Marketing is the cornerstone of business and is the one definitively crucial factor in whether or not startups and newly formed enterprises survive. After all, to stay afloat and to prosper, a business needs customers, while they, in turn, need to be aware of the existence of the brand and its products or services. Therefore, it's vital to know how to locate and engage with your target audience.
In the past, traditional media, such as print, TV, and radio were the primary channels through which businesses conducted marketing. Now, however, thanks to the rise of modern digital technologies such as the internet and social media, digital marketing has evolved and grown at a frenetic pace.
The Importance of Digital Marketing
Indeed, the impact of online marketing in today's climate cannot be overstated. According to eMarketer, global digital ad spending reached $333bn in 2019, a 17% rise over the previous year, with online marketing now accounting for nearly half of all global ad spending by businesses.
This isn't surprising, given that – according to Hootsuite – human beings across the globe spend an average of 6 hours and 42 minutes online every day.
This same study also indicates that 55% of the global population is already online, with millions more joining each day. With so many people flocking to social media platforms and online search engines, and with so many people spending so much of their time in front of a computer or phone screen, businesses have a compelling reason to expand their digital presence.
This is especially the case in established markets such as North America and the European Union, where the level of internet penetration is close to 100%. Unsurprisingly, these markets include countries where at least 50% of the aforementioned spending occurs in the digital realm, and, with internet usage and access expected to increase across other markets in 2020 and beyond, digital marketing will only continue its ascent in the foreseeable future.
The Rules of the Game Are Changing
While these numbers are impressive, they only tell half of the story. In the past, marketing through traditional media was all about reaching out to your target demographic. What consumers saw in advertising campaigns was usually their only exposure to the product.
However, the internet has cultivated a new dynamic where consumers have instant access to information about the products and services they may be interested in. Search engines like Google allow people to find nearby products and services in a flash, while emergent technologies have radically changed the needs and expectations of consumers.
The implications of this are quite stark for a business. If you don't have a credible online presence in the modern climate, then you are virtually invisible to large portions of your target audience. Any enterprise that neglects their online marketing strategy is at a severe disadvantage when compared to companies that maintain a digital presence.
The role played by social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram is also important. Key consumer segments such as Generation Z and millennials are digital natives, having grown up on these platforms in the last decade or so; as a result, their buying patterns are inextricably linked to the information they gain from these platforms.
Lower Costs and Higher Returns
Advertising through traditional channels can be expensive, as well as difficult to quantify; in the past, for instance, while marketers had access to primitive tools to keep track of the effectiveness of their campaigns, the process was ultimately a case of shooting in the general direction of potential customers and hoping to hit the target.
Take a traditional TV ad spot. You only have limited information on its effectiveness; in fact, you don't even have a clear idea of whether your target customer actually saw the ad. With digital ads, though, this is no longer an issue.
Regardless of the platform, you have access to advanced analytical tools that give you a plethora of information and data. From this, you can gain focused insights and clear-cut answers on essential questions, such as how many people saw the ad, through which medium, in which location and – most importantly – if it resulted directly in any sales or not.
Based on your customers' interaction with your online campaigns, you can also glean valuable information about their interests and behaviour. These can be leveraged to improve and fine-tune your campaign for maximum effectiveness.
Return on Investment (ROI) tends to be higher in digital marketing, too, which makes it very attractive for small firms. For example, according to HubSpot, email marketing can have a potential ROI of 3800%; that is an incredibly cost-effective return, in any environment.
New Opportunities for Small Businesses
Another key benefit of digital marketing is that it levels the playing field in a way that no other form of advertising can. In the past, for instance, small businesses with limited budgets had to keep their ambitions low and local; there was no way to market to wider audiences. Digital marketing is far more democratic in that sense, allowing businesses to transcend geographical borders and connect with a broader audience for little extra cost.
As a result, even a small local startup can compete with an international brand for the attention of customers. Indeed, if you offer engaging and innovative content, you can effortlessly gain access to millions of customers within a matter of hours. In the past, only large, established brands with huge marketing budgets could even hope to attain this.
Whether you like it or not, the internet – and digital technologies in general – are here for the long haul. They have forever altered the way people interact in the marketplace, as well as the marketplace itself; therefore, it's in your interests to capitalise upon these developments.
This trend will only continue in the foreseeable future, too, with new commercial uses of artificial intelligence (AI), automation, virtual reality (VR), and voice-enabled search being implemented every day. If you want to stay relevant in business throughout the 2020s, embracing such change will be the only way to survive.
What do you think? Will digital marketing eventually displace all forms of offline marketing, or should companies continue to focus their attentions on both? Let us know your views in the comment section below.