UK companies report that they will continue to invest heavily in online marketing channels and associated technology during 2012 as the digital economy goes from strength to strength, according to the 'Marketing Budgets Report' from Econsultancy and Experian Marketing Services.
The research noted a continued shift of marketers' focus toward online channels, with more than two-thirds (68%) of companies planning to increase their digital marketing budgets in 2012, compared to almost half (45%) intending to increase their overall marketing budget, and only 16% planning to increase their traditional (offline) marketing budget.
The research examined relative levels of planned spending across a range of marketing channels, comparing online and offline budgets and also examining planned investments in different types of marketing technology. Among the study's key findings:
- Of those companies increasing their digital marketing budgets, 79% said they would increase them by more than 10%;
- Three-quarters (74%) of companies had plans to increase their investment in digital marketing technology in 2012, up from 67% in 2011;
- More than half (56%) of companies had plans to recruit more people into their digital marketing teams in 2012, up from 52% in 2011.
"At a time when the importance of the digital economy is so well documented, companies have demonstrated their commitment to online marketing channels and the technologies required to make their campaigns as effective as possible," said Econsultancy's research director Linus Gregoriadis. "The majority of companies report increasing investment in both established digital channels (such as email and paid search) and fast growing areas such as social media and mobile marketing."
Companies reported spending 36% of their total marketing budgets on digital channels and technologies - a figure in keeping with the previous year's survey results. With many companies being forced to reign in their spending due to uncertain economic conditions, it is encouraging to see so many expanding their digital teams in order to harness new opportunities to engage and sell to consumers in a fast-changing digital environment.
"While digital marketing spending is increasing, it is little surprise that much of the dynamic growth has been from companies trying to understand, interpret and measure customer behaviour within this increasingly complex marketing ecosystem," commented Mark Zablan, managing director for Experian Marketing Services.
The key to digital marketing success is turning the huge quantities of data collected into practical insights that explain customer behaviour not only across channels, devices and platforms, but also spanning both the online and offline worlds to drive greater customer engagement.
Among the study's other key findings:
- Although companies are now recruiting new team members for the digital channels, one of the most widely cited barriers (after company culture) to increasing digital marketing investment is a simple lack of staff (mentioned by 34% of marketers). In fact, this problem had increased significantly since 2011, when it was cited by only 23% of marketers).
- Despite the problems associated with the analysis of huge amounts of data, companies are still better at measuring digital channels than traditional channels, with 55% of client-side marketers claiming to have a 'good' or 'very good' understanding of ROI from digital channels, compared to only 44% for traditional channels.
- Although the digital channel overall is attracting more marketing budget, social media was the area in which companies said they were most likely to be increasing their investment. More than two thirds (69%) of companies said they expected to increase their budgets for 'off site' social media including networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
- The mobile channel has also been an area of increased investment, with more than half (57%) of companies indicating plans to invest in mobile applications during 2012. At the same time, QR Codes (48%) and mobile commerce (34%) also ranked highly in client-side marketers' priorities for the near future.
- Television advertising was the only offline channel in which a higher proportion of companies (32%) reported plans to invest more in 2012 than the previous year (31%).