Digital marketing is at the heart of business transformation
3 trends for the development of Web marketing by 2014 - 2020
The Web belongs to everyone, digital marketing and digital media are in the hands of each and every employee, and businesses are now working en masse on what they call "digital transformation" which is set to be the future of business for the next 5 years at least. Yet, in fact, there is a true paradox; whereas the field of Web marketing is going through a period of intense professionalisation, at the same time, a lot of businesses are still trying to find out what it means for them, attempting to get to grips with its concepts and are still struggling to find how to make it work. Here are three underlying trends which, in our minds, will make up the market of digital marketing until the end of this decade.
We have been working in what is now known as the digital marketing sector since the midst of the 1990s. The environment has evolved quite a lot since those pioneering years of the beginning of the Internet. At that time, we were merely discovering new frontiers and new ways to communicate and to a large extent, most of the time, we were inventing them as we went along. At that time, the Web was still a tool for technicians and specialists but it is now in the hands of all employees. The generalisation of Web penetration in the various businesses and different industries is indeed well established rom now on.
In its report "the digital advantage: how digital leaders outperform their peers in every industry" Cap Gemini and MIT Sloan management describe clearly that no industry escapes digital transformation even though some of these industries are a bit more advanced than others. (For more details of that, please note that our forthcoming book “mastering digital marketing like a boss” will be referring to that report and will be commenting on it extensively).
Even in the most advanced sectors like high-tech or banking and finance, there would be a lot to say about what is happening now. As a matter of fact, online banking was established in the middle of the w1990s and reach summits since then; approximately 90% of the British and 65% of the French populations are checking their accounts online even though certain countries like Switzerland are lagging behind at 16% only. A lot of work has yet to be done if one wants to abolish the frontier between off-line and online and make the Web transparent in order that it serves as a means to enhance and improve core business activities. Digital marketing is becoming absolutely pervasive, be it for large but also and mainly for small and medium-sized enterprises. The less businesses can afford significant marketing and advertising budgets, the more the need to resort to digital marketing and especially Word-of-mouth marketing makes sense.
In point number one, we have established that digital marketing is for everyone and that it has become unavoidable for all industries, all businesses, of all sizes in all countries. Yet, it would be wrong to believe that a single recipe enables them to succeed in every area. The world of digital marketing and communications is extremely varied, made of a flurry of sub segments in which we will find a lot of different specialisations.
Those in charge of search engine optimisation (SEO) have developed extremely specific knowledge about that area but most of the time know a lot less about search engine advertising (SEA) and their job has nothing to do with that of the community managers who are experts in social media optimisation (SMO) etc. We could go on for ever regarding that subject since there are umpteen different kinds of profiles for community managers themselves (some are dedicated to content production, some to certain industries, some are specialised in B2B, others are platform agnostic, some aren’t…).
The repercussions of the inevitable specialisation of all Web marketing functions are huge in terms of governance within businesses, and professionals wishing to implement their digital transformation should not overlook the need for specialists in all those areas. Here are a few examples in the area of e-business (aka pure players): a pure player in the real estate business has no less than 10 full-time employees dedicated to search engine optimisation! Similarly, for a European leader in high-tech e-commerce, their search engine optimisation (SEO) team went from 10 (at the beginning of 2014) to more than 20 in July 2014. This explains how crucial such functions are if you want to succeed on the Net; that is not only true of pure players. They depend heavily on the fine-tuning their content online but so do brick and mortars, even if the latter don’t quite realise it. They too will have to adapt their structures and efforts to better take digital marketing into account, their day-to-day business depends on it.
As a conclusion, one cannot go on working with amateurs in that area, and brick and mortars, just like pure players, will have to professionalise themselves because the Web has become a fully fledged enterprise function just like Marketing or Finance. This is what we like to comment on in the third part of this piece dedicated to the 3 major trends in the development of digital marketing in the 2014 – 2020 period.
Trend no.3: Web is business
There used to be a time when people and businesses created a Website once their business and development plan were entirely wrapped up, but now, this way of working is a thing of the past. Using websites like glossy brochures of old is utterly ridiculous. One must understand that the Web, even when it comes to Web marketing and communications, cannot be dissociated from business.
You definitely understand this when you analyse the various stages of what is called the (Web) "customer journey". A good customer journey goes way beyond graphic design, which is only a small part of the overall work that needs to be done on a Website. When working on a Website, one has to understand that the customer journey starts from even before customers start asking themselves questions about what kind of products they are looking, let alone before they go through all the phases of selecting and comparing products and services, and that it ends up with customer service and satisfaction.
A proper customer journey addresses all parts of the business altogether and bridges the gap between all parts of the business in order to offer a unique and second to none customer experience from A to Z. Internal feuds between Web and off-line channels are completely passé. Already in the beginning of the Web, such organisational wrangles didn’t even make much sense; as of today, they are even more incomprehensible and totally counter productive.
Each of the trends we have described on this page have an impact on the way that digital marketing is taught, practiced, integrated and managed. These are the three major linchpins not only of the future of Web marketing but for that of businesses in general, for the next five years at least.