It used to be about websites and search engine optimization. Now it’s about total web presence optimization. The digital landscape comprises of a mix of different channels such as social networks, websites, email; mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets; videos, widgets, kiosks, and gaming consoles. These mediums help marketers to build relationships with consumers, publicize their brands, and also sell their products or services.
Digital marketing arrived on the scene more than 15 years ago but has evolved rapidly in the last couple of years. Social media has significantly transformed consumer behavior. It has facilitated sharing of information with prospective buyers like never before through online advertisements, videos, blogs, tweets, and more. The digital space has clearly caught the fancy of savvy marketers thanks to factors such as its:
- Huge impact on brand reputation
- Potential to quickly launch online campaigns
- Interesting mix of marketing technologies
- Ability to engage prospects in dynamic exchanges that influence buying decisions
- Measurability and cost-efficiency
- Creative potential of platforms such as rich media, gaming, and mobile applications
Let’s take an in-depth look at how digital marketing has evolved over the years and how understanding it can help you influence consumer behavior.
The Evolution of Digital: A Convergence Story
Digital media has progressed rapidly due to the convergence of technology and easy availability of consumer technologies. This has paved the way for interactive mediums that engages the audience, something that traditional media did not provide.
It commenced with advancements in Internet technology that led to the launch of thousands of websites. This was still a passive communication medium since sites were not interactive. Then came email, the first dynamic medium that enabled direct communication between consumers and businesses in a cost-effective and meaningful manner. The revolution finally took off when ‘search’ became a part of the user experience. It was the arrival of social media, however, that made the digital landscape ‘interactive’ forever.
The success of social media sites such as Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter indicate how well connected today’s users are across multiple geographies. The digital experience has switched the role of users from a passive receiver to an active participant, circulating relevant, useful information and influencing buying decisions.
The convergence of mobile technologies with location-based services and smart devices has now made real-time interactions a reality. Consumers are spending more time and money on these devices for their personal and business consumption. This means an increased opportunity for sellers to create interesting mobile applications that engage users.
Marketers can now gain insight into the nature of information being accessed and shared. Since consumers are interacting through various digital channels, they play a critical role in building or demolishing a brand’s reputation. This makes it imperative to identify the most relevant consumers and understand their behavior in order to target the right audience and deliver the intended message.
The Reality of the New Digital Landscape
Digital media has emerged as a reality that is continuously challenging marketers. Adopting and promoting an apt digital strategy is easier said than done. It requires a shift in the way marketing functions approach digital media.
Here are some guidelines to help you successfully navigate the digital landscape:
- Clearly define your business goal – is your focus brand building or lead generation or both?
- Identify the channels that will help you achieve your goals
- Define your target audience
- Set the right expectations with stakeholders about what a digital strategy can achieve
- Integrate your offline and online strategy
- Provide engaging and consistently valuable content
- Engage with the right agency that can tailor digital solutions to suit your customers’ needs—and it is okay to start small!
- Implement the right analytics and automation tools to understand your target audience behavior
- Review your plans over a defined period to measure progress and results
- Have a backup plan: the biggest boon of digital media could be its biggest bane as well. On one hand your customers can be your brand ambassadors, but on the other they can damage it irreversibly. Ensure that you have a backup plan or team to respond to crisis situations.
Since the digital landscape is vast, success lies in having a consumer focused strategy and clear business goals. An effective integration of both with an overall marketing strategy can help organizations reap benefits and develop strong relationships with the consumers.