3 Tailwinds Driving Focus on Building Direct Customer Relationships

December 20, 2023 | 5 minute read
Chad S. White
Head of Research, Oracle Digital Experience Agency
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It’s never been one marketing channel versus other channels, because it’s always been all marketing channels in coordination with each other—and, increasingly, all marketing channels in tight orchestration with each other. That said, three major digital marketing trends are causing brands to increase their focus and investments on email, SMS, loyalty, and other marketing channels where they have the most control over building and reaching their audiences.

  1. Social media is stagnating overall, and key platforms are declining or at risk of serious declines
  2. Stronger privacy protections on various digital platforms are undermining advertising and data collection used for targeting
  3. Generative AI is set to reduce search traffic, particularly for unbranded search terms

Let’s talk about each of these trends in turn.

1. Social Media Is Stagnating

Perhaps the most volatile of all marketing channels, social media is prone to big shifts—from the collapse of platforms like MySpace, Friendster, Google Wave, Orkut, and many more to the equally fast emergence of new platforms like Mastodon, Bluesky, and Threads.

While volatility is nothing new in this space, the risks for marketers are particularly high at the moment because many of the biggest players are in precarious situations. For example:

The social media landscape is so unstable that some are even claiming we’re witnessing the beginning of the end of the age of social media.

We wouldn’t go that far, but it’s totally conceivable that one or more major players may not be around in 3 years. That possibility should have every brand reevaluating their social media goals and scrutinizing their investments. It should also have them asking themselves if they’re still allocating channel budgets appropriately for both near-term and long-term success. 

How to move beyond overly simplistic single-touch attribution models.

2. Stronger Platform Privacy

After years of high-profile data breaches that culminated with the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica scandal, consumers demanded greater privacy protections. While the US government hasn’t meaningfully responded, technology providers have.

For example, web browser providers are in the process of sunsetting support for third-party cookies. Safari and Firefox have already done so, and Chrome plans to finally phase out support in 2024.

In the mobile app space, Apple has introduced App Tracking Transparency, which prompts app users to consent to sharing data with app makers. Google responded by introducing Privacy Sandbox on Android, which balances greater consumer privacy with the data needs of businesses.

And in the email space, Apple has introduced Mail Privacy Protection, which obscures subscriber opens and open times, generalizes IP address location, and more. And more recently, it launched Link Tracking Protection, which strips some tracking parameters from URLs when they resolve in Safari.

The upshot of all of this activity is that brands need more reliable ways of collecting zero- and first-party data about their customers.

Explore this checklist of more than 170 segmentation and personalization criteria.

3. GenAI to Reduce Search Traffic

Generative AI is set to dramatically reshape search engine marketing in two ways. First, for some questions, particularly those that don’t have anything to do with a specific brand, people will turn to GenAI instead of traditional search engines to find answers. That will not only reduce traditional search engine usage overall, but the answers produced by GenAI will also refer much less traffic to content sources due to a lack of transparency on source material.

Secondly, GenAI-created content will compete with human content for search traffic. That competition has already become serious with Google’s recent “helpful content” update, which removed the requirement that content be written by people. Some publishers saw traffic drops of up to 70% because of that change alone.

And the GenAI revolution is just getting going. Adoption will only grow in the years ahead as GenAI models are refined, GenAI is integrated into more existing products and services, and consumers become more comfortable with all the ways GenAI can be used.

Learn how Oracle enables generative AI for enterprises.

How to Respond to These Trends

The response to each of these three trends has been in part to increase or reallocate marketing budget to channels that brands have much more control over, including email, loyalty, SMS, push, and direct mail. With these channels, marketers are: 

  • Shifting reliance to more consistent delivery platforms for their brand messages 
  • Collecting enduring customer identifiers like email addresses, mobile phone numbers, and mailing addresses
  • Able to better capture zero- and first-party data, so they can create more relevant customer experiences
  • Gaining mindshare, making it more likely that their audiences will begin their searches by clicking through their campaigns or visiting them directly
  • Keeping their costs and return on investment more predictable

While no channel is perfect, these channels put marketers in the best position to weather the seismic shifts occurring in the marketing landscape today and continue to forge strong customer relationships.


Need help with your digital marketing campaigns? Oracle Digital Experience Agency has hundreds of marketing and communication experts ready to help Responsys, Eloqua, and other Oracle customers create stronger connections with their customers and employees—even if they’re not using an Oracle platform as the foundation of that experience. Our award-winning specialists can handle everything from creative and strategy to content planning and project management. For example, our full-service email marketing clients generate 24% higher open rates, 30% higher click rates, and 9% lower unsubscribe rates than Oracle Responsys customers who aren’t.

For help overcoming your challenges or seizing your opportunities, talk to your Oracle account manager, visit us online, or email us at OracleAgency_US@Oracle.com.

Want to better understand your email marketing risks and opportunities, take advantage of our free Email Program Assessment. Our experts will check your deliverability, review your email creative, audit your signup process, do a partial competitive analysis, and more. If interested in this free assessment, reach out to us at OracleAgency_US@Oracle.com.

Chad S. White

Head of Research, Oracle Digital Experience Agency

Chad S. White is the Head of Research at Oracle Digital Experience Agency and the author of four editions of Email Marketing Rules and nearly 4,000 posts about digital and email marketing. A former journalist, he’s been featured in more than 100 publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Advertising Age. Chad was named the ANA's 2018 Email Marketer Thought Leader of the Year. Follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Mastodon.

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