February 18, 2011, 4:32 PM

Marketers remain hesitant to invest in some areas of direct marketing, a survey says

Marketers use e-mail and search marketing techniques more than social media.

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While marketers continue to reduce their investments in traditional media channels like print and television in favor of digital channels, a new study from the Direct Marketing Association suggests that marketers remain hesitant about spending their budgets in less tested digital areas.

When asked what would have to change to make them spend more of their budgets on digital direct media, 20% of U.S. marketers and 17% of Canadian marketers say they want to see better results; 10% of U.S. marketers and 14% of Canadian marketers want better measurement tools; and 4% of U.S. marketers and 12% of Canadian marketers say they are waiting for proof digital channels work as a marketing medium. The Digital Marketing in the U.S. and Canada report surveyed 470 marketers in the U.S. and Canada online in August and September.

The study also asked about marketers’ use of online direct marketing tools. The most broadly used web-based direct marketing technique is e-mail, which 87% of U.S. marketers and 78% of Canadian marketers say they often or always use to communicate with customers. 73% of U.S. and 75% of Canadian marketers say they use techniques that help them appear higher in natural search engine results, but the numbers drop off when it comes to the use of paid search. 59% of U.S. and 63% of Canadians say they often or always use paid search tactics to support marketing initiatives. 54% of U.S. and Canadian marketers say they often or always use online display advertising.

The survey results show that marketers remain hesitant about investing in social media and other emerging direct marketing channels. 37% of U.S. and 38% of Canadians say they use blogs, microblogs such as Twitter, or podcasts to support their initiatives. The numbers are slightly better when it comes to social networks like Facebook (learn how one e-retailer connects on Facebook. 51% of U.S. and 47% of Canadian marketers say they often or always use the social networks to support their programs.

There’s a steep drop-off in the number of marketers, especially in the United States, who already use channels like mobile and gaming to connect with consumers. 9% of U.S. marketers report using mobile and 2% advertise within online games. Canadian marketers appear to embrace these emerging channels more readily. 17% of Canadians report often or always using mobile and 29% use online games as a direct marketing channel.

“While marketers in both the U.S. and Canada are trending toward digital channels, Canada is slightly ahead in that migration,” says Steve Levy, president of Ipsos Reid East, the research firm that conducted the research with the Direct Marketing Association. “Canadian marketers overall are showing a somewhat greater degree of comfort with the new channels than U.S. marketers.”

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