Digital marketing has become one of the most important tools for gaining competitive advantages in virtually all industries. Digital marketing has benefited from rapid technological advancements that led to new ways of communication and accessing data or information. New digital marketing platforms such as the social media are increasingly being used by companies to reach their target customers. This paper sheds light on how technological and social changes will influence digital marketing in the next five years. The implications for marketers, the social media, brand loyalty, and marketing mix will also be discussed.
Advancements in information and communication technologies will have a significant influence on digital marketing in the next five years. New technologies, coupled with intense competition in the computer and telecommunication industries will continue to put a downward pressure on the prices of smartphones, tablets, and the cost of accessing the internet (Stone & Woodcock, 2014). Moreover, research and development initiatives will lead to innovations that will improve the use of mobile phones, tablets, and other handheld communication devices in terms of data storage capacity, ability to access the internet, and use of web-based application software. These trends will increase access to and use of various handheld communication devices, thereby enabling digital marketing to reach more people in the next five years.
Increased acceptance and use of the social media by customers and businesses will improve the use of content marketing in the next five years (Hariss & Rae, 2009). The social media will be an effective platform through which companies will create and share their brand stories to attract customers. Undoubtedly, increased use of the social media and advanced communication devices such as smartphones will increase the amount of data that marketers will have to analyze (Stone & Woodcock, 2014). Thus, big data analytics and could-computing will become commonplace in evaluating the effectiveness of digital marketing.
There is a rapid shift in tastes and preferences from basic to high-end telecommunication devices that combine the features of a computer and a phone. For instance, the “sales of smartphones overtook that of regular mobile phones in China, the US, and most markets in Europe in 2013” (Stone & Woodcock, 2014). Generally, people prefer to use smartphones because they enhance the lifestyles of their users. The rapid penetration of smartphones is expected to increase in the next five years in emerging markets in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Thus, expenditure on mobile phone marketing will increase in the next five years. This will enable companies to convey personalized messages that target specific customers rather than the mass market (Okazaki & Taylor, 2013).
As the online community continues to grow, customers will “drive all marketing activities” (Schultz & Peltier, 2013, pp. 86-99). Digital marketing will be engaging rather than being interruptive. Customers will influence digital marketing by using platforms such as the social media to describe their tastes and preferences to marketers. On the other hand, marketers will have to link customers’ needs to their product offerings and provide personalized feedback to customers in order to turn sales leads into actual sales.
Increased interactions among customers through the internet and the social media will change the objective of digital marketing in future. The objective of digital marketing will shift from attracting attention to holding attention. This perspective is based on the fact that online marketers can retain their followers only if they are able to use engaging content (Kazmi, 2007). Thus, captivating advert slogans are likely to give way to content that stimulates valuable exchanges between the marketer and potential customers in future.
Implications of Digital Marketing
First, digital marketing will be more “accurate, measurable, and performance-based in future” (Stone & Woodcock, 2014, pp. 4-17). Increased use of emerging marketing communications channels such as video and mobile phones will have to be evaluated in terms of effectiveness and cost-efficiency. This will force marketers to use big data analytics that employ Bayesian approaches to data analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of digital marketing. Marketers will have to shift from hunches to simulations in order to gain meaningful insights into market needs and marketing data. Information overload is likely to be a challenge to marketers who will not be able to utilize advanced analytical tools.
Second, the relationship between the chief information officer and the chief marketing officer will change. The two functions will no longer work in isolation as digital marketing becomes data driven in future. Most companies are likely to blend the two functions to improve the effectiveness of their marketing strategies (Schultz & Peltier, 2013). This means that marketers will be required to have advanced skills and knowledge in information and communication technologies in future. Moreover, most companies are likely to introduce the chief digital officer function in their organizational structures to provide technical support to marketers.
Third, marketers will have to shift from local to global strategies. New digital marketing channels such as the internet provide instant access to the global market. This means that the messages presented through the internet should be suitable for the global audience rather than just the local market (Okazaki & Taylor, 2013). New IT solutions will increase the integration of markets globally in the next five years.
Consequently, customers will be interested in consistent and simplified marketing messages, which they can access in any part of the world. Finally, marketers are likely to focus on using omni-channel engagements to improve their customers’ shopping experience. This will involve adopting digital marketing solutions that enable customers to shift seamlessly between online and physical store environments (Hisrich, 2000). In addition, it will be important to use digital technologies that create the in-store experience in the online shopping environment to improve sales.
Advertising will continue to grow rapidly in the next five years (Stone & Woodcock, 2014). However, there will be a significant change in the media that will be used for advertising. The internet, the social media, and mobile phones are expected to be the main advertising platforms in the next five years. The use of these platforms will increase because they are cheap and provide opportunities for conveying personalized messages to customers (Hariss & Rae, 2009). However, the TV and radio will also continue to play an integral role in advertising due to their ability to reach the mass market. The main objective of advertising will be to enhance engagement rather than to describe product features or benefits. As the expectations of clients increase, marketers will have to engage potential customers in conversations through digital platforms to clarify or provide more information about their adverts.
The Social Media
The use of the social media in marketing is likely to increase in the next five years as the penetration of smartphones and tablets increase. Apart from advertising, the social media will be used for provision of customer service, selling, and conducting marketing research (Hariss & Rae, 2009). The social media is likely to replace online surveys that are used to collect data during marketing research. This perspective is based on the fact that the social media provide access to a large pool of respondents who can respond immediately. Moreover, it provides opportunities for clarification and verification of data. Companies that lack the resources to build their own online stores are likely to sell their products directly to customers via the social media. This will involve linking the social media to sales websites to attract customers. Moreover, companies are likely to take advantage of the interactions that are facilitated by the social media to provide customer service at a low cost.
Digital marketing is likely to have both positive and negative effects on brand loyalty in future. Native advertising will be one of the most important tools for building trust and relationships with existing and potential customers. Apart from the messages conveyed by marketers, customers will increasingly rely on their peers’ suggestions or opinions when selecting their preferred brands (Schultz & Peltier, 2013). Thus, online communities will play a significant role in building brand loyalty. In this regard, only companies that are able to keep their brand promises will maintain high brand loyalty by receiving favorable product reviews from the online community.
Digital marketing will also increase customers’ ability to access several brands at the same time. This will enable customers to compare and contrast various brands in terms of quality, price, and benefits. This will negatively affect brand loyalty as customers try new products rather than being loyal to one brand.
The traditional marketing mix that focuses on the 4Ps will be based on an externally oriented paradigm that explicitly emphasizes the significance of maintaining strong relationships with customers. Increased application of digital marketing will lead to adoption of a new marketing mix that focuses on the 3Cs (Dominici, 2009). The 3Cs include content, community, and commerce. Content refers to the website or digital platform and the messages its uses to market a product. Community refers to the ability of digital marketing platforms to facilitate interactions and relationships among customers and marketers. Commerce refers to the 4Ps of the traditional marketing mix, which include price, product, place, and promotion (Dominici, 2009). The 3Cs model means that customers will be highly involved in the formulation and implementation of the marketing mix strategy. Specifically, real time feedback from customers will be used to update marketing mix strategies to improve competitiveness in future.
Digital marketing will be a vital tool for creating a competitive edge in future. Advancements in information and communication technologies will promote the use of digital marketing. In addition, the expected increase in smartphone penetration and use of the internet will increase the number of people who will be reached through digital marketing. Marketers will require advanced IT skills in order to succeed in digital marketing. Moreover, marketers are likely to adopt the 3Cs marketing mix that promotes the use digital marketing.
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