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Guest Column: The impending digital marketing storm

15-March-2013
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Guest Column: The impending digital marketing storm

In the past few years, with the rapid increase in mobile subscriptions and internet usage, digital marketing is becoming increasingly important in a marketing manager’s media selection mix. Let us understand the trends we are seeing in digital marketing by covering four aspects – the changing consumer, the new urban and rural consumer’s needs, impact of technology changes and finally expected attributes of marketing innovation that will come about to address these paradigm shifts.

The consumer today, resides virtually on the mobile, internet, email and/or social media throughout the day – and digital presence supplants physical presence. Digital media is now an essential part of an ‘always on’ consumer lifestyle, extending from the time one gets up to the time one retires at night. The digital medium plays a key role in lifestyle due to the availability, accessibility and dissemination of information like never before possible in the history of mankind. The era of digital marketing of the future will be all about adapting the focus of marketing to changing human behaviour.

In India, a simplistic classification of the consumer with differing lifestyle needs can be done as urban and rural consumers. The urban consumer is usually over-exposed to media and the challenge for the marketer is to have campaigns that support real-time feedback and continuing engagement. The rural consumer on the other hand, is largely unexposed to the external world of information, and the mobile is his first digital medium.

The mobile is used for basic voice communication, to get weather information, information on crop prices and other basic livelihood needs and supplemented by entertainment viewed or listened to on the mobile in either an online or offline mode. Some examples of how mobiles have started to change the rural consumers’ lives are: services to call a remote doctor or dentist for consultation, astrological consultations, product and market price discovery. Digital media has the potential to further transform lives by making services and goods accessible remotely – initially as information services and later with physical fulfillment when alternate payment and money transfer methods get adopted on a mass scale.

Today, digital media has the mindshare of both, urban and rural consumers. The consumer of tomorrow however, will also seek fulfillment of physical goods and services. With these shifts, the consumers’ instantaneous want can be matched and satisfied by multiple sellers in a digital marketplace. Competitive analysis on price points and features will be available at finger tips for a variety of goods. In an ‘always on’ world of transparent information, consumers will thus be even more in control than today.

In this world, marketing managers will be challenged to keep their message crisp and build trust for their brand by having transparent communication and engagement with customers. As data consumption is predicted to grow exponentially on the mobile, it will be increasingly important to be able to have a high signal to noise ratio in marketing.

Digital media is already currently used extensively by BFSI, FMCG, media, government, ecommerce, education and travel – to name the main verticals– and other industry verticals are expected to follow suit as digital means of communication becomes the most cost effective means of communication for marketing and customer service. Even among the industries using digital media currently, the scope to grow on digital marketing communications itself is over five times in the next four years. The industry is expected to grow from around Rs 200 crore in 2012 to between Rs 850 crore – Rs 1000 crore in 2016, depending on the analyst one talks to.

As has already begun, mobile internet usage is on a rapid usage adoption curve and the availability of applications and services on this largely untapped medium will become more prevalent. Since a large part of the population are youth who are both demanding and discerning consumers, marketers will need to use savvy programmes to engage always on, yet easily distracted users.

Campaigns having engagement in live events will be the trend for memorable interactions with the user. Be they in the form of voting, feedback to talk shows or sporting events, or other creative ways to promote loyalty or references, extremely innovative marketing programs so far un-envisaged will rapidly change the marketing landscape. Constantly changing paradigms to keep engagement high will be the challenge and opportunity for the creative marketer.

Trends on how the future marketer will use technology are: campaigns will use integration elements across different media and use features of marketing automation systems that are integrated to back end systems to help fulfill end to end processes for customer acquisition, servicing, engagement or fulfillment. For example, a person who gives a missed call on seeing an email promotion when interested in a loan may get a call back from a call center within seconds of his response, thus making the chances of closing the sale significantly higher.

Technology advances allowing tracking user behaviour and predictive analysis will help a quantum shift in digital marketing paradigms and marketing spend efficiency. The model of broadcasts or banner ads, the mainstay of digital marketing today, will evolve to a customer profiled, contextual, permission based model to reach users. Heuristic models used for predictive analytics will allow digital marketing relevancy to be optimised in terms of several target criteria, including combinations of user, time and location. While we are in early years of maturing of this technology, and harvesting large archives of data, big data solutions and advanced analytical tools will help enable the back end framework required for offering deep customer insights on profile, behaviour and predictive analysis.

Marketers who are late adopters of this technology will miss out on the experiential perspective essential in this new field, which will be critical in optimisation of marketing for product and brand specific characteristics. Social media will also be an integral part of digital marketing campaigns and will need to be integrated with the non-social elements, be it on digital media or traditional media.

There is an impending perfect storm of multiple forces coming together at the same time, namely: a large mass of consumers with economical digital devices, readily available and reasonably priced data, a stable network, maturing big data technology and analytics tools, creative insights learned by the first wave of digital marketers, and end to end payment and fulfillment models. This will enable digital marketing to hit an inflexion point on its growth curve imminently. As a marketer, ignore the impending tsunami at your own risk.

The author is the CEO of netCORE Solutions

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