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Digital Marketing: The Past, Present & Future
In recent years, marketing has changed dramatically. Back in the old days, one annual planning meeting to create a go-to-market strategy, marketing plan and budget used to be sufficient. Today, marketers adjust course frequently and modify plans according to real-time customer insights, new media, emerging channels and technology.
Unfortunately, even the most nimble marketers today are unable to keep pace with this ever changing marketing environment, citing lack of resources, skills and outdated technology as the main factors. Although marketing technology may not be the only solution, why hasn’t it advanced enough to support agile marketing?
The Recent Past: Rapid Rate Of Change For Everything
New media adoption rate used to be “relatively” slow. TV was introduced in 1947, and its adoption (measured by percent of penetration in the population) plateaued after 50 years. By comparison, the Internet, introduced in the early 1990s, reached its peak penetration in less than half the years of TV. Although we don’t know where mobile Internet adoption will ultimately end, existing stats indicate a rate exponentially higher than that of its predecessors.
Next, the notion of “viral” marketing has taken content distribution to the next level. This “earned” media — media that does not require marketers to purchase an audience, but rather “earns” its interest — can capture audiences at an unprecedented rate.
An extreme example is the 2013 YouTube video, Gangnam Style. Released in July of 2012, it received more than 1.9 billion views in eight months. This phenomenon shows the power of earned media and the possible rate of viral content distribution.
In the past two years, more than 90 percent of all data was created. It’s no accident that this exponential growth coincides with the introduction of mobile devices, which have increased the amount of information available about how humans behave online. No one had predicted the growth of data such as this.
The Present: Why The Sum Of Many Parts Does Not Equal A Greater Number
But with all the hype around big data and multi-channel management, we still hear from marketing leaders that today’s software and computing platforms lack true integration capabilities and fall short in providing real-time access to data. Cross-channel management between point solutions that optimize email, Web, social and mobile, is more a “hype” than reality.
Historically built for single-channel optimization, existing systems such as website management and analytics and email systems are built to handle relatively low data volumes. Moreover, most systems were not developed with the flexibility to integrate data and processes with other systems (i.e., CRM).
For example, data exchanges between marketing and other databases are done through hard coded APIs — which are expensive to build, easy to break and do not enable true real-time exchanges.
Finally, marketing applications interfaces were designed primarily for “content design” rather than big data analytics (such as those built as Business Intelligence tools). The very popular “drag and drop” interface, for example, works well for content and creative manipulation, but what if one needs to combine building algorithms, conditional rules and other data-driven elements to design? What would that interface look like?
I argue that existing applications are not ready to combine the two activities, and it is no wonder we hear marketers tell us that their tools are “clunky” at best.
At Salesforce.com’s annual Dreamforce event, CEO Marc Benioff proclaimed that marketing will be the software giants’ next $1billion dollar business. Gartner reinforces this prediction and projects that by 2017, CMOs will spend more than CIOs on technology. The market is definitely demanding cloud-based, digital marketing solutions, and companies are investing in development to deliver.
Where is the market? Buyers, beware of claims of big data processing capabilities and system interoperability completed through APIs. Can building hard-coded APIs really serve the needs in the long run? When will it reach a breaking point? How are big data processing capabilities achieved? Have these systems been re-platformed with the latest data processing technologies?
I expect the following:
- Many systems will be built on older platforms. Challenges for big data processing and system integration are harder to achieve than ever. In the meantime, digital marketers will continue to encounter problems with systems that fall short on their promises of real-time data processing.
- The tools and interfaces familiar to marketers will change. Tools will combine data visualization and manipulation with content creation capabilities (imagine the merging of the desktop of a designer with that of a Wall Street broker).
- There will be no enterprise software system that can fulfill the promise of being the central system of record. Big data is about harnessing customer data that exists everywhere for real-time application (such as creation of multi-channel messages). Data processing for marketing systems trumps the need to “store” the data.
What do you think?
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.