Acquisition vs. Retention: Which Online Channels Are Being Used For Each?

August 5, 2014

This article is included in these additional categories:

Digital | Display & Rich Media | Email | Mobile Phone | Paid Search | Search Engine Optimization | Social Media | Tablet

Econsultancy-Online-Channels-Acquisition-v-Retention-Aug2014Roughly 8 in 10 global company marketers – primarily based in Europe – agree that it is cheaper to retain than acquire a customer, but they’re more likely to be focusing on acquisition than retention, according to results from a study [download page] produced by Econsultancy with Oracle Marketing Cloud. In fact, 4 in 10 respondents to the survey say they are more focused on acquisition than retention, with just 15% more focused on retention (the remainder maintain an equal focus). As part of the study, respondents indicated which online channels they’re gearing more towards acquisition, and which are better suited for retention.

Some of the results are fairly predictable: email, for example, leans heavily towards customer retention, with respondents more than twice as likely to say their organization gears their email efforts towards retention (52%) than acquisition (21%). Indeed, a recent survey of US digital marketers by Gigaom Research found them rating email the most effective tactic for customer retention. (To be fair, they also found email to be the most effective for acquisition, too…)

Certain mobile marketing tactics also tend to be used more for retention than acquisition, with that primarily the case for mobile messaging, also an unsurprising result. More interestingly, while respondents also tend to prioritize customer retention when it comes to their use of mobile applications, they indicated a more equal split between acquisition and retention when asked about their use of mobile and web push notifications. That’s a fairly intriguing result given push notifications’ success in boosting app user retention figures.

Opinions regarding social media marketing also were evenly split: besides websites, social media was the only online channel that a plurality of respondents felt was geared equally towards acquisition and retention.

As for the channels best suited for customer acquisition? Search, naturally (excuse the pun). Some 86% share of respondents said their paid search efforts are more geared towards acquisition, and 66% said the same about natural (organic) search. Organic search is the top way US consumers discover websites, and search vastly outperforms email as an e-commerce traffic driver.

The study also looks at year-over-year trends in the perception of the various online channels, showing that:

  • Fewer this year are gearing online display towards acquisition;
  • More are gearing organic search equally towards acquisition and retention;
  • The tendency to see websites as equally used for acquisition and retention is strengthening; and
  • There has been a significant decrease in the share of respondents feeling that mobile messaging is geared towards acquisition, with more seeing it as equally split with retention.

Overall, while respondents feel that it may be cheaper to retain than acquire a customer, they estimated that almost half – 48% – of their revenues come from customer acquisition.

About the Data: The data is from the third annual Cross-Channel Marketing Report, published by Econsultancy in association with Oracle Marketing Cloud. There were 956 respondents to the research request, which took the form of an online survey in April and May 2014. Respondents included both companies or in-house marketers (51%) and supply-side respondents, including agencies, consultants and vendors (49%). A plurality 44% are personally based in the UK, with another 24% based elsewhere in Europe.

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