Traditional offline marketing has always had an element of gut instinct driving it: marketers coming up with ideas and implementing them without getting to meaningfully assess the results — a campaign may seem successful, but is it better than an alternative would have been?
Digital marketing, though, is a different beast. Tagged and tracked to a granular level, it allows for an unprecedented level of optimization. And this tracking is only getting more in-depth as time goes by and more businesses come to see the value in extensive analytics that has long-since been recognized by the biggest brands in the world.
The net result of this data adoption is an industry in the midst of steady transformation — but what exactly does that transformation involve? Let’s take a look at the changes taking place:
The process of identifying a target audience has always been as complex as the marketer wants to make it, but with a practical bottleneck preventing it from being significant at the distribution stage, it’s been of limited value. Why should you bother coming up with a narrow definition of optimally-relevant consumers if you can’t reach them?
The rise of triggered automation processes and complex platforms such as Facebook’s PPC service has turned this around — today, you can get very specific with your audience identification, knowing that you can actually target that audience in isolation if you simply choose the right parameters and workshop until the results come.
Want to reach only those people who’re of a certain age and fans of a particular product? If you use all the tools available to you, you can do it. This has various positive effects: marketing audiences get served materials more relevant to their interests, marketers can deploy more creative strategies, and tactics can be A/B tested and revised much more efficiently.
Digital marketing isn’t just about getting the results: it’s also about selling the services. After all, you can’t get results if you don’t have any clients, and you can’t win any clients if you can’t make a strong case for what you bring to the table. Back before high-level analytics became possible, there was a lot of showmanship to the process of convincing a client (much of which had little to do with actual results).
Now, though, any digital marketer with a great service and a strong record can form a compelling argument using their results alone — particularly if they use the kind of data visualization that can easily be achieved through software such as Google Data Studio (this can be complex, but it helps to get some assistance from suitable experts).
Essentially, the consequence here is that it’s getting a lot harder for snake-oil sellers to win clients in the digital marketing world. Simply saying “We do X, Y, and Z, and get results” isn’t enough, because prospective clients will expect to see the data backing up you claims — your average ROI, your typical timeframe for results, which channels you use most effectively.
For any truly skilled digital marketer, it’s a great time to be part of the industry.
Big data doesn’t just take from one stream: it draws in analytics from any and all available sources, creating cohesive views and making it clearer how the various elements of campaigns are working together (or against one another, as the case may be). With that power on tap, marketers are finding it vastly easier to devise broader strategies.
Think of how a retailer today can bring numerous channels together. Setting their stalls on rich data-collecting platforms such as Shopify’s multi-channel ecomm CMS, and using versatile automation and integration tools such as IFTTT and Zapier, they can build customized stores, niche landing pages, and numerous traffic drivers, all while knowing how all the factors coexist.
Before big data was ready for mainstream use, attempting a broad omnichannel marketing strategy would have been brutally arduous and required an exhausting level of manual investigation. But with data backing you up, you can achieve wonders. Any retailer today that settles for a single-channel strategy will struggle to keep up with competitors, no matter how finely-honed that one strategy happens to be.
On the whole, this is the biggest consequence of big data adoption. The more marketers understand about the various facets of their operations (the people they’re targeting, the materials they’re serving, and the funnels they’re moving consumers into), the better equipped they become to operate efficiently.
That means cutting tactics that aren’t working before they start to drain resources, making minor tweaks to enhance ROI, reaching only the most relevant audiences, and phasing channels and platforms in and out depending on their fluctuating popularity and influence. What’s more, this process is increasingly automated: programmatic PPC is already smoothing out the advertising pipeline, and there are even services such as Phrasee that are capable of generating ad copy.
The more data we collect, and the more ingeniously we use it, the better we can make digital marketing. Who knows what the industry will look like in a decade?
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