Gossen, M., V. Frick & S. KettnerDigital marketing strategies – relevance and influence on sustainable consumption

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Maike Gossen, Vivian Frick & Sara Elisa Kettner

Release date:
April 2022

Federal Environmental Agency (UBA), texts | 41/2022

This report presents an empirical study of the effects of digital marketing strategies on consumer behavior within the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) project 'Digitalization of Markets and Lifestyles'. Related research questions were addressed comprehensively and from different methodological perspectives through a systematic literature analysis, qualitative interviews with experts from marketing practice, a cross-sectional survey and a behavioral experiment. The current state of research and the interview results show that especially online marketing approaches such as website or email marketing, but also personalized advertising, social media marketing, influencer marketing and content marketing, are particularly relevant due to their high distribution and consumer impact. The cross-sectional survey confirms a long-term correlation between the frequency of perceiving digital marketing and individual consumption levels and perceived consumption needs. Finally, the behavioral experiment aimed to provide information about mechanisms of action, how two digital marketing strategies identified as particularly central (fictitious Instagram advertising, partly by influencers, and banner advertising on news websites) can increase individual consumption levels. The experiment was unable to measure any effects indicating that the selected advertising formats increase purchasing behavior in the short term. This measured lack of effect is partly due to the artificial experimental conditions and self-generated advertising formats. Recommendations for action include reducing consumer-stimulating advertising on the internet, reconsidering the use of personal data for the personalization of digital marketing strategies, or creating incentives or regulations for data economy. Consistently implementing strict data protection regulations would also strengthen consumer rights. At the same time, the advantages of digital marketing strategies, such as accessibility independent of time and place, the increased reach and the direct dialogue and interaction possibilities, should be used for promoting sustainable or sufficiency-oriented consumption. In the future, a measured and ethical use of digital marketing strategies would help to limit threats to both informational self-determination and unsustainable consumption growth.

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