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Why Does Channel Selection Matter?


When it comes to choosing marketing channels, marketers can make many assumptions. Millennials always want digital, the Silent Generation wants print, but the reality is often far different. As marketers, if we don’t pay attention to how consumers want to engage with us, we can turn them off or leave them out in the cold.

“We make a lot of assumptions, especially about buyers,” notes Liz Miller, senior vice president of marketing, CMO Council, speaking in a Target Marketing webinar “Channels of Choice.” “It’s easy to make big, bold statements. Millennials are all digital. They don’t know how to talk to each other. They are always on their phones. But consumers are funny, and generations often act outside our expectations.”

For example, Miller notes, it’s a mistake think the Silent Generation is just sitting at home not doing much. “They are out and about, engaging in living their lives,” she says. “Likewise, for every member of the Silent Generation we think doesn't want to engage digitally, we get someone who is [highly tech savvy]. In the same way, we will find a Millennial who wants their bank statement mailed to them because they think it’s more trusted and secure. For every assumption we make, there is a massive group of consumers that will buck it.”

The best way to avoid the errors of assumption, she says, is to ask consumers what they actually want. So the CMO Council conducted a global survey of 2,000 consumers in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and England. The questions involved bi-directional communication between the customer and buyer (direct mail, email, interactive social media, as opposed to single directional channels like magazine advertising or billboards). Here’s what they found: consumers want a blend of digital and traditional communications.

  • 85% want a mix of digital and traditional

  • 10% want digital only

  • 5% want physical only

This was the case across all generations. The range of those wanting a blend of digital and traditional communications ranged only from 82% (Silent Generation) to 88% (Gen Z). The desire for a mix of digital and traditional communications is consistent across the board.

“You cannot get away with one-way only communications strategy anymore,” concludes Miller. “Consumers expect—not just want, like, or desire, but expect—a blend of physical and digital channels be offered to them as part of their customer experience.”

The takeaway? Want happy customers? When it comes to the channels of communication, give consumers a choice.