Hybrid marketing: time for a comeback?
If anyone now thought the potential of hybrid marketing had been exhausted, think again: hybrid marketing is still an extremely effective approach. The reasons for its longevity are many—and we will discuss them in this post—but its comeback is due to an exceptional circumstance, which has made it an imperative and no longer just an alternative. We’re talking about the COVID-19 epidemic, the event that has given an incredible boost to the implementation of hybrid marketing solutions.
From hybrid working to hybrid marketing: how to reach people online and offline
For many of us, the pandemic has changed where we work, how we collaborate and communicate and it has actually blurred the boundaries between home and workplace. The phrase “hybrid work” has entered common parlance to describe the fluid alternation between office, home, and other spaces. Hybrid working developed in reaction to an urgency on the part of companies that needed to ensure continuity of operations that would otherwise be interrupted during periods of social distancing. What was previously an urgency quickly emerged—for a great many individuals—as an everyday need.
In light of the preference demonstrated by large groups of people for remote ways of working, workforce management policies have been profoundly revised. This shift of mindsets and habits has been even more evident in the case of marketing teams who have found themselves having to use the technologies they already possess, but not yet fully exploited, to collaborate and communicate remotely, often asynchronously. Communication platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have gone from being simple tools used to connect teams dispersed across multiple locations to constituting the workplace itself.
But the pandemic and the long lockdown periods has not simply changed the internal communication of companies: it has redefined the system of techniques and methodologies through which brands come into contact with consumers, persuade them to buy their products and services, and attempt to prolong the established relationship into the post-sales stages. It accelerated a process already under way, which in the years immediately preceding 2020 had led to a solid development of hybrid marketing.
The synthesis of virtual and physical in the hybrid marketing purchase journey
In the hard-won new normal, marketers, consumers, and businesses are proceeding along a path that is in many ways still unknown and yet to some extent already mapped out. While consumers have become accustomed to buying online—even products or services for which they would once have quietly left home, such as food goods or doctor’s visits—they do not intend, however, to give up the human quality of in-person purchases. They have changed their behaviors and preferences and, as a result, have created the need for companies to design a new customer experience all along the path to purchase. This is an experience where the benefits of the digitized customer journey and the benefits that come from offline interactions can be synthesized.
The changes created by the pandemic are here to stay, giving rise to other, equally hybrid forms of brand engagement. They require marketers both to develop a broader strategy with which to reach their audiences and to use new technologies to their fullest capabilities, with the goal of meeting the changing and highly differentiated needs of their customers.
While hybrid marketing is thus not the result of the pandemic emergency but already existed in a rather mature form, it is equally true that its distinguishing features—the widespread digitization of communication modes, the omnichannel availability, and the ability to create seamless and frictionless customer experiences—are even more enhanced today.
Before we go any further, let us pause for a moment to focus on these questions: what is hybrid marketing and what were the conditions that made its development possible? How has it changed over the past few years?
What is hybrid marketing?
Hybrid marketing combines both traditional and digital marketing techniques and channels into a unified strategy.
Hybrid marketing was born out of contingency as a response to the transformations produced on purchasing and consumption paths by digitization: from the advent of the internet that has disrupted the one-to-many structure typical of broadcasting to the mass adoption of digital tools, from the preference for increasingly to mobile-connected devices such as smartphones and tablets, to the recent technological advances in artificial intelligence, the metaverse, and virtual reality that enable immersive experiences that were once unthinkable.
Hybrid marketing comes about because whenever companies tend to favor one marketing program—which has worked up to that point—and end up investing all resources there, the result is always the same: that one marketing channel fails to adequately respond to the demands of increasingly demanding consumers, who in order to connect and communicate directly with brands, have learned to juggle all the available channels and touchpoints.
Hybrid marketing for a hybrid consumer
Hybrid marketing responds to a growing demand for hybrid experiences, a specific demand that comes from a type of consumer, increasingly relevant and numerous, who no longer draws a rigid distinction between online and offline channels: the hybrid consumer.
In the Forrester Consulting study “Reignite Growth with Hybrid Customer Experiences,” the success of hybrid marketing efforts is directly linked to the emergence of this hybrid consumer. And hybrid customer experiences then represent the fulfillment of a circular relationship between brand and customer and take the form of relevant and contextualized experiences that span devices, applications, and touch points, digital to analog, throughout the customer journey.
The hybrid consumer has the world at a click’s distance: he uses his smartphone to search for what he needs, and if he finds it, he can make his purchase decision within seconds. He is reassured by social proof, which is an important element in validating his choice. The main criteria that drives him along the funnel tends to be convenience, more than price, brand reputation, or perceived quality. And it’s not just about convenience: what contributes most to convincing him is the possibility of a faster and easier path through which to get to the desired product or service, with as little delay and friction as possible.
Hybrid marketing today: opportunities and challenges
Hybrid marketing, since its emergence, has translated into concrete action what for all intents and purposes was a realization on the part of businesses: the traditional funnel could no longer be limited to a single interaction model. There was no other way: analog and digital both had to be in the marketing mix. Subject to the conditions from which hybrid marketing originated: what differentiates pre-Covid hybrid marketing from current hybrid marketing?
The power of data, thanks to even more advanced analytics
Today, hybrid marketing continues to offer consumers alternative ways to respond and connect, but it does so by being able to make even more intensive and targeted use of the most valuable resource of all: data. A phone call, a virtual chat (even in the most advanced form of conversational AI), an in-person meeting, an email exchange, a video conference, a webinar, an interactive video. Regardless of how the first contact with the consumer occurred, the relationship with the brand can be built through different types of interaction, using more than one channel, online and offline. Instead of focusing on only one or at most a couple of marketing channels to convey their messages and tell their identity, organizations alternate between different techniques, digital and traditional. In this way, they are able to maximize their overall marketing potential and expand their customer base.
Increasingly advanced data analytics make it possible to extract the insights needed to create tailored and therefore more meaningful content and proposals from the flow of information coming from so many touchpoints. Personalized digital communications, in-person meetings, direct mail, and email—any medium can be useful in guiding your target audience along the purchase path. The goal shifts even further to the target audience: targeting the offer to individual customers (acquired and potential) and enabling them to respond in the way they prefer.
The risk of increased complexity
The proliferation of technology service providers, such as Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud computing, has greatly increased the applications available to companies today (marketers can have up to 25 tools in their toolbox, from communication platforms to data management tools to software developed for specific tasks). While the multiplication of these tools on the one hand offers the possibility of automating repetitive and redundant tasks and streamlining many processes, it also risks duplicating some functionality. For example: chat and video conferencing can take place on several tools without any one of them bringing real added value. In this sense, hybrid marketing risks becoming more complex and expensive. To avoid the danger of overburdening the technology stack, CMOs should try to standardize and integrate the tools they adopt as much as possible, focusing on agile and scalable operational solutions that are able to support data-driven decision making and capitalize on the company’s resources.
Another important development in hybrid marketing is the growing demand for multimedia content, especially video, which companies increasingly need to strengthen their online presence and build loyalty among their audiences. Automation tools, which are now available on the market at affordable prices, amplify and optimize the processes of creating this content and make it readily adaptable with respect to different types of formats, with an important reduction in costs.
Hybrid marketing shows that it still has much to offer businesses and consumers. Moreover, it appears to be the only approach that is truly in line with contemporary market trends, which bring customers back to the center of the business relationship by allowing them an open and plural connection with brands. And we’re not just talking about B2C: this also applies, and even more so, in the case of B2B.
Hybrid marketing for B2B
According to McKinsey, hybrid marketing will play an increasingly decisive role in B2B sales strategies. By 2024, in all likelihood, due to changes in customer preferences and remote engagement, hybrid marketing will emerge as the dominant approach, capable of generating up to 50% more revenue.
B2B customers are clear about what they want from their suppliers: more channels, more convenience, and a truly personalized experience. They expect the right mix of in-person interactions and remote contact (via phone or video or self-service mode).
Hybrid marketing orchestrates the customer journey across multiple touch points and is, in this sense, a core capability of the omnichannel ecosystem. It is something different and more than just a call center operating remotely, or a team of salespeople, unleashed to intercept business decision makers in a particular physical location. Hybrid marketing fosters the building of broader and deeper relationships throughout the buying journey, which is why it is considered the most flexible, scalable and often profitable approach to reaching B2B buyers.
Video communication in the service of hybrid marketing
Among the most significant benefits of hybrid marketing—which have certainly contributed to its recent comeback—is its ability to provide companies with the opportunity to expand their markets. By connecting with consumers through different channels, the likelihood that a prospect, lead, or customer will see the brand and recognize it inevitably increases. Technological evolution, on the other hand, is still expanding the scope of this competitive advantage. The point is that a hybrid marketing strategy, driven by consumer preferences and inevitably omnichannel, increases the chances of better customer interaction if it incorporates strong elements of personalization.
The combination of interactivity and personalization will still transform hybrid marketing, equipping it with new modes of communication. One example out of all: personalized storytelling, achieved thanks to Doxee Pvideos®, can help build a company’s reputation and help the public remember it among all competitors in the industry, paving the way for other marketing efforts, including traditional ones.