Marketing managers who still perceive digital as just another channel to amplify mainline marketing communication can give this column a skip. The rest can continue reading. I can now safely assume that you believe digital to be at the heart of designing consumer experiences and storytelling, and that is likely to be a key influence in driving commerce. In which case you certainly belong to the new school of marketing that is preparing to transform over time and become a digital business. The days ahead call for owning consumer data and profiles that will enable your brands to drive more meaningful engagement.
Sceptics be damned. Technology is too enmeshed in a consumer’s life to merit a debate. Digital ethnography paints a vivid picture of how she pulls all the information she needs on a single touch, transacts on the fly, consumes content on multiple screens, shares her experience within a peer group and influences opinions. Digital is a label that we can now append on to her behaviour and not the medium.
Now pause for a second and compare that to the behaviour exhibited by your business. Does it not remain stuck in dinosaurian times? We use old school marketing theory to deal with new age consumers, and don’t we all look stupid! Agencies push TV advertising on digital media, churn out stupid contests, build and abandon microsites, flaunt Facebook shares and video views, but know zilch about the audience.
With little opportunity to influence your consumer’s advertising saturated mind, you can outsmart your competition by focussing your attention elsewhere. You need to understand your consumers’ digital behaviour data because therein lie so many opportunities to influence positive interactions. It is only the sum total of positive experiences and positive word of mouth that will help turn prospects into customers in the era of digital business.
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Where do we start?
Think of marketing programs as a simple stack of platforms, where branded content sits atop a technology layer, using the power of media to spread far and wide.
The experience at every touchpoint, physical, social and online, is designed to deliver delight; while a dashboard translates the consumer behaviour in near real-time to identify signals.
Assuming you have such a framework in place and you are burning millions in media, why would you not want to own the consumer behavioural data which you pay to generate? The answer is simple.
Today’s marketing stacks are not wired up intelligently to better leverage common user data such as sign-up profiles, content affinity, commerce history, etc. One can argue that to do this one needs big investments in technology, but that is far from the truth. The change required is in our own mindset while designing a program.
We all want to know what kind of content our prospective customer likes to interact with. Is she the social kind, exhibiting prolific behaviour to share? Does she send demand signals — checking out product/price information and store locations? What kind of stimulus makes her return? When and where is she most reachable? All these questions have answers, if you are determined to find out.
Wiring-up for the future
Today when we talk about ‘The Stack’ we no longer talk just OS, backend programming languages, CMS or databases. We are talking about an all-new way of designing and interconnecting marketing automation software with content, community and media platforms.
The MarTech (marketing technology) geeks are experimenting with open and flexible systems that can be wired up to drive uniquely differentiated programs — delivered faster, better, cheaper.
While some in the industry are leaning on standardisation, with vendors such as Adobe announcing the all-new ‘Experience Cloud’ (integrating its advertising, marketing and analytics offerings onto a single unified platform), many remain sceptical of stack lock-in with a single vendor. When I plug-in, will it light up?
The bottom line is: do you dream of having a system where every piece of content, commerce and experience element you produce, is intelligently interconnected to deliver consumer delight? If yes, your road ahead may lie in redesigning digital marketing programs first, putting the power of data at its core.
Millions of marketing dollars are wasted because we build and throw stuff away, customer data included.
The need of the hour is to unify your asset, content and media strategy — wiring up websites, apps, content hubs, databases and social presence. Wiring up will help you interpret the demand signals for the business and in turn enable you to deliver more effective marketing programs. That will be a crucial step in your journey to become a digital business.
The author is CEO, ExperienceCommerce.Com