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From the revival of direct mail to the rise of H2H, recent marketing trends reflect a shifting approach to consumer engagement. Embracing this shift could be crucial to brand relevancy in a highly competitive landscape. Today, 32% of consumers feel overwhelmed by the number of devices in their lives, and 75% of brands report decreased engagement with their digital content. Despite these trends, the cost of advertising on popular social media platforms continues to rise. In pursuit of a worthwhile ROI, marketers must deploy a range of tactics to combat digital fatigue among consumers.

The limits of personalization in the digital age

To develop a successful approach, it's important to understand the real reason digital marketing is losing its allure. Since March 2020, consumers have been inundated with marketing emails, and witnessed a 1,000% increase in virtual events. Oversaturation of digital marketing media is an obvious explanation for fatigue—but it's only part of the problem.

Marketers have long relied on personalization to establish connections with consumers. But significant overlap in the algorithms and automation processes employed to craft customized content has substantially homogenized the "personal touch." To truly distinguish themselves from competitors and capture the attention of a digitally fatigued audience, brands must provide digital marketing experiences that look and feel unlike anything else their customers encounter. There are many ways to do this successfully, but a few in particular are gaining popularity.

Physical formats

Once considered a dead medium, direct mail has recently been linked to improved sales performance by four out of five B2B marketers. With enthusiasm for the digital experience waning, this comeback is not entirely surprising. Direct mail evokes a sense of novelty—and novelty has been known to strike a chord with the modern consumer. In fact, 75% of millennials state that receiving mail in their real-life inboxes makes them feel special. The same is true for the majority of baby boomers. This could be why direct mail currently delivers a higher ROI than digital formats, though there's likely a psychological explanation as well. Research indicates physical ads lead to better brand recognition and recall than digital ads.

This result can be enhanced if the physical ad is accompanied by something meaningful to the consumer. A well chosen gift, for example, can increase ROI by 40%. When leveraged at the right moment (a birthday, purchase anniversary, etc.), corporate gifting helps brands forge emotional connections with their customers. And those connections can be lucrative: one study found 70% of customers would more than double their spending when they felt emotionally connected to a brand.

In the past, corporate gifting required marketers to invest significant effort in selecting personalized gifts for thousands of people they'd never actually met in person. But the proven success of this approach has given rise to numerous services that simplify the process using AI and other technologies. With gifting fully automated, marketers can send meaningful, customized gifts with little more effort than it takes to send a batch email.

Flexible experiences

In an era where technology is both a necessity and a burden, an increasing number of brands are embracing hybrid marketing. By encouraging customers to shop wherever and however they like, brands can position themselves favorably among those seeking a greater balance between the physical and digital worlds. It's a profitable approach—hybrid marketing has been known to increase revenue up to 50%.

By facilitating cross-channel data collection, the hybrid model empowers brands to create more comprehensive customer profiles. When leveraged properly, these profiles can bolster a proactive approach to fending off digital fatigue. With an in-depth understanding of the way customers behave at various touchpoints throughout their journey, marketers can quickly determine when it's time to pivot from a digital approach to a phone call, direct mail campaign, or other method entirely.

For some businesses, establishing the infrastructure to engage customers across media channels will require an upfront investment of time and resources. But hybrid marketing is a crucial response to the increasingly complex customer journey. The average B2B decision maker interacts with 10 different channels before making a purchase, which gives the advantage to brands that are prepared to engage the customer in a variety of ways.

Optimized digital content

Consumer expectations for digital content are changing. And though the need for a strong digital presence persists, a "human-centric" approach to online marketing could be key to connecting with a modern audience. Interactive (or "conversational") marketing creates opportunities for consumers to ask questions about the products, features, and services they find most compelling. A component of the larger concept of H2H marketing, this model provides a level of customization that an algorithm simply cannot achieve. In an era of digital fatigue, it's helpful to have an actual human being driving conversations with customers. But when that isn't feasible, chatbots can simulate human interactions, often with enough authenticity to drive sales. It is estimated that by 2024, chatbots will be responsible for $142 billion in customer spending.

In terms of produced content, ad placement on digital platforms matters just as much as it does in the physical world. At this point in time, bombarding a customer's inbox is unlikely to capture their attention. Rather, brands should consider meeting consumers in the (virtual) places they go to blow off steam. Once there, it's important to deliver content that contributes to, rather than interrupts, customers' experiences on the platform. Lyft recently demonstrated how this approach can help a brand successfully generate interest from consumers. By launching a comedic video on TikTok, it generated 700,000 organic views.

An adaptable approach to the future

The best strategy for overcoming digital fatigue will vary depending on a brand’s offerings, target audience, and available resources. And like digital ads, any advertising medium can become stale with oversaturation. Effective marketers know that no one strategy holds the key to overcoming the current challenges. Rather, a brand’s success will depend on the marketing team’s ability to be flexible, develop creatively, and pivot when one medium or another falls out of favor with consumers.

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