Tech Line

Wake Up, Marketers, Digital Fatigue is A Real Thing

When the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc across the United States and forced millions to work remotely, the technology and devices people used were no longer nice-to-haves, but essential tools to get everyday work done.

Not surprisingly, most workers liked this new, more flexible arrangement, since working from home allowed them not to catch Covid-19; reduce their time-consuming and costly commutes; have more family time and an improved work-life balance, and more.

But this unexpected and sudden shift in millions of people’s work arrangements put pressure on remote technical infrastructures. Further, as millions of customers moved to a digital-first position when interacting with brands, the increased volume of digital content and messaging they receive from brands has created true digital fatigue.

Brands must consider how they will penetrate all this digital noise when trying to communicate and interact with their customers and prospects. Marketers should be looking at all the tools at their disposal, both physical and digital, to deliver hybrid experiences that will break through the digital din and grab consumers full attention.

The Over-Connected Household

Deloitte’s 2021 Connectivity and Mobile Trends Survey found that, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the home became more teeming with technology than ever before.

The survey found that:

  • There is now an average of 25 connected devices per household;
  • 55 percent of respondents have at least one person working from home;
  • 38 percent connected additional devices from their home internet since the pandemic began;
  • 43 percent had at least one person engaged in homeschooling.

Feeling the Strain of Digital Fatigue

While the pandemic has accelerated consumer digital-first behaviors by years in just a few months, this massive increase in connected technology and digital media is beginning to have an impact on people’s health and wellbeing. Thirty-two percent of consumers report feeling overwhelmed by tech devices and subscription management during the pandemic. For parents with small children, this number increases to 43 percent.

The amount of time people have to consume information is shrinking, as users spend more time divided between various apps, sites, and devices.

It’s not just the assault of multiple devices and subscriptions that is stressing people out. They are also being hit with too much information, messaging, and content to be able to focus on what matters. The amount of time people have to consume information is shrinking, as users spend more time divided between various apps, sites, and devices.

All of this is reminiscent of a time when companies had large lists of subscribers that they would “hit” over and over again with offers, subscriptions, etc. The list would get fatigued and, over time, it would become less useful. The same thing is happening today. Marketers are simply creating too many campaigns and too much content that is neither engaging nor valuable to the recipient.

Marketers overwhelmingly agree with this sentiment.

For instance, HubSpot found that 83 percent of marketers believe the quality of social media posts is more important than the quantity.

The Best of Physical and Digital

One method marketers can use to counter digital fatigue is create hybrid programs that are data-driven yet leverage the best of the physical and digital worlds to engage with valuable customers and prospects.

For example, a physical direct mail asset to accompany a digital content experience could be just the differentiator your company needs to stand above the competition. And direct mail is making quite the comeback in the digital age, as marketers are looking for high-touch experiences with high-value customers that convert into real dollars for the business.

Look for the direct mail advertising market to grow from $57 billion in 2021 to $72.67 billion in 2022 at a CAGR of 1.5 percent, as marketers expand programs to take advantage of hybrid strategies.  

The growth of the direct mail market is not surprising given that direct mail delivers measurable performance for marketers who deploy it properly. For example, a recent article on Marketing Brew had this to say: “Given growing data-privacy concerns, clutter in online advertising, and demand for brand authenticity, some marketers [have] said the best way to reach younger consumers could be through some good ol’ fashioned snail mail.”

According to Postary, the average response rate of direct mail is between 2.7 percent and 4.4 percent, while email has a response rate of only 0.6 percent. Even more promising is that the direct mail open rate is between 57.5 percent and 85 percent, with an average return on investment of $4.09 for $1.27 spent on direct mail.

What Can be Done?

With consumers feeling so overwhelmed with the number of devices, subscriptions, and content they are engaged with, cutting through the noise of digital and countering digital fatigue should be top of mind for data-driven marketers.

The impetus for many companies and marketing departments in 2022 will be to pull back on marketing budgets due to both the coming economic downturn and increasing digital fatigue. Most agree, this would be a mistake.

Marketers need to stop throwing the digital kitchen sink at their customers hoping something will connect. They need to listen to their customers digital signals so they can align their marketing programs—be they physical, digital, or hybrid—more effectively for improved engagement and performance.

Direct mail technology delivers high engagement in the form of open rates and brand recall and is effective when used to re-engage people into digital journeys. Marketing is more expensive and less effective than ever before, and digital noise isn’t cancelled by shouting louder and more often. Buyers today have limited attention, making it harder than ever for marketers to connect with customers and prospects.

More and better digital marketing is not going to change that.

Research shows that the missing element is the physical, the authentic, the real. Hybrid experiences bring physical mail into the digital age. Personalized, targeted, and orchestrated direct mail experiences help marketers overcome digital fatigue and forge deep customer engagement. Personalized physical mail as accessible, targeted, orchestrated, and measurable across the entire customer lifecycle and can help overcome today’s rampant digital fatigue.

Brian Carlson is a digital experience expert focused on the intersection of content, technology, and marketing and how they affect the overall customer experience. He is the founder of RoC Consulting.