Marketers face the challenge of a constantly changing media landscape.

According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company the number of digital touchpoints is increasing by 20% annually and consumer activity is shifting rapidly to these new digital channels.

The same study also shows that these new consumer behaviours are good for brands which can keep up.  

As the percentage of sales that a brand makes online increases, the more likely it is that a consumer will select the brand at some point in the purchase funnel. 

Because of this, marketers should always be on the lookout for new digital channels. With new ones appearing regularly, however, knowing which ones to use can be difficult. 

To find out how professional marketers decide whether to use a new digital channel, Econsultancy in association with IBM Cognitive Engagement: Watson Marketing recently held roundtable discussions in Delhi.

There, senior client-side marketers discussed how they launch on digital channels to improve customer engagement, acquisition, and loyalty.

Below are four questions which attendees indicated that they ask when launching on a new digital channel.

1. What is the objective of using the new channel?

The first thing delegates consider when reviewing a new digital channel is their objective. That is, what are they trying to accomplish?

To answer this, they look at what part of the buying cycle they are trying to influence and ask whether or not the channel is appropriate. For example: 

  • Awareness: Is this where people interested in our brand spend their time?
  • Research: Do potential customers look for information here? If so, can we tell them what they want to know?
  • Interest: Will we be able to draw them away from the platform to tell our brand story?
  • Conversion: Will they be in the right mindset to buy when they are in this channel?
  • Advocacy: Does the platform allow us to engage with customers one-on-one at scale? 

Different platforms will suit different purposes. Highly visual networks, such as Instagram and Snapchat, tend to perform better at the top of the funnel.  

Special-topic sites such as a blog are more suitable for the middle and conversion. Messaging platforms are best for ongoing engagement.

Marketers should, therefore, understand where a channel fits in the customer journey before committing resources and budget to develop their presence on it.

2. Is it possible to segment audiences on the channel?

In Econsultancy’s latest Digital Trends report, ‘targeting and personalization’ was seen as one of the three top priorities for organisations in 2016.

Marketers in Delhi agreed. Participants noted that whenever they look at new digital channels, they consider whether they are able to segment and target audiences on the platform.

The reason is that in order to increase engagement with the brand, content must be personalised to some extent. And to personalise, marketers need to be able to segment.

Ideally, marketers would be able to segment using demographics, interests and behaviour, but at least one option must be available.

While this is not a problem with established channels like Google and Facebook, many marketers have voiced frustrations with difficulty in doing so with Snapchat and Pinterest.

Interestingly, both Snapchat and Pinterest have recently announced that audience targeting will be available.

3. Does the channel provide attribution data?

Another issue which marketers face when using new platforms is that they need to know whether it is effective in driving new business.  

The way this is typically done is through a ‘referrer source’ tag which is picked up by web analytics platforms and recorded along with page views and conversions. 

While nearly all established digital channels provide this tag, many new platforms do not.  

Out of eight messaging platforms commonly used in Asia-Pacific, only Facebook Messenger and Twitter DMs provide ‘referrer source’ and the rest are considered ‘dark social’.

The only alternative in these cases is for marketers to tag links they post on the platforms themselves. This is not easy to do and makes analytics even more difficult.

4. Can we use marketing automation on the channel?

Attendees asserted that marketing automation reduces marketing costs and increases conversions. Because of this, marketers should consider to what extent new channels support automation initiatives.

Again, this was not really an issue when using established search and social platforms as they offer APIs, ad bidding automation, and even automated customer service.

Newer platforms, however, require that marketers post content manually making it even more difficult to send the right message to the right person at the right time. 

Participants agreed, though, that in order to reach their customers it was worth putting efforts into new channels such as chat platforms even without automation. Many felt that, in time, these platforms will support integration and allow marketers to use them more effectively.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank all of the marketers who participated on the day and our table leaders: 

  • Antonia Edmunds, Business Leader – IBM Watson Marketing.
  • Gowri Arun, GBS Marketing Leader – IBM India/South Asia.
  • Joseph Sundar, Business Development Executive, ISA/ASEAN – IBM Watson Marketing.
  • Harsh Anand, CSP Leader – IBM Commerce.

We hope to see you all at future Delhi Econsultancy events!