What to Do When Digital Marketing Hits a Wall
By Nick Pietropinto
These days, it seems like digital marketing agencies are a dime a dozen. And each agency makes basically the same claim: when it comes to reaching specific audiences, driving sales, and delivering returns, there’s nothing more effective than digital marketing. It’s a convincing message.
So convincing, in fact, that online channels now make up 56 percent of businesses’ marketing budgets — the largest share. There’s no sign of it slowing, either. According to a HubSpot survey, 63 percent of businesses have increased their digital marketing budgets in the past year By 2026, the global digital advertising market is expected to top $780 billion.
A significant portion of that spending is focused on social media. More than 91 percent of businesses report using social media for their marketing, with Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube as their top platforms of choice. Social media marketing has been an especially popular channel for direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketers seeking to drive traffic to online stores where their products are sold. All told, D2C businesses spend around 20 percent of their total marketing budgets on social media — no small chunk of change.
The question remains: Are businesses truly seeing the promised returns on their digital and social media marketing investments? Not always. According to the before-mentioned HubSpot survey, 40 percent of businesses reported struggling to demonstrate the ROI of their digital marketing efforts. And even if your company is somewhere in the other 60 percent, how sure can you really be in the staying power of your digital marketing returns? Will you be able to scale to support your growth?
Let’s take a look at an all-too common scenario for many D2C businesses that rely heavily on Facebook and Instagram ads. You’ve spent the time, effort, and money on fine-tuning your ads, including defining your target audience, identifying the right key words, honing the content and creative, and calibrating the bidding — all with the goal of making your ads relevant enough to be seen by your ideal customers. For a while, things seem to be going great. You’re seeing good engagement, clicks, and maybe even a bump in leads and sales. Fantastic!
Then suddenly, seemingly for no reason, your click-through and conversion rates stagnate or even plummet, and your ads (as well as sales) stop performing the way they used to. What gives? There may be a few factors contributing to that friction, starting with ever-evolving algorithms and changes that digital platforms seem to make overnight.
Facebook, for example, assesses the relevance of ads based on a cryptic and finicky mix of three factors: quality ranking (how your ad compares to other ads directed at the same audience); engagement rate ranking (how your ad’s expected engagement rate compares to other ads directed at the same audience); and conversion rate ranking (how your ad’s expected conversion rate compares to ads with the same conversion goal and target audience). As Facebook continually tinkers with this formula, marketers spend more time making adjustments in an effort to keep ads relevant and, therefore, seen.
Then there’s consumer digital fatigue. One Deloitte study shows that about a third of U.S. consumers are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of digital content and, consequently, are tuning out. According to a survey reported by the Harvard Business Review, consumers said that as they spend more time online, they are becoming increasingly numb to and even frustrated with digital marketing.
Consider, too, the competition. With more than 3 million businesses actively advertising on Facebook and more than 200 million business accounts on Instagram, your social media ads are tasked with breaking through the clutter and capturing attention. It’s enough to make you doubt all that digital marketing hype you’ve been hearing.
When your social media ads plateau, the last thing you want to do is pull the plug — especially given the investment you’ve made in creating and launching them. Instead, you may decide to do a “reset” and make tweaks to your ad preferences, audience, keywords, and more.
Anytime you make an update to your Facebook campaigns, you’ve flipped them back into “learning mode” while Facebook attempts to glean the best places and people to show your ads. This process used to happen within 24 to 48 hours, but now takes significantly longer. And while Facebook is “learning” where best to display your ads, those ads are likely to experience lower click-throughs, engagement, and conversions. In my experience, it can take a few weeks after a full reset to see your ads stabilize and start performing again.
In the end, there may be no clear or identifiable reason why your social media and digital ads may have hit a plateau in performance. Regardless of cause, the digital marketing wall is a very real obstacle encountered by many D2C businesses — quite possibly including yours. As a D2C business, this wall stands in the way of your growth. The good news: there is life after you’ve maxed out the effectiveness of your digital marketing. This “evolution” in your marketing mix can be achieved through an omnichannel strategy.
Despite its tremendous growth and increasing dominance in the D2C world, digital marketing is not the end-all-be-all answer to your success. In reality, digital marketing is just part of a part of your complete omnichannel solution. Think about all the different places where customers can find your brand and interact with your products — not just online and on social media but also on linear TV, radio, and print, as well as on billboards, in their inboxes, and, of course … in person.
An omnichannel marketing approach ensures that your customers are getting a consistent and customized experience, wherever and whenever they come into contact with your products. What’s more, omnichannel is a powerful way to make your brand feel like it’s everywhere, all the time — even when it’s not.
In my next article, we’ll take a deeper dive into going 10x-mode with your omnichannel marketing strategy to scale your D2C business, expand your reach, drive more leads for a lower per-lead cost, and increase conversion rates. Until then, keep an eye on any digital marketing campaigns you might be running now to see if you’ve hit that wall. Then get ready to learn how to break through it.