Connecting the dots: Reflections on the Canadian Digital Marketing Pulse Survey
The Canadian Digital Marketing Pulse Survey (conducted by Ipsos) surveys marketers, agencies, and consumers to provide a snapshot of digital marketing trends in Canada. It’s always important to interpret the trends and understand the market fundamentals and momentum, but the role of executives is to synthesize and connect the dots. Here are a few high-level observations and reflections:
Key takeaway #1: Marketing is becoming more complex
This year, 43% of marketers reported that it’s harder to be a digital marketing expert today compared to two years ago. Further, 28% of today’s marketers have difficulty keeping up. Gaps in knowledge are evident among senior management too – one in five marketers say their senior management knows very little about the digital space. This is likely due to the rapid pace of change we’re seeing across so many digital tools. The digital marketing field is constantly evolving with more tools, processes, and algorithms. Expectations from senior management are rising at the same time.
Marketing executives have to consider what impact this has on their business. If there are gaps in knowledge at multiple levels within an organization, this hinders all aspects of business, from day-to-day operations all the way up to strategic planning. In many cases, we are likely spreading ourselves “too thin” by trying to have too many vehicles operating at the same time (more vehicles = more complexity). Marketers should focus on what they actually need and have capacity to deliver, and execute it well. Also, recognize that complexity is here to stay: Millennials are driving lasting digital change that brands need to keep up with.
Key takeaway #2: The industry has a need for specialists
The Pulse revealed that many marketers reported bringing their marketing in house to save money. Yet, at the same time, there seems to be a shortage of skills required to handle these tasks. 40% of marketers are essentially “winging it” when it comes to digital marketing, reporting they know either a little bit, or enough to get by. This simply doesn’t cut it when it comes to tasks like sophisticated email marketing campaigns. While it may be cheaper to bring marketing in house, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s getting done right.
Companies may be able to handle the basics of email marketing, but at a certain level it’s beyond their capacity. This is where specialist agencies add value. The top reason that marketers report taking email marketing to an agency is access to expertise. This is no surprise, since email has become highly specialized regarding the five digital dynamics (speed, adaptability, adjacency, scale, precision). Without proper foundations and training, companies can find it extremely challenging to execute email marketing campaigns well. Overall, a hybrid approach using in-house resources and agencies and partners will take solutions to the next level faster.
Key takeaway #3: COVID-19 Has changed digital marketing in a positive way
COVID-19 has had a major impact on digital marketing and has driven many companies to upskill. Almost 1 in 4 marketers reported that COVID-19 fundamentally changed the way they approach digital marketing. In times of such rapid change, it’s imperative to look at what aspects of digital marketing rise to the top, as these are likely to be able to weather all storms.
The big question is: what’s working now? Marketers and agencies reported that website, social media marketing, and email marketing were their top three digital marketing tactics that they increased usage of due to COVID-19. Email serves as a direct lifeline to customers, while websites and social media marketing help companies maintain a digital footprint and presence. These tools proved to be critical during COVID-19 and will likely remain crucial during the pandemic recovery and post-pandemic periods. Ensuring that teams are performing well in these three areas of digital marketing is paramount.
Key takeaway #4: Email, SEM, and SEO are essential to the marketer’s toolkit
Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) each serve different purposes and roles. Marketers should focus on fully optimizing and scaling up what is proven to work for their business.
The Digital Pulse research program showed that email has remained stable over the past decade – it is a tactic familiar to many and is widely used. It’s measurable, effective, and efficient. SEM continues to be increasingly utilized, and for good reason, as it helps keep businesses in front of motivated consumers. SEO is also essential to increase visibility of a website and content assets.
Reflecting and moving forward
2020 has certainly been a pivotal year in the digital marketing world. Canadian marketers need to reflect on what’s working well and design an ecosystem to optimize these key digital tools. There are lots of configuration options for martech solutions and applying them across the customer journey depends on an organization’s strategic vision. The marketer or agency that enables and activates all the right pieces will have massive ROI and significant strategic impact.