Attending an industry event always leaves you with a wealth of information and knowledge. After taking part in two conferences – Forrester Marketing 2016 and Mcommerce Summit, we were left with a lot to think about.

Thoughts from Industry Leaders

While it’s easy to sink into information overload mode after hearing so many ideas from so many different knowledgeable speakers,  we wanted to share a few key topics and themes consistently came up and made an impact. In this article, We’ll discuss some of the more noteworthy ideas and quotes that were heard during the presentations and give our two cents on some of the digital marketing topics at hand. 

The Digital Marketing Evolution

It’s easy to see that marketing has evolved from its original form starting back in the early 20th century. In the beginning, marketing was simply the process of trying to sell goods and services. Over time, that first marketing act began to evolve into print ads, radio spots, and TV commercials. Each new and innovative step has brought us to where we are today. 

Addressing the Stages of Marketing

According to Carlton Doty, Forrester VP, group director, there have been three stages of marketing history

  1. Pre-digital stage: one-to-many 

The pre-digital era was a time that marketing was always done on a large-scale platform. Think back to a time when cell phones didn’t exist and there was no internet at the touch of a finger -- how did companies market to their customers? Through newspapers, radio, or TV ads. These types of communication had to appeal to a much larger scale of customers. 

  1. Digital stage: one-to-one 

The digital stage is when data really began to come into play. Marketers now had the tools to analyze, segment, and evolve the marketing industry. At this point, it was much easier to market to people on a more one-on-one basis, companies had the data and segmentation to understand what customers want and they could craft their marketing plans around this. 

  1. Post-digital, which is one-to-moment

Post-digital is the marketing world we live in today. Consumers have more access to information, which is changing the way they make decisions and purchase products. People can find out everything they need to know about your company and products simply by typing a question into Google. Now, companies need to build relationships with customers to win them over. 

“Post-digital marketing must be frictionless, anticipatory and immersive. Retailers must be human, helpful and handy and must flex to meet the context of the situation,” said Shar VanBoskirk, Forrester VP, analyst.

This is a great visual of how marketing has evolved. We started with no way of mass communication, moved into the world of newspapers, radio, television, computers, all the way to mobile devices. Each one brought us one step closer to today’s marketing world. Image courtesy of Yotpo.

There’s Tough Competition Among Retailers in the Digital World

As companies and marketers are getting savvier by the day, the competition among retailers continues to get tougher and tougher. You’re tasked with coming up with the next record-breaking campaign year after year. But how do you actually do that?

“Retail marketers must start with a need and then find technology to fill it,” said Justin Toupin, Walmart, director of mobile products and strategies.

When you’re developing a retail marketing campaign, you generally start with this same idea. You want to identify what the pain points or challenges of your customers are. Then, you want to figure out how you can solve this problem for your customers. 

With the advancements in technology, it’s the best option out there to solve the pressing issues of your customer base. Just think of how many apps you’ve downloaded to help save you time or solve a problem you kept running into. 

But the hard part is, you’re not only trying to address and these challenges and concerns of your customers, but you also have to do it on an emotional level

“Technology must address customers’ emotions. It’s all about unique, relevant and integrated customer experiences,”  said Victor Bataya, IKEA global head of mobile solutions

Ever wonder what makes a post go viral (other than the thousands of likes and shares)? In many cases, it’s the emotion behind the post. It makes people laugh, happy, or maybe even mad or sad. It catches their attention and that’s what gets them to reshare it. Image courtesy of Jeff Bullas.

People don’t respond the way they used to when they say a TV commercial that was developed during the pre-digital era of marketing. And the companies that understand how to find the sweet spot of solving customer problems, with the right technology, in the right way are winning the competition by a long run.
“Every retailer is competing with the retailer offering the best mobile experience. Those retailers (like Sephora) set the expectation,” said Perry Kramer, Boston Retail Partners VP and practice lead

This chart is interesting because it shows you just how much people are researching and looking to digital platforms before deciding to make a purchase. If you’re not appealing to your customer base properly on your digital platforms, you might want to rethink your strategy. Image courtesy of Wordstream

The Effects of Mobile Apps 

Mobile apps are a marketing powerhouse on their own. Most companies have jumped on the app bandwagon and now have at least one app to cater to their customer base. Whether the app provides a better shopping experience, allows them to book hotels at the click of a finger, or orders groceries directly to their homes -- there’s an app for that! 

Here are a few thoughts and quotes that were discussed around the idea of mobile apps: 

“An in-store app can be a pain killer, helping customers get around the store and find things, or a vitamin, providing more information about products,” said Justin Toupin, Walmart director of mobile products and strategies

This takes us back to the idea that we just discussed, solving customer challenges. If you can help your customers easily and quickly locate the products they are looking for in your store, they are likely to continue to use your app. Just make sure it’s a good user experience once they are in the app. 

“Are you using your own app on a regular basis? If not, rethink it. Check reviews. Read them all and feed them back to your development team,” said Jonathan Pelosi, Google head of industry and mobile apps.

There are apps for every industry and basically anything you could ever need. This graph gives you an idea of some of the most popular types of apps -- you likely have a few of these downloaded on your own devices. Image courtesy of Wired

Another interesting point brought up around the idea of using apps. If you have an app, are you using it to understand how you can better it for your customers? Or to help identify any bugs that may be happening? The customer experience within the app makes or breaks the app’s success. You’ll want to continuously revisit and update the app as needed. 

A few other touchpoints that were interesting takeaways from this discussion.

  • Consumers on mobile phones want things immediately and in context - to get in, get something done and get out.
  • Mobile users want to be able to complete a task (like booking a flight) while stopped at a red light.
  • Apps must perform technically, be a destination (the only place to go for something) and have mechanics for repeat and continuous engagement.
  • Marketers have to think about how to engage with customers where they are and not make customers do work.

And one last idea that can stand on its own: “An app is not a strategy,” said Julie Ask, Forrester VP, principal analyst.

But in a Digital World, We Still Can’t Forget Humanity

Amongst all of this digital talk, another common continued to rise up. We can’t only rely on digital platforms and data. People are still people and we have to keep that in mind when marketing to them. Just because we have immense amounts of data doesn’t mean we can forget the people behind it -- marketers have chosen patterns over people.

As Mickey Mericle, Adobe VP of marketing insights, analytics and operations said, “People are more than clicks and impressions.”

Metrics and KPIs tell you how you’re doing, but not what’s coming. And sometimes, the data doesn’t tell the whole story. Organizations need to understand why and data alone cannot tell why - or why not. We need to remember that human nature plays a big role in what people want and expect from companies. We’re not marketing to the devices we are reaching people on. 

Curiosity is an algorithm that says “explore this”. Intuition is an algorithm that says ‘decide this,’” Joshua Reynolds, Qunatafind dead of marketing and client consulting

Human curiosity and intuition are the most important algorithms in marketing today. We can’t always simply rely on algorithms to tell us what the human brain wants and thinks. As good as our algorithms are becoming, they still cannot process, feel, or think as humans can. And buzz and sentiment don’t always translate to revenue as an algorithm may think.

Although related specifically to storytelling and content marketing, it shows that we do really need to connect with people on a human level. People want to hear and read things that feel like a story and relate to their everyday lives -- not something an algorithm drafted up. Image courtesy of Express Writers

To close out this discussion, we’ll leave you with a few quotes and ideas that really stood out and got us thinking about keeping humanity in our marketing strategy.

“Never forget that at the other end of the pixel is a real human being,” said Phil Bienert, GoDaddy CMO and EVP of digital commerce

“Marketers must use both big data and small data – quantitative and qualitative – and both find insight and spark insight,” said Srividya Sridharan, Forrester VP, research director

We hope you enjoyed these topics and ideas as much as we did! Let’s keep the conversion around the idea of digital evolution and keeping humanity alive in marketing. How have you utilized these ideas in your own marketing practices? Share your thoughts in the comments!