What will the future of digital marketing look like and what trends are happening right now? These are exciting times in the marketing world where technology is revolutionising customer relations, communication channels, the creative process and even the concept of advertising itself. But it can also be very disruptive [and yes we will be using buzzwords in this article – these revolutionary, innovative, paradigm shifting trends are business/tech buzzwords, and for a reason].
- Big Data
- Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)
- Social Engagement
- Customer Relationships Management (CRM)
- Inbound Marketing
Modern data collection and storage technologies are developing at such a rate that traditional methods for using data are becoming outdated. The term for these new vast quantities of data: Big Data.
Databases of such a scale already exist, but the methods of using data of this scale are only just being realised. A vanguard of this trend is of course Google. Google doesn’t disclose information regarding their database/s, but we can reasonably assume that it doesn’t deal in small data considering that it processes 40,000 search queries every second and that it collects data from these queries, and the people searching them to improve the relevancy of its listings. Increasing relevancy is Google’s speciality and it applies it to its digital marketing platform Google AdSense in order to increase the relevancy (improve the targeting) of its ads. Some may not have noticed that the ads that show up on websites and Google results pages are almost creepily targeted towards the things that they search for. This is actually a marketing tour de force because on a large scale, Google is targeting advertising down to the specific individual. 13 years ago before the inception of Google Adsense, this notion was ludicrous.
Big Data is also revolutionising, innovating, paradigm-shifting [just ignore it when marketers use buzzwords] marketing campaign testing. Traditional A/B testing is becoming redundant, because Big Data enables the effects of a campaign on all segments within a single sample group to be analysed. To elaborate:
- A/B testing: the same campaign is trialed on two small sample groups representing different market segments. The represented market segment with the most favourable response is targeted.
- Big Data analysis: all data available on the population (the consumer base) is analysed using any number of statisticasl techniques to identify market segments and rate their receptivity to the marketing campaign. Then any number of segments of various degrees of specificity can be targeted.
But one concluding comment on this topic to keep in mind for the future: Data isn’t everything. Creativity is still a major factor in the creative process, as well as other untechnological attributes such as tactfulness, intuition and taste. (But if dealing with one of those classic marketers who rejects data altogether and follows their hunches like an old-fashion Film Noir sleuth, we’d probably give them a different concluding comment).
Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)
The digital era has spawned a plethora of new marketing mediums, both hardware and software: mobile, web display, search engine, social media, … to cutting-edge mediums like wearable technology and 3D. The modern concept of Integrated Marketing Communications has emerged almost out of temptation – there are now so many good mediums for marketers to choose from. It is a rational temptation though, for a logical way to increase exposure is to diversify the mediums used.
i.e. your target market is ‘fashionable uni students’. You were considering a single-medium Youtube ad campaign. But 40% of the students block the Youtube ads with an ad-blocking program. So you adapt a key frame from the Youtube video into a banner advertisement to post up at universities. 30% of the students don’t attend uni enough to see the posters but the remainder who havn’t been exposed is now just 40% × 30% = 12%. And even if this example is somewhat optimistic, this multiplier effect can be continued by adding additional mediums.
The other advantage of IMC is that it provides an opportunity to deliver different aspects of a marketing message through the different mediums. The achilles heel of IMC is ‘matching luggage’ – where the content delivered by each of the mediums is identical. This is redundant and boring whereas IMC is by nature novel and interesting in the same way that watching a movie after reading the book is novel and interesting.
IMC is not as high-tech and costly as Big Data – in fact if you’re a business owner you can start doing it now. The key is to get the gist of a campaign you’re currently running or in the process of making, and to apply it to a new medium or several. A bit of creativity is needed, because you need to avoid producing matching luggage.
Social network integration is another topic that we’ve covered on our blog more than once before (especially in: Social Media Advertising On 8 Different Sites, Social Media For Your Website). But our social media fixation goes beyond compulsively checking how many likes our selfie got – it’s because social media is a powerful digital marketing tool with several uses, and this is why it’s a burgeoning trend. It’s potential benefits are:
- Increasing reach: when someone ‘shares’ your content on a social media platform, they are doing the super-charged modern equivalent of word-of-mouth marketing. They introduce your content to their friends and followers on their social media site. For most web content, this effect is subtle or non-existent however, because people tend to share only the best, most jaw-dropping content. But extremely good content can spread like the plague (but in a good way) – hence the term ‘going viral’. The connection to the trend of inbound marketing here is evident.
- Build brand image: many brands create social media precenses as another face for the brand, and furthermore another set of consumer touchpoints for the brand’s image.
- Customer relationships management: along the same lines, social media is a platform for a brand to create and reinforce consumer relationships. Because it’s human nature to feel warmed to something that you can interact with. Not just comment, but receive a comment back – hold a real conversation with the brand. Furthermore, the notion of a brand having a social media profile reinforces the concepts of ‘the brand as a person’. A good example of this and the previous point is Nutella’s Facebook profile. It is a frequent poster of quality content and active replier to people’s comments.
- SEO (Search Engine Optimisation – improving search engine rankings): Social media is fantastic for SEO because brands can create links from the social media site to their main website in order to bolster the traffic and search engine rankings of their main site. This SEO technique is called ‘backlinking’. Other social media consumer interactions also bolster SEO including Facebook likes and Tweets. The platform Google+ provides an especially large boost for SEO on Google in several ways relating to the fact that Google determines the search engine algorithms (it’s not the only search engine but it holds 75% market share – searchengineland.com).
Customer Relationships Management (CRM)
Consumer relationships management is a term that has been floating around since the 1970s, but really took off during the 80s– business computer revolution when the ability to manage and analyse these customer relationships became practical and highly worthwhile. All of this interpolation is coming from the Google n-Grams chart pictured – and as you can see from this indicator, this trend is still skyrocketing.
In case you’re still not 100% sure what CRM is, here’s an example:
You run a script on your online store that adds the details of every customer who places an order into a database. This database contains at least the name, email address and date of purchases of each customer. An email automation program then uses the database to deliver some follow-up emails to the customers based on their date of purchase. For example, if the customer hasn’t made a purchase in 4 weeks, it could send them a special offer email to attempt to increase customer retention.
Technologies that have facilitated and spurred this trend are:
- Online shopping
- Email automation software
- Customer relationships management software – such as [Salesforce.com].
- Social media – for collecting consumer data, and
- Social media management platforms – like Hootsuite, for automated messaging, a modern adaptation of automated emailing.
A CRM trailblazer is [Amazon.com] which maintains one of the largest databases in the world of customer information. We can imagine that their database contains datums for each consumer on each of their purchases, including the category (type of product e.g. ‘boating’) and $ amount of purchase so that their automated email system can calculculate more sophisticatedly the best email to send to the consumer. For instance, you may have noticed that a few weeks after buying a pen on Amazon you received an email suggesting ink cartridge refills.
Inbound Marketing aka Pull Marketing aka Content Marketing is a concept we’ve talked a lot about on this blog. There are good reasons we’re talking about it to everyone we meet straight-off-the-bat in detail (in detail) including friends we haven’t seen in 5 years and random people on the street [maybe or maybe not an exaggeration]… It’s a really really good thing that is happening with marketing right now and we’re going to tell you why.
But firstly, what is inbound marketing? It’s where marketers create engaging content in order to pull consumers in to the product/brand by their own volition, as opposed to traditional marketing (push marketing) which is based on pushing the brand/product in the face of consumers who weren’t seeking it.
This trending shift from push to pull marketing is flipping the very concept of marketing on its head and was incited by the advent of the web. Blogging and social media are the key mediums of content marketing because they enable content to be dispersed to a wide audience, especially if it’s good content.
Inbound marketing is a good marketing trend for several reasons:
- Consumer relationships and brand perception: the fundamental paradox of push marketing is that whilst the intention is to create positive relations and perceptions for the consumer, advertising actually inconveniences them, and the default response to this is negative. e.g. by paying top-dollar for an ad that appears first in the TV commercial break, you are probably creating negative brand perceptions within many of your consumers who psychologically associate their frustration with the ad break’s interruption with your brand (or product). Other prime examples include email advertising, website pop-ups and windscreen flyers.
- Engagement: if a consumer seeks out your content autonomously then they want to pay attention to your content. They will undoubtedly spend longer on it, concentrate more and be more believing because they want to believe the content. Consider the countless advertisements that go in one ear and out of the other in everyday life versus a sport article you read that happened to be written by the informed source Nike.
- Exposure: in response to unprecedented rates of marketing exposure, consumers are often doing more than ignoring advertising – they’re actively blocking it out. They’re switching from TV to downloads and Netflix to ad-free video and their increasingly using ad-blocking software to hide web ads. But inbound marketing is impervious to this as of course, consumers actively seek out your content.
- Ethically: inbound marketing almost totally overcomes the ethical auguments against marketing: that it’s wasteful and manipulative. The production of quality (informative and/or entertaining) content that doesn’t misleadingly promote a brand is actually mutually beneficial for the consumer and marketer.
This is why dLook uses inbound marketing as its primary method of marketing… such as the article you’re reading right now. Don’t freak out and close the tab, we havn’t been brainwashing you with invisible text this whole time (dLook dLook dLook fnord fnord) – the whole intention of inbound marketing is to provide you with high quality content.
At dLook, we’re excited about the future of digital marketing. Technology is making marketing more efficient and precise, while still leaving the creative element to the professionals (who love to do it). And it’s not just good for marketers (laughing maniacally and sipping blood-red wine though we may be), it’s good for consumers who get more relevent advertising, access to free inbound marketing content, social engagement with brands they genuinely care about and useful CRM product suggestions and deals.