The online economy is booming due to the pandemic and lockdowns and more companies than ever are relying on their websites to stay in business. But the majority of British companies are still trying to figure out digital marketing and which online channels to use to get more sales, according to the results of a new survey.
Significantly, 49.6% of executives at 120 UK firms polled by digital marketing agency Exposure Ninja said their biggest challenge with internet marketing was finding out which traffic source — chiefly organic or paid, as in online ads — earns the most valuable leads.
The survey, conducted via survey service Typeform in February, found that small businesses especially struggled to comprehend and effectively use digital marketing to grow their business because many were working alone and not as part of a team. This was the case for 48.7% of respondents, while 45.4% said they had a digital marketing strategy in place but it wasn’t delivering the results they wanted because they didn’t understand why their target audience wasn’t converting.
The lack of conversions could be because of blocks on websites that prevent or don’t encourage people to sign up for something or get in contact. An overly complicated sign-up form might be one issue that turns people away, for example. It could cause visitors who arrive at the website from organic or paid traffic to quickly leave without taking the desired action.
Confusion over priorities in digital marketing
Of the businesspeople who took part in the survey, 44.5% said their difficulty with digital marketing was knowing which tasks to prioritise. They weren’t sure if they should focus on search engine optimisation; the content element of digital marketing (website copy, blogs and digital PR); social media; pay-per-click ads; website development; email marketing or other aspects of online marketing.
Those using these and possibly other elements of digital marketing (27.7%) weren’t getting enough insights from the data they received via various analytical tools. Others (26.9%) didn’t understand the data they were getting and 21% lacked the ability to combine different data sources and understand what their target audience wanted from their digital marketing efforts.
Other digital marketing concerns among executives and business owners polled included justifying marketing budgets and any increases to bosses (16%) and hiring specialists in online marketing for the general marketing team (3.4%).
Are UK companies getting a decent return on digital marketing?
The Exposure Ninja survey also asked business people if they were getting a solid return on their digital marketing investment. The majority (61.9%) said they had a positive return from their digital marketing during the challenging year that was 2020, and 38.1% said their return was negative.
Delving deeper, the survey asked if they were getting tangible results, like increased sales and revenue. Most (40.5%) said they were not sure because they had only relatively recently started doing digital marketing, while almost a quarter of participants (24.8%) said they were getting a “solid return”. Some 21.5% said they were getting the revenue results they wanted and it was enough to cover their digital marketing spend, while 13.2% said they were not getting sales and more revenue from digital marketing.
As to which channels were providing the greatest return on investment in digital marketing, the majority of respondents (46.1%) said it was organic search (SEO), followed by organic social media (31.3%), paid social (27.8%), email marketing (27%), PPC (25.2%) and affiliate marketing (6.1%).
Social media spend: Facebook leads the pack
Facebook was the most popular choice for running ads on social media. Of the business people polled, 72.5% said they would be promoting their products and services on the platform of 2.6 billion monthly active users, with Instagram (53.2%), LinkedIn (24.8%), Twitter and YouTube (both 14.7%) and Pinterest and TikTok (equal 7.3%) next.
It was the same order of priority for companies planning to promote themselves organically on social media this year — whether they were posting about themselves, their news and developments, sharing blogs (and other content they create) — or have a digital marketing agency do it for them.
And the companies said that in a post-pandemic world, digital marketing would become more important to a business’s success — 65.3% said it would be the most important factor, while 34.7% said digital marketing would become more important but not the most vital element. The overwhelming majority — 75.8% — said they were emphasising growing their business via online marketing in 2021.