Adapting to the Digital Era

At the end of March, members of the IMI Account Services team had the opportunity to attend World Forum Disrupt 2019 DigiStrategy Conference in San Francisco. Hosted inside an eclectic warehouse within the famed Mission District, the event brought together some of the best and brightest thinkers from a variety of industries to share cutting edge ideas and trends in Digital Marketing. We heard from digital industry leaders from Mastercard, NBC, Facebook, Edelman, Wells Fargo, and more.

Given the variety of speakers and topics, we hoped to come away with a myriad of different strategies we could leverage for our client portfolio. Although we learned quite a bit while there, there seemed to be one overarching theme that resonated throughout the event: no matter what the industry, companies who want to see continued growth and ongoing success MUST embrace a sound digital strategy in order to remain relevant in today’s digital era.

Building a Marketing Strategy in the Digital Era

It’s no secret that within the last decade, we have seen a shift from traditional forms of advertising (Print, Outdoor, TV) to more technology driven, digital marketing efforts. In fact, 2019 will be the first year that digital ad spend surpasses TV according to Jessica Clifton, U.S. Head of Digital, Edelman; however, not all companies are making this shift. Nearly half of CMOs still aren’t willing to fully adapt to digital. The simple fact is generations are shifting and with that, businesses will find they need to adapt to the demands of their target audiences. Millennials are expected to outnumber the largest generation of all this year — Baby Boomers. By 2025, the workforce is expected to be comprised of 75% Millennials according to Marshall Butler, Head of Marketing, Wells Fargo.

We’re in the middle of a pivotal change in how we buy, how we interact on our devices and ultimately how we conduct business. Within this article, are a few key components businesses should keep top of mind to ensure they are on the right path for success in a digital market.

Thriving in the Digital Era

By 2023, Ecommerce spend is expected to be around 1 trillion dollars with 50% of those transactions coming from Mobile devices according to Meysam Moradpour, VP of Digital Payments Strategy, Mastercard. Furthermore, consumers are adapting to the evolving forms of technology to interact with brands in the digital realm.

  • A strong online presence is key – and not just a website, but a website with a great user experience (UX) and informative, timely content.
  • The use of virtual assistants (Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple HomePod, etc.) is steadily on the rise for both searches and purchases.
  • Connected TV, Connected Cars (autonomous driving), and Wearables (Apple Watch, FitBit) also present opportunities for consumers to engage with brands in real-time and make direct purchases seamlessly.

Ultimately, in order to remain relevant, it is imperative that companies align their marketing efforts with the way the majority of their target customers are engaging with advertising. Companies will not find success if they aren’t present and highly visible in the mediums their customers are using for research, purchases and social networking.

Transitioning from Traditional Marketing to Marketing in the Digital Era

Making the transition from traditional marketing to digital can be challenging. It requires a shift in the mindset of the organization, which often includes buy-in from the top down. Companies who want to create an environment that fosters digital innovation can start by focusing on the following principles, as presented by Jessica Clifton, US Head of Digital, Edelman at DigiStrategy 2019:

Adaptability / Flexibility

  • Being prepared for whatever may happen
  • Develop an agile framework
  • Bring in the right talent to achieve goals and drive success

Accountability / Responsibility

  • Build and socialize a culture of accountability that ties back to the bottom line and serves the consumer
  • Define business objectives and ensure the team is aligned

Agility / Dexterity

  • Introduce an Agile Innovation Model to assist in moving away from more traditional marketing models
  • Make continuous improvement a top priority
  • Lean on consultants and other outside partners to help facilitate change, growth, and introduce new ideas

Using the above principles and adapting to a more Agile Innovation Model as shown below, marketers can remain on the cutting edge, while also being thoughtful about their marketing strategy.

Advantages of Marketing in the Digital Era

In the spirit of adaptability and flexibility, another advantage of introducing an increase in digital marketing is the ability to make changes quickly. For example, if a print ad or TV ad doesn’t resonate with consumers, it’s rather difficult to:

  1. Understand how it’s being received with no way to track performance, and
  2. Do anything about it until the campaign ends.

If a digital display ad isn’t performing well, it can quickly be swapped out, replaced with a better performing version of the same message through testing, budgets can be adjusted, or a campaign can be shut down completely without losing a significant amount of the upfront investment. This is good news for those that want to test the digital waters. This is also why it’s so important to rely on outside partners who understand the channel well and can advise on a strategic approach to entering the digital arena.

Breaking into the digital realm can initially be intimidating for more established companies and brands. It is essentially the wild frontier for marketers – it is growing and changing at such a rapid pace, it can be hard to keep up! It can also be difficult distinguishing which digital channels are truly worth the investment.

Since not all digital strategies are created equal, it’s extremely important for companies to determine which digital approach is right for them. In order to develop an effective digital strategy, companies should start with the following:

Understanding your business needs and goals

  • Industry benchmarks can be helpful in determining how to set realistic goals when no previous campaign performance data exists

Being self-aware

  • How well-known is your brand within the market?
  • How strong is your online presence within the space?

Understanding your customers and potential customers

  • What digital channels are they engaging in most frequently
  • What do the customers care about?
  • What messaging resonates best with them?
  • What types of devices are they using?
  • What is their current perception of the brand?

What are their competitors doing?

  • What is their current share of voice (SOV)?
  • What digital channels are competitors in?
  • What are competitors spending in the digital space?

These are all questions that can be difficult to answer. It will take a significant deep dive into the brand to find out what the best approach would be. You are not alone. Many brands have recently gone through this phase and come out not only profitable but stronger and more strategically minded.

If you would like help in starting this process, determining what partners are best in your decided digital space, or help developing strategy by collaborating with subject matter leaders, we at REQ are happy to assist. 

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