There is no question that marketing is a challenging undertaking. With the dawn of digital in the 90s and now with the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Machine Learning), one would think that marketing would have the most powerful, the most useful, and the most meaningful data at the tip of the modern marketer’s fingers, data so awesome that we could use to our advantage and (positively) directly impact the profitability of a business.

And we do, we really do! But – it’s a lot of data.

Roger Magoulas, VP of Radar at O’Reilly, didn’t coin the term “big data” because it was easy to remember and easy to conceptualize (okay, perhaps he did).

At the turn of the 21st century, Data and Analytics Strategist Doug Laney would give ‘big data’ the definition that is still in use today, using the 3 V’s:

  • Volume – Used to describe, in layman terms, the sheer amount of data
  • Variety – Used to describe, in not-so-layman terms, the “unprecedented speed [that] must be handled in a timely manner”
  • Velocity – The variety of data that’s incoming, including structured and unstructured

Gleaned from social media, smart devices, business transactions, financial transactions, trackable data, medical records, eCommerce purchases (and the list goes on), the modern marketer has no easy task ahead of her in deciphering the onslaught of digital information and putting it to good use.

But allow me to take you for a ride, for just a moment, on my Delorean, that was recently fitted with a nifty and brand new flux capacitor: let’s go back in time to….

The swinging sixties.

Using an imaginary scenario dreamt up by marketing experts Roland T. Rust, Christman Moorman, and Gaurav Bhalla in their Harvard Business Review article Rethinking Marketing, we see a brand manager sitting at his desk. He is developing a strategy for his company’s new product: a sports drink. With mass media and mass communications the norm at the time, he could reach the masses through television, radio, magazines, and newspapers. The type of marketing available to him can best be described as “broad market segments.” In other words::

“The brand’s performance [would be] measured by aggregate sales and profitability.”

Oh, the fright! Let’s run back to our Delorean before the flux capacitor runs out of juice, leaving us forever stuck in a marketer’s worst nightmare!

Truly, digital marketing would not be possible without innovative technologies, and the challenge becomes how well businesses can access, manage, and act upon these data points, after they are able to decipher it and derive meaningfulness. To do so, however, analytics comes into play, and businesses are getting really good at it, using platforms like the Salesforce Marketing Cloud to create a unified view of the customer journey. But they’re not doing it fast enough.

In the age of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever before for businesses to have an online presence, as consumers are dramatically changing their buying habits and behavior. Reluctant to step out into the outside world (big scary virus out there), people are using the Internet to access not just the bare necessities, but anything and everything that can be clicked on, reviewed, evaluated, added to cart, purchased, and delivered without so much as moving a toe. 

Given the factors above, what is the pivotal role then, that digital marketing disciplines play during these times for companies with an eCommerce presence to stand out against the competition? 

Like any good marketer would do, I went straight to the experts:

Like any good marketer would do, I went straight to the experts.

The Professor

“When digital strategies are integrated and used strategically within a customer journey, the marketer can better reduce friction and provide the right information and content to the right consumer at the right time on their channel of choice. By contextually presenting content across our digital channels, we make valuable touchpoints work even harder for us. Marketers who still believe the “spray and pray” approach is effective will see competitors outmaneuver them through context and personalization.”

Dr. Lin Humphrey, Assistant Professor @ Marketing at Florida International University

Here, Dr. Humphrey talks about the concept of friction and how lessening friction in the buying process inevitably leads to good things. We have to make those touchpoints work for us and to do so, we need to synthesize our digital marketing disciplines, including email marketing, mobile marketing, SEO, SEM, web analytics, conversion optimization, content marketing, and social media. Not all required, of course, but certainly the more, the better!

The Not-So-Traditional Marketer

“Digital marketing serves as the bread and butter for eCommerce companies to turn a profit. Even though we have all heard that the best form of advertising is word-of-mouth, social media acts as just that, today. Advertising on social media and encouraging your customers to share and review products on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other channels, help build brand credibility and rapport with potential consumers. Having a strong social media presence and incorporating content marketing on those platforms will also increase engagement with current and future consumers.”

Daniel Mojica, Tri-Brand Station Manager @ Enterprise Holdings, Current FIU MSM Student

Mr. Mojica touches upon an incredibly important point here: reviews. Without reviews, especially in the here and now, the chances that a consumer will make that purchase becomes bleak. Customers can’t touch the product, so we need to compensate and not only show consumers what the product looks like, what it’s for, a video of it, a 3D image of it, and so on – we need to engage past purchasers to speak of their experience. Strengthening these reviews is brand awareness made through the digital marketing disciplines Mr. Mojica mentions – social media channels like Facebook, IG, Twitter – wherever your customers are.

The Marketing Mate from M8

“Living in a fast-paced society where technology advancements appear in the blink of an eye, marketing strategies have found their way to keep up through its digitalization to help brands count with an online presence by highly interacting with digital consumers in a rapid manner. Now more than ever, during pandemic times, brands need to develop eCommerce sites for their sales flow as shopping has been limited. After months of operating in this manner, digital strategies have demonstrated their power and pivotal role in helping at all times, allowing consumers to interact with brands from any place at any time and moreover, reducing buyer journey steps to minimize the space for customers to leave the site. As a marketer in today’s era, I believe it is crucial for brands to adapt towards digital disciplines to stay in the loop and stand out against the overflowing competition.”

Joelle Cohen, Media Planner @ M8, Current FIU MSM Student

Mrs. Cohen beautifully describes the customer journey nowadays, and something that businesses need to be aware of: the fast speed of transactions. Companies must keep up to stay relevant, and not just with technologies, but with their customers, too. Community management plays into this. If a customer has a complaint, the company must be listening and taking corrective action.

The Talented Mrs. Bonilla

“A digital marketing presence can be an entirely other level of a company’s strong income, especially with the example of how the world has frozen still and the pandemic took over. Businesses took a large hit, some at the expense of valuable employees or altogether having to shut down. Businesses that had an already-established presence online have been able to readjust budgeting and survive through SEO, Email Marketing and eCommerce, promoting their business online, and more. It has shown the need for businesses to have to accommodate themselves to current times and the possibility of change. In my case, I’ve helped influencers work with businesses promoting their businesses to their audience. The budget for businesses was stricter but work was still present because of their online presence.”

Stephanie Bonilla, Marketing Executive & Designer at Talent Hub Agency, FIU MSM Alum

Mrs. Bonilla makes a strong case for influencers, whose income depends on their online presence of choice. Using digital marketing disciplines is quite literally their bread and butter, and optimization is key. 

Digital Marketing Swag

“For eCommerce, staying competitive through digital marketing is more than knowing SEO terms, newsfeed algorithms, having a large email list, a mobile-friendly site, edgy creative—or just “doing” all these tactics. Standing out starts with digging into the human side of data and insights, having conversations through the channels provided, and being equally flexible in proactive strategy and reactive tactics.

Listening to your audience about what they want, when and also where they want it based on their mindset & journey is more powerful than any compilation of tactics; and digital marketing allows us to get to know, and understand our consumers, to make sure our products and messaging meet their needs and differentiate us from competitors.”

Paul Eulette, Sr. Director, Digital Marketing at Jazwares

Mr. Eulette truly gets to the crux of digital marketing here. It’s very easy to get lost in the data. There’s so much of it! But the data does not tell the whole story. Without context, the data can also be misleading. Paul talks about really walking in the customer’s footsteps and getting to know their psyche through their buyer behavior and constructing strategies around them. In other words: being customer-centric is key, and digital marketing facilitates that stance.

Chief Marketing Officer of #RealTalk

“The customer journey has never been more complex or difficult to track and understand. People have seemingly limitless access points to seek out information about brands, form opinions, discover new products, and share their own recommendations. We have to look at consumers as both potential customers AND micro-influencers. This makes the role of marketing more complex than ever before. Having a deep understanding of the journey is pivotal to success.  It helps to not only identify all those critical digital and physical touchpoints but also what tools, analytic resources, and data to apply to make campaigns as effective as possible.”

Kelly Deen, VP of Global Brand Marketing and CMO at Jazwares

The VP of Global Brand Marketing and CMO of Jazwares gives us ‘real talk’ here. Data is complex, but the customer journey can be even more so. And she also brings new insights regarding consumers, how they are not only potential customers – they can actually be seen as “micro-influencers.” Their accessibility to share information, reviews, their experience with businesses is just clicks away. Word of mouth is incredibly powerful, and businesses need to be mindful of the customer’s ever-growing power in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Or should we say, evolution?

The experts have spoken:

Photo by Mak on Unsplash

With great data, comes great responsibility.

Stay customer-centric, always.