What is Digital Marketing?

Digital Marketing is not just about marketing using online channels. Digital Marketing is very much about creating links to the real world and updating the offline experience.

Customers interact with brands across several touch points – web, social, mobile and in-store. As such, Digital Marketing has to cut across all marketing disciplines. It is necessarily transmedia or multi-channel marketing, where the story is adapted to the medium. It cannot, and should not, be confined to one specific area.

Digital Marketing enables marketers to join the dots . . . to create consistent brand experiences, optimise marketing budgets, identify and exploit new opportunities including product enhancements, add value and revive brand propositions. After all you do want to go to market faster, experience higher levels of engagement, have better content targeting and conversion to sales . . . don’t you? Consider the following:

Customers’ business and interactions
Data accuracy and richness is the foundation for positive customer interactions. Direct Marketers have always known this. Customers are individuals. Match all customer data to one record. Remove duplicate records for a richer customer experience. There is nothing worse than receiving two or more pestering messages from a Brand, especially so when these might be contradictory. Equally, identify anonymous customers link them with transactions to establish a meaningful relationship.

Social applications like Facebook, Twitter or industry or product specific fora give rise to vast repositories of customer data which give additional insight into customers behaviours and preferences. Yes, considerable effort is required to decide which data elements to include and how to use them. If you want your marketing efforts to generate ROI, establish a single view of all customers’ business, interactions and preferences and make the investment of time and money to get the data right.

Using consumer data and identifying visitors
Digital interactions (data such as email click/open and web browsing data), transactions, credit/risk, occupation, family status and user generated content can all improve targeting and personalisation of content. After all, brands are publishers in this brave new world. Brands need to know what customers are spending elsewhere, which specific events are coming up for them and their families and which channels they can reach them on.

Consumers expect to be recognised as individuals. Customers increasingly anticipate that their needs will be met by appropriate responses from organisations. Think about the way you operate as a consumer.

Technology can be used to target content and messages based on high level data such as a user IP addresses, to specific and granular data like postcode. This also opens up content localisation/targeting and allows audiences to be better segmented. Consumers who reach web sites as a result of clicking on an email or register/login, create a record. That record can hold their subsequent browsing behaviour and present back relevant content based on all of the other variables available centrally.

Transforming customer data into strategic insights which identify high potential groups of customers is vital to develop actions which drive growth generating activities.

Interacting with customers using insight and relevancy
Brands hold a wealth of information about customers – purchasing history, preferences, interests . . . the list is endless. This data is frequently not utilised to enable personalised digital interactions with the brand, whether by email, web or mobile application. Small changes to email messages (recognising local points of interaction for example) can have a big impact on engagement levels, especially as brands struggle to get customers’ attention in crowded or noisy markets.

Email marketing is great but often under-utilised. It is wasted effort unless it appeals to your customer’s attention (note the use of the singular rather than collective noun). Send content which is interesting and relevant to their needs and desires by including dynamic zones within the message. Avoid sending the same message to the entire opted in customer base.

When a customer visits your website on a regular basis present relevant content based on what they have viewed in the past and other offline information held about that customer. One size does not necessarily fit all. To achieve this, a clear approach to content management and supporting platform is becoming more important. Analytics are also vital. You must be able to identify the individual customer (by type certainly if not necessarily by name).

Why duplicate effort and content across multiple channels when you can target appropriate messaging to build competitive advantage? Analyse site performance at an individual level, rather than just tracking standard/’standalone’ web metrics, such as page views, click-through rates and the like. If you can map behavioural data into individual profiles, you have an extremely powerful tool for understanding and engaging with prospects, customers, and website visitors.

If you need to capture additional data at key points of interaction, for example on the back of email campaigns. Consider the value exchange for customers – give them a reason to volunteer their personal details, for example by offering vouchers, brand related content or other incentives.

Create bridges between online and offline presences
Customer touchpoints drive engagament. I think that is clear from everything I’ve noted so far, isn’t it? Identify new ways that every single touchpoint can drive engagement and benefit, every call or email to a contact centre, every in-store consultation or every loyalty card update. For brands with existing offline operations such as retail stores, high levels of personalisation and localisation in email messaging can be effective in encouraging customers to visit local stores or branches.

Mobile and social are both highly effective tools which can be used to create interesting experiences and content for customers, crucially for organisations drawing in-store customers onto online presences. That is why Foursquare and Facebook Places was developed after all . . . Zara enables you to pick up goods ordered online from your nearest store, while Abercromble & Fitch staff are adept at encouraging in-store customers to ‘like’ the brand on Facebook.

The rise of the ‘savvy shopper’ (that’s you and me) means customers seek out the best deals online before visiting stores. The promotion of customer ratings and favourable reviews take on greater significance in this context.

Use ‘search’ and digital media to capture internet traffic
In retail it’s all about footfall. The more people visit, the more goods you are statistically probable to sell. As in offline, so in digital. The use of search (paid and natural) and affiliates to increase online audience and to inform digital media planning/buying is well established. So what can you do?

There are well-established models already in place. PPC yields benefits in terms of targeted traffic . . . beware, it can really cost. Natural search is invaluable. Revisit your website’s descriptions, architecture and layout often; subtle changes which benefit the user’s experience will also deliver SEO gains.

Video, local, social and mobile search offer new opportunity for brands. Optimise your site for mobile browsing, it’s not as crowded a market as you might think. Explore location marketing, targeted offers available on check-in for example. Develop a social media presence and use video to capitalise on blended search.

Google and other search engines may dominate the ‘search’ marketplace but don’t discount alternative platforms. Facebook, Spotify and Foursquare capitalise on consumer data and offer new targeting possibilities. Facebook, for example, is increasingly used for general search rather than just browsing/comenting on friends’ updates; its unique access to data about members’ interests and behaviours gives it distinct advantages over traditional search engines in terms of targeting content and advertisments. As always, the key is to be relevant.

Build positive social engagement; ecourage participation and sharing
The way we all, as consumers, use media has changed irrevocably. We are no longer content being a passive audience, we want to participate and share. This sea-change poses challenges for organisations in terms of managing brand perceptions, but it also offers invaluable opportunities for firms who successfully engage socially.

Mine social data as a first step to planning a social programme. This will identify what consumers are already saying and determine where you need to develop a presence and how. Always bear in mind the fluidity of the social space. You may start defensively, say, but don’t get stuck there. Use conversations and customer service wins to start shaping positive perceptions. Develop guidelines for how your organisation uses social media but be flexible too.

There are different levels of intervention, from simple message handling and content posting through to community management. Careful consideration should be given to where this is best undertaken and by whom. Should you outsource, use an existing contact centre team or develop a dedicated social unit? Your organisational priorities will determine which is best suited to your brand. Whatever you decide, make sure that your core marketing message is reflected in social conversations but that it also takes on board feedback gained in this way, a conversation is a two-way street.

Mobile applications and customer engagement on the move
The way we interact with the World Wide Web is now a multi-browser, multiplatform and multi-device experience. Mobile access is now equal to desktop access and will quite possibly outstrip desktop access. How can apps, coupons and interactive messaging provide reductions in the costs of sale and improved customer service?

Mobile applications can help brands link real estate to digital estate by capturing customers on the move and encouraging them into retail outlets. For example, Foursquare allows users to ‘check-in’ at venues (I mentioned this earlier). Points are awarded and brands have the opportunity to post promotions accessible to those checking in. Members can add ‘tips’ and comments on venues which others can read.

As with all social applications, it is crucial to understand how your target customers use mobile and which environments predominate. Applications can combine an element of fun/interest to stimulate take-up, but the purpose should always be customer engagement even if it is just data capture in return for use of an application. Uptake of location based
social networks (Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook Places) is still immature, brands with a retail presence should be testing now to find the best ways of connecting their customers with nearby points of sale.

As always, good manners cost nothing but can change brand perceptions beyond measure. Avoid over-messaging. Try to be conversational rather than didactic. Play with the media. Try different things. Develop models which are fun but always tied to the bottom line, the raison d’etre of your brand.

2 thoughts on “What is Digital Marketing?

  1. Hi Dan. I think digital marketing does need defining; too many organisations see ‘digital’ as purely about push messaging thorugh the ‘online’ channel, or at best a combination of push and pull to a website. This means that they consistently fail to make the connections that deliver a holistic brand response to customers across the various touchpoints (online as well as offline). In that sense, I would define online marketing as a subset of digital marketing. Digital marketing is more holistic.

    People like people, it’s what drives relationships and nourishes our existence. When brands fail to grasp this, as too many still do, marketing initiatives assume contradictory and siloed approaches which subject us as consumers to kafkaesque doldrums. Brands fail to appreciate that; we own them, they don’t own us.

    In summary, digital marketing is a discipline. It is about an organisational discipline which requires reframing fixed ways of operating – making holes in silo walls. Only then can organisations start to see the customer as an individual. The next challenge is to then start the human conversation – go beyond the Facebook ‘like’ if you will.

  2. Nice article. I’d be interested in hearing how you actually *define* digital marketing – and whether, in fact, it needs defining so prescriptively in the first place. You suggest how it should be used, and how it can be best leveraged – are you saying then that “online marketing” and “digital marketing” are now quite different disciplines? (with mulitple overlaps, clearly.) Reading between the lines in this piece, it would be possible to surmise that. “Online” being just that – marketing only utilised in the online space, wherehas “digital” could encompass online, but also transcend offline channels via innovation and “proper” integration (i.e not doing what a lot of brands seem to do currently – increase their Facebook “like” quotient, but then fail to engage with that captured audience after the fact – a pesonal bug bear of mine). Interested to hear your thoughts.

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