Advantages and Disadvantages of Direct Marketing
All this data-driven direct marketing might seem a little creepy or even nefarious, and certainly it can be when marketers are insensitive or unethical in their use of consumer data. However, direct marketing also offers significant value to consumers by tailoring their experience in the market to things that most align with their needs and interests. If you’re going to have a baby (and you don’t mind people knowing about it), wouldn’t you rather have Target send you special offers on baby products than on men’s shoes or home improvement goods?
Direct marketing can be a powerful tool for anticipating and predicting customer needs and behaviors. Over time, as companies use consumer data to understand their target audiences and market dynamics, they can develop more effective campaigns and offers. Organizations can create offers that are more personalized to consumer needs and preferences, and they can reach these consumers more efficiently through direct contact. Because it is so data intensive, it is relatively easy to measure the effectiveness of direct marketing by linking it to outcomes: did a customer request additional information or use the coupons sent? Did he open the email message containing the discount offer? How many items were purchased and when? And so forth. Although the cost of database and information infrastructure is not insignificant, mobile and email marketing tend to be inexpensive to produce once the underlying infrastructure is in place. As a rule, direct marketing tactics can be designed to fit marketing budgets.
Among the leading disadvantages of direct marketing are, not surprisingly, concerns about privacy and information security. Target’s massive data breach in 2013 took a hefty toll on customer confidence, company revenue, and profitability at the time. Direct marketing also takes place in a crowded, saturated market in which people are only too willing to toss junk mail and unsolicited email into trash bins without a second glance. Electronic spam filters screen out many email messages, so people may never even see email messages from many of the organizations that send them. Heavy reliance on data also leads to the challenge of keeping databases and contact information up to date and complete, a perennial problem for many organizations. Finally, direct marketing implies a direct-to-customer business model that inevitably requires companies to provide an acceptable level of customer service and interaction to win new customers and retain their business.