NEW YORK: Most major brand owners will enhance their digital activity this year, but concerns remain about establishing meaningful metrics.

Trade body the Society of Digital Agencies and research firm AnswerLab surveyed 667 executives from clients and agencies, alongside "technologists" within these organisations.

In all, 80% of participants should heighten their output this year - including 26% plotting a "significant" improvement - while just 5% predicted adopting the opposite approach.

"If built and used correctly a sound digital strategy allows a marketer to 'fish where the fish are,'" said Scott McLaren, General Motors' director, global digital marketing, CRM and web operations.

"It is truly the only medium that allows one to map marketing to consumer behavior in a measurable way. It can constantly be tested and refined all the time."

A change in popular preferences was the main motivation behind such moves, mentioned by 77% of agencies, 64% of technology specialists and 57% of marketers.

Social networks and related apps are set to be the primary target areas, generating 74%, beating "brand experiences", yielding 65%.

Mobile, search optimisation and email garnered around 59%, advertising 56%, viral campaigns 47%, blogger outreach 40% and games 26%.

"It is no surprise that the majority of marketers are planning to increase their investment in digital," said Patrice Dermody, vp, media, digital and social networking, at Sears.

"What marketers haven't admitted to yet, is that they still harbour hopes of digital and social being able to lower the cost of their overall marketing investments."

Software specialist Adobe was among the 65% of respondents intending to augment infrastructure models this year, a total peaking at 70% for brand owners.

"Most recently, we are concentrating on building out our customer database, SEO and upgrading our social media infrastructure," said Ann Lewnes, Adobe's svp, global marketing.

"We will continue to invest in optimising our website/e-commerce infrastructure as well as our social networking infrastructure."

Marketers put corporate websites as the premier individual investment priority, on 80%, and Facebook attained 76%, topping Twitter's 69%.

Agencies, however, logged 96% for Facebook and 89% for Twitter, while both official and consumer websites scored 81%.

Elsewhere, 67% of contributors expect to strengthen their focus on unpaid and earned media, falling to 58% for paid-for digital alternatives and 12% when buying inventory from traditional channels such as TV.

"In other mediums, average copy can at least deliver average returns," said Victor Mehren, Wrigley's senior marketing director. "In the digital world, the creative has to work harder to rise above the clutter and gain traction.

"Over the past few years we have experimented and learned a lot. While not everything has been a success, along the way we have produced some hard working branded content for Orbit and Juicy Fruit that has driven consumer engagement levels."

Brand and product awareness were considered the key metrics, with 61%, lead generation scored 60%, web analytics reached 58%, dwell time hit 44%, and ROI from tracked sales posted 51%.

Clickthrough rates secured 38%, page views registered 34% and cost-per-thousand obtained 20%.

"Digital measurement, especially in social media and mobile, will drive future investment shifts," said Jeff Jarrett, global director, digital marketing, at Kimberly-Clark.

"While engagement metrics are getting better, it is still an area ripe for development."

Data sourced from Society of Digital Agencies; additional content by Warc staff