The rise of the internet and the proliferation of digital, not just as a technology, but as a media format, have had some profound and unexpected effects on 21st-century life. While everyone expected that digital technology would make things faster what few people correctly predicted was the social impact that digital media, combined with online connectivity, would have.
When it comes to marketing, going digital has had massive consequences. Now properties of digital media such as more accurate metrics, combined with interactivity, have created whole new marketing opportunities.
So, there’s no doubt that digital technology can play a powerful role as a marketing tool. But what about the digital transformation itself? What is this doing to change the way that marketing works?
Int his article, we dig deep to take a closer look at the implications.
The Unavoidable Change
While the term “digital transformation” may sound like a nebulous concept, the actual results are pretty easy to understand. We have been experiencing them for years and are now seeing an accelerated pace of changes that have come before.
When people in professional industries talk about digital transformation they're talking about how digital technology is understood, and then applied and integrated into our everyday work tasks, whether that is at daily, individual employee level or the broader sense of entire business operations.
At an individual level, digital transformation might be something as efficient as electronic health records in the medical or wellness industries. The transition to digital records makes this data more accessible, faster to process, and increases the likelihood of health professionals being able to make more informed decisions.
On an industry scale, the digital transformation has already shown what it can do for businesses like Amazon and Uber. These businesses have taken traditional business concepts, like retail sales and transit, and then applied innovative digital technologies that have left the competition behind as they surged ahead.
In general, however, digital transformation is usually looked at as a whole for how it is affecting business. In the area of marketing, specifically, it can bring about some exciting and profitable changes for those with vision.
The Digital Funnel
One of the first places where digital transformation influences marketing is the funnel, a traditional concept that marketers use to map out the actions potential customers make, taking a multi-stage journey that finally results in committing to an actual purchase.
Before the advent of digital technologies, the marketing funnel was straightforward and, in some ways, inviolable. The five stages include:
- Awareness – the stage where consumers first realize that you offer a product or service they may be looking for.
- Interest – when a shopper does further research to see whether your business meets their needs.
- Consideration – they are now taking a serious interest.
- Intent – when they start building towards a decision in a business's favor because they feel they need to product or service.
- Decision – a consumer is converted into a customer after making a purchase.
At nearly every state, in a pre-digital marketing world, a business could only create marketing materials and then hope for the best. An intervention was only possible if an informed sales person was there to engage with a potential customer directly.
Due to digital transformation, these steps now gives a business a much greater amount of control in the process giving marketers two invaluable new tools: multi-stage interactivity and analytics.
Personalization Is Possible
One of the most effective ways that the digital transformation has changed the way digital marketing works is the way it can now personalize content to individual customers.
Due to the combination of metrics and interactivity, it’s now possible to track the actions and behavior of consumers at an individual level, then take that data to provide a personalized marketing response.
Keeping track of a customer purchase, and then suggesting similar products—or in some cases, 'refills' for consumable items—is just the tip of the iceberg. Now, with the metrics from social media platforms like Facebook, it's possible to track the interests of individual customers, make recommendations, and even send personalized emails based on that consumer behavior before they convert.
Marketing experts no longer need to guess at where consumer interest may lie when consumer interest is being tracked on social media.
Data Is King in Digitization
The single, biggest 'blind spot' in marketing prior to digital transformation was the lack of high quality, actionable data for marketing experts to make decisions. Once a poster for a subway station was created, or a commercial for television was produced, there was no accurate way to engage the effectiveness of that marketing content. How many people saw that subway poster? How many people watched the commercial on television, let alone went out and bought the product strictly because of it?
Analytics was a game changer for marketing and digital transformation continues to emphasize just how useful it is going to be in all future marketing efforts. For example, a video on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms can tells a marketing team exactly how many people watched the video. Moreover, if those people click on the "Call To Action" button taking a viewer to a website it's easy to measure how effective the video is in converting people. More granular information is available, such as which social media platforms people watched the video on, where these people live, or what time of day the video garnered the most views and click-throughs.
In other words, digital transformation now gives marketing experts much more precise user data and metrics, allowing them to tweak and optimize marketing plans. Knowing what doesn't work or what does and just how well makes it possible to be far more agile, responsive, and targeted.
Interactivity is Changing Marketing
Digital transformation has had a huge, unprecedented impact on interactivity. Unlike traditional media, such as film, television, and music, digital media is interactive giving people more choice over what they consume, how they consume it, and who they share it with.
For instance, websites can now give people options on what information they want to view and the order in which they want to consume it. Social media allows people to interact with company accounts, asking questions and getting responses back in return. Consumers can even give feedback for content they read or view with heart, thumbs-up, and favorite buttons or leave comments.
The exchange that can happen on social media, and even directly on ads, changes everything. With live ads, like live streams, consumers can be on social media and watch an influencer discuss a product. Now, instead of just watching a social influencer, viewers can interact by making comments, giving suggestions, and even getting responses back during that live stream. There is a level of engagement and interaction in 2019 that simply wasn't possible before digital transformation, and it changes the scope and nature of how marketers can approach their targets.
Automation Increases Proactivity
Timing can be critical when it comes to influencing a purchasing decision. A consumer may be 'on the fence' about making a purchase, even getting so far as to take the preliminary steps to make a purchase, only to stop right at the shopping cart phase, before committing to an actual purchase.
Automation combined with metrics means that consumer behavior is being tracked, it can be addressed without necessarily requiring a human to supervise the activity and be lucky enough to catch it and react to it in time. Digital transformation now means that when certain data or actions are recognized, the software can act upon those conditions to send emails or personalized responses quickly, without needing to notify a human agent to act on a time sensitive issue.
This type of automation is now increasing as chatbots even take on the role of basic customer service support for simple tasks, improving marketing response and productivity.
Digital transformation can potentially affect a huge spectrum of business operational and marketing activities. They key is to understand what's involved, learn from digital leaders across sectors and ensure your company has the technology, processes and talent in-house to progress and thrive.