The digital sphere now encompasses a large number of industries, from retail to services, and everything in between. Businesses that began life as brick-and-mortar stores have had to revolutionize their strategies to fit into the changing landscape. Digital marketing has, unsurprisingly, become the driving force behind most marketing initiatives. As a direct result of this push, we are seeing businesses undergo an intense digital transformation.
What is Digital Transformation?
With the advent of the internet, and how many potential consumers frequently use digital services to reach businesses and access products, the way companies now work has significantly changed.
Traditional business strategies may not have completely disappeared but they are certainly changing as a result of advancing technologies. This change is what is known as digital transformation. It is the process of adapting one’s initiatives and strategies to adapt to the digital world, and it includes most departments, not just marketing. Everything from sales to human resources is affected by digital innovations.
Within the company structure, however, digital transformation has affected the marketing department considerably, and mostly for the better. We look at what digital transformation has meant for the realm of marketing.
One of the major aspects of digital transformation in marketing is how companies relate to their customers. In traditional marketing, teams would generally create content and advertisements and send it out into the world on a hope and a prayer. While not so long ago utilizing part of the marketing budget for a billboard or a full-page newspaper advertisement was a sign of a job well done, those days are long gone now.
Marketing teams now need to observe their customers, learn their behaviors and needs, and create content accordingly. In other words, content can no longer be cookie cutter —it needs to be highly targeted towards its audience. Instead of a single subway advertisement, marketers now need to create smaller, but more effective, pieces of content that speak to different audiences on their wavelength.
Marketers also need to pick and choose the platforms they send their content out on—millennials aren’t frequenting Facebook as much as they used, while older generations utilize that channel far more. Sending out the same content on all channels is less likely to have as strong an impact as it would have years ago.
Content needs to be tailored for every audience segment so that customers feel like they are being catered to on an individual level instead of being treated like a faceless mass.
Traditional media was static—there was little one could do with a billboard or a television ad—but digital media is far more interactive. We now see website and product landing pages being customized according to the preferences of the user. So much so, that customers don’t need to see content they don’t want to, which is more likely to make them want to consume or purchase your product, because it feels like it was made for them.
This kind of personalized interaction leads to strong relationships, which is undoubtedly one of the biggest transformations one can see in the digital landscape. The B2C relationship is all about two-way communication now—social media allows customers to directly interact with the businesses they patronize, and they expect responses fairly quickly. Customers are no longer shy about calling out companies that don’t respond.
One can see interactivity in comments sections, that are almost always open, on social platforms, YouTube videos, as well as website pages. Live streams have gained popularity over the last couple of years, adding another level of interactivity between customers and businesses that was not possible in the analogue years.
The digital sphere allows for greater flexibility and two-way communication, which opens up avenues for building relationships, a major strategic goal for businesses in the 21st century. Strong relationships lead to better engagement, and eventually, towards helping businesses reach their bottom line.
The need for interactivity in the digital age is directly tied into immediacy. Marketers will have noted over the years that one of the biggest transformations required of them is the ability to be contactable by customers at all times. But the digital sphere has allowed companies to reach audiences around the globe—contacting customers is no longer as easy as it used to be when a business was a small shop down the road.
One of the ways businesses can reach customers is through social media, as we have mentioned, but it isn’t the most effective way. No matter how many staff members or contractors a company has in their employ, it isn’t possible for every customer to be thanked, or to answer every query at all times. That is where automation comes in.
Instead of having to set reminders to send out posts at certain times of the day, there are management tools that can be set in advance to schedule posts at optimum times. With these tools, marketers now have access to new ways of keeping in touch with customers at all times.
But it isn’t just through social media that marketers can interact with audiences. They are also using enhanced chatbots. Sophisticated AI in text chat services now allow customers to receive immediate responses to their queries. AI is also being used to convert potential abandoned carts into purchases with well-placed reminders to customers about products and discounts that incentivize them.
With the help of automated tools, marketers no longer need to be ‘on’ at all times of the day and in every location—they can simply set up a tool to do the work for them. This not only ensures productivity on behalf of the staff, but also makes sure that customers get what they want when they want it.
The digital sphere has massively helped marketers in terms of analytical data. Aside from painstakingly creating and distributing surveys, traditional media had little scope for analysis, and nothing that could compare with the digital world.
Thanks to the power of digital transformation, marketers now have an abundance of data that allows them to study their audience down to the minutest detail. The data marketers can glean from social media channels goes well beyond demographics—marketers can now learn the specific interests their audience has, when they log on, what kind of content they are more likely to look at versus the content they will definitely ignore.
With this information, marketers can create detailed reports that will help them break down exactly what they need to do to reach their customers. And report making has gotten easier in the digital age, as well. Whereas traditional marketing firms needed to create elaborate reports from scratch, digital marketers now have access to services that provide a monthly marketing report template that gives their analysis focus, as you can see in the example below.
Digital transformation has given marketers the tools to understand their customers in a way never before imagined. This not only helps companies better there products and services, but also allows them to build lasting relationships with consumers.
The business-to-customer relationship has become an extremely important part of the digital landscape, and is the driving force behind most of the innovations we are seeing. Digital transformation is part and parcel of making a mark in the digital sphere. It has made the process of implementing strategies and executing plans simpler, thus greatly advancing customer services, and company cultures.
The faster companies adapt to the changes in technology, the more likely they are to reach their customers and to thrive in the highly adaptable digital landscape.
Author: Ronita Mohan is a content marketer at Venngage, the online infographic, and design platform. Ronita is interested in a variety of topics with regards to digital marketing, visual content, and online engagement, which she enjoys researching and writing about.
*This article has been developed by Institute of Entrepreneurship Development (IED).