering the message or executing the transaction or interaction, and the timing considerations of the message or interaction.

Just because 50% of consumers — actually, we should say “survey respondents” — said that they “prefer” direct mail to email, doesn’t mean they don’t want email, nor does it mean that they want every communication through direct mail.

Can you imagine your customers getting an email from you and thinking “Damn! I wish they had sent that through direct mail”?

Findings and claims like the ones at the beginning of this post are completely useless to marketers.

Caveat: Since I know someone is going to say this, let me preempt their disagreement by saying that, yes, I understand that there are times when you shouldn’t ignore your customers’ channel preferences. Like when they tell you specifically that they want, say, low balance alerts to be delivered to their smartphone or through email.

I get that. But if you can’t figure out the difference between that and the examples above, you shouldn’t be reading this blog.

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