Having attended e-consultancy's event on the 'Future of Digital Marketing' in June, if I'm being honest, it was the first time I've felt excited about digital marketing for a long time. Way back in February I attended the dire DMA show in Las Vegas, and subsequently wrote up a diatribe on why it and the industry as a whole seemed to be lacking in innovation. Thankfully, e-consultancy's choice of speakers for their event seems to have gotten me back on the right track. This is part 1 of a 3 part series on the future of digital marketing and a recap of the event.
So what's the future?
Not surprisingly, not one speaker on the day truly answered that question. All of them did however provide their thoughts and opinions on what they thought was at least coming onto the horizon - or what's already here and hasn't been properly utilized yet. While much of me wanted fundamentally new technologies to be unveiled (more on that later), the strongest recurring theme of the day was making the best use of the methods and tactics we digital marketers use today - just 'better'. So the first take-away: if the basics of a digital marketing strategy at the moment include email marketing, pay-per-click, search engine optimization, referral and affiliate marketing and increasingly social media, then the digital marketing strategies of tomorrow will likely include the same. The innovation that represents the future of digital marketing is primarily in how each channel is represented, managed and utilized - focusing more on value to the end user and striving to maximize their experience beyond anything else.
Below are some choice extracts from the show that to me captured the essence of what the future of digital marketing actually will be, interspersed with my own opinions and thoughts or additions for good measure.
Get the basics right first
- Search is and will continue to act as the launch pad for most online experiences. The difference will be in the application, access and delivery of search results. With access to search increasingly varied by platform (mobile, web, API, socially-aided, etc.), search can become increasingly targeted and (as Google has shown us) will always be monetized.
- Localized search will become ubiquitous with Search. Users will increasingly use search to find local and offline results. In this respect, local search will become a microcosm of the SEM landscape we know today, with results targeted on such a granular basis that the competition between websites for conversions will take to the street.
- The consumer's voice, since the advent of *shudder* 'web 2' technologies like social platforms, blogs and other dialogue enablers has been increasingly heard and will continue to lead the way marketers do business. This isn't anything new, but recognition that as internet infrastructure grows, the need to listen to what your customers want - and don't want - is beyond imperative. Barry Smith of SkyScanner summed it up by underlining the need to understand your landscape - get feedback, monitor, and respond accordingly.
- Social media will continue to proliferate and become increasingly synonymous with the web as a whole. Already we're accustomed to checking our favourite social sites as part of our daily routine, but with innovations on the horizon like Google's Wave plus socially-driven mobile apps and social search, most of the things done online by consumers and businesses alike will have a strong social component to them.
- The basic channels, and significantly email marketing, will become the foundation to a marketers kit. During a surprisingly open and telling presentation, Mark Kelleher - Head of Marketing Technology and Operations at the BBC - highlighted the BBC's constant and continued use of email marketing as one of their primary interaction methods. 110 different newsletters totaling 30 million sent/month are delivered as timely, relevant and highly personalized communications thanks to advanced CRM techniques. It seems based on this that as a tactic, email marketing shows no signs of abating anytime soon.
- The web services we use today behind a monitor will tomorrow be integrated into more devices and channels. Integration and convergence as well as multi-platform access are indeed the next logical progression of the web, and marketers need to diversify their messages and technologies to reach the maximum number of users effectively.
- The underlining rule so far? Get the basics right before venturing into the 'what's upcoming' waters. Focus on what you do already, but do it better, and always remember to maximize value to your end user, listen to them, and offer them what they want. Simple things to overlook like website conversion optimization, calls-to-action, A/B testing, platform/browser optimization, feedback user groups, localization and continual evolution need to be addressed before anything else. Build a solid foundation, and you're setting yourself up for success.
Stay tuned for the next post: Getting to the fun stuff - the next level up in the future of digital marketing.