Marketing and technology have always been joined at the hip, to some degree: Since marketing is, at its core, about vying for the attention of consumers who have limited time, resources, and attention spans, it’s only natural that marketers would look to the latest technical innovations as a way to gain a potential edge over the competition.
Most digital marketing professionals, though, would agree that we’re currently operating in an era where leaps in technology are creating ever-faster seismic changes in marketing strategy. The onslaught of new communication channels and marketing tools — especially in the social media and analytics-based realms —can leave even the savviest marketing professionals gasping to catch up.
Writing for Forbes in 2014, marketing agency CEO John Ellett gave the current tectonic shift in digital marketing a name: Marketing 5.0. In a short piece introducing his concept, Ellett outlined five distinct “eras” of technology-based marketing, the fifth of which we’re currently navigating today:
- 1.0: The printing press. Enabled a literate populace and created the marketing channels of newspapers, magazines, and direct mail.
- 2.0: Radio and television. Enabled real-time communication on a mass scale and created environments for effective brand storytelling.
- 3.0: PCs and the Internet. Ushered in the digital age, allowing customers to search out information on their own terms and connect directly with brands’ content.
- 4.0: Mobile technology and social media: Enabled anytime, anywhere access to valuable information, including opinions from friends and like-minded buyers.
- 5.0: Marketing clouds. Will begin to tie the engagement channels from previous eras into meaningful omni-channel experiences that are tailored to the individual user.
“Marketing 5.0 is both disruptive and additive to previous eras,” Ellett wrote. “Getting to the Marketing 5.0 world will be full of challenges, including overcoming status quo organizational behavior, spanning departmental silos, integrating fragmented technology, and building function competencies.”
While the idea behind “Marketing 5.0” has a certain utopian appeal, it also might seem like an exhausting prospect to digital marketers who are just beginning to feel like they’ve come to terms with the changes wrought by social media and mobile-centric design. And if there’s any doubt that the rate at which technology triggers profound shifts in marketing strategy is accelerating, just consider the dates associated with the aforementioned groundbreaking inventions and their corresponding marketing eras:
- Invention of printing press: Around 1440
- First mass-produced radio receivers: 1920; first mass-produced TV sets: 1946
- First personal computers: 1975; first commercial Internet Service Providers: Late 1980s
- First smartphone (IBM Simon): 1993; first social media site (Six Degrees): 1997; Facebook founded: 2004; Twitter founded: 2006; first iPhone: 2007
- Amazon creates the first widely accessible cloud computing infrastructure with Amazon Web Services: 2006
If you’re counting, that’s almost 500 years between what Ellett considers Marketing 1.0 and 2.0 and 55 years between 2.0 and 3.0 — compared to a few short years (or arguably an almost-simultaneous rise) between the most recent iterations.
How Can Digital Marketing Companies Keep Up?
The upside of all this upheaval for marketing companies is that clients seem to be recognizing the value of digital marketing now more than ever before. According to a January 2015 study from the New York-based digital marketing and technology resource company Mondo, 80 percent of U.S. businesses planned at the time of the study to increase their spending on digital marketing — the vast majority by a range of about 5 to 15 percent — within the next year and a half.
To paraphrase the lesson learned by a certain famous superhero, though, “with great budgets come great responsibility.” Clients are only devoting increased resources to digital marketing because they expect returns, and in most cases they’ll expect to see cutting-edge campaigns that make use of emerging platforms to justify these new investments.
In an interview with the blog for the big data marketing company BloomReach, Mondo vice president of digital marketing strategy Laura McGarrity told blogger Mike Cassidy that the number of tools and strategies would create lucrative new opportunities for digital marketing firms, but would also challenge them when it comes to measuring the success of individual channels and strategies.
“It is a challenge because there are so many different touch points for customer engagement and having a pulse on each one, intricately, is a demanding job,” McGarrity says. “It’s critical to look at the strategy and ROI in the big picture and see the overall results, and then dive deeper and really look at each individual channel and recognize its individual impact and measure it against its particular goal and performance metrics.”
Meanwhile, some of the consumer and client demands that will play a critical role in separating the successful digital marketing firms of the future are already in play right now:
- Responsive web design. As part of its “Future of Digital Marketing” study, Mondo surveyed 262 marketing professionals, and 70 percent of them said that mobile devices would be a key driver of customer engagement in the next three to five years (which seems like an understatement, if anything). Customers, especially those in younger demographics, demand websites that deliver a seamless experience across different devices and digital contexts, and responsive web design will only become more important as the ecosystem of digital devices all begin to communicate with each other through Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.
- Faster page load times. Online consumers today are antsy when it comes to page load times; they expect pages that load quickly, and disappointing them can cost you. According to the analytics software firm Kissmetrics, 40 percent of consumers abandon a web page that takes more than 3 seconds to load, and a 1 second delay in page response time decreases customer satisfaction by 16 percent and can lead to a 7 percent reduction in conversions. Optimizing pages and reducing load times is key for any online content marketer who wants to stay ahead of the competition.
- Better usage of user data. “Big Brother” fears aside, the ability to collect information from consumers as they visit websites and social pages gives marketers the ability to see how potential customers interact with their content and then tweak that content and adjust the user’s experience accordingly in a multitude of ways. The ability to gather such data also has the potential to transform marketing automation from a static, one-way interaction to an avenue for building dynamic day-to-day relationships with customers at little cost.
- Optimization for wearable technologies. Even though the relative failure of Google Glass temporarily turned wearable tech into punchline fodder, experts agree that the explosion of wearable devices is coming — it’s just a matter of when. The ongoing adoption of smartwatches is just an early foray into a device category that promises to attract a lot of attention in the coming years. Marketers will have to respond by optimizing web pages for an even broader range of platforms, putting an end to the days of “desktop-first” digital design.
Regardless of whether digital marketers feel ready for the next set of technology-fueled paradigm shifts or whether practices to train and educate employees about them are in place, though, it’s clear that social media and cloud computing technology don’t show any signs of slowing down for a break — which means digital marketing firms shouldn’t plan on doing so either.
Cassidy, M. (2015, March 19). It’s no time for digital marketers to get comfortable. BloomReach. Retrieved from http://bloomreach.com/2015/03/its-no-time-for-digital-marketers-to-get-comfortable/
Ellett, J. (2014, September 30). Technology is changing the future of marketing (again). Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnellett/2014/09/30/technology-is-changing-the-future-of-marketing-again/#474289954286
Work, S. How loading time affects your bottom line. (n.d.) Kissmetrics. Retrieved from https://blog.kissmetrics.com/loading-time/