The State of Digital Marketing


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Article ImageAsk 10 consumers to define "digital marketing" today, and you'll likely get 10 different answers. Some consumers may reference irritating browser pop-ups and spam, while others will cite YouTube tutorials and email newsletters. No matter what form it takes, digital marketing is only going to increase--especially in a world where ad-supported free apps and content are more popular than ever.

For George Schildge with Matrix Marketing Group, digital marketing in 2014 and beyond means creating a more connected customer experience via marketing that makes use of every electronic device imaginable to engage stakeholders. "In the past, digital marketing was disconnected. We had sales force automation and email platforms, but the systems weren't connected. Today, we are beginning to see a full-blown marketing backbone where marketers have greater visibility over consumer habits," says Schildge.

Consider that marketing leaders will, by 2019, spend more than $103 billion on search marketing, display advertising, social media marketing, and email marketing-exceeding their spend on cable and broadcast television advertising combined-according to Forrester Research. Additionally, a greater majority of industry professionals are taking digital marketing more seriously. Results of a new survey by Demand Metric found that 91% of marketers indicated that digital marketing was "important" or "very important."

Major players in this space continue to be giants such as Adobe, IBM, Oracle, and Salesforce-which are spending billions to purchase marketing technology companies to round out their portfolios-as well as top automation vendors and platforms such as Moz, AdRoll, and Google Display Network.

Schildge says agencies are also prime movers in this arena, with a new breed of agency emerging: one that is tech-savvy, offers integrated services, and boasts cross-functional talent. However, with improved capabilities and opportunities also come significant hurdles to clear. These are the top challenges faced by digital marketers today, per the aforementioned Demand Metric study:

  • Lack of staff, technology, or other resources (42%)
  • Ability to better track and measure results (39%)
  • Ability to precisely target prospects (37%)
  • Developing effective content or creative for digital campaigns (35%)
  • Conversion rates (32%)

THE YEAR IN REVIEW

"One of the major realizations that took hold in 2014 is the importance of the customer experience. Companies are realizing they can create a competitive advantage by making the customer journey an amazing one," says Jerry Rackley, chief analyst with Demand Metric.

Amit Avner, founder and CEO of Taykey, insists that the most eye-opening development during the past year was an increased focus on real-time personalized marketing that instantly targets advertising to audiences via automated technologies.

Several people mention Google discontinuing its authorship feature in search results as a top story in 2014. "Web developers can creatively use title tags, meta descriptions, and rich-text snippets to counter for the loss of Google authorship, but what this development illustrates is the need to constantly monitor SEO developments going forward," says Simon Slade, CEO and co-founder of Affilorama.

In 2014, a more robust cloud gave businesses greater access to affordable hosted solutions for project, customer relationship, lead management, sales accounting, data storage, analytics, content management systems, and social networks. Another trend noticed by experts recently is "content fatigue," which is caused by excessive content that all starts to look the same to customers. "A solution that is emerging to address this is interactive content-apps, quizzes, assessments, calculators, and other forms of content that engage the audience," says Rackley.

Marketers struggled to keep up with rapid and constant change in 2014, according to Clint Poole, VP of marketing for Lionbridge. "This state of constant evolution has become the new reality for marketers, especially when it comes to developing and managing customer relationships across a variety of digital channels," says Poole. "From social media to content marketing to automation, marketers continue to add more tools to their repertoire to stay ahead of the curve with these evolving trends. But effectively leveraging these innovations with older, proven techniques is a complicated balancing act.

A LOOK AHEAD

Solutions that help marketers better target their ideal customer will see greater adoption in 2015, many agree. "These include predictive marketing analytics, advanced attribution, personalization, and sophisticated advocacy/loyalty solutions, which will be highly integrated with marketing automation platforms and social media," Rackley says.

Nina Hale (founder and CEO of Nina Hale, Inc.) says we can expect more programmatic and multiscreen marketing tools and strategies going forward. "Programmatic advertising-using software to purchase digital advertising-is now outpacing traditional media buys. And multiscreen marketing-showing a series of ads to the same person as they switch devices throughout the day-is a growing trend," says Hale, who adds that mobile payments and "tweet-to-buy"-type social purchasing capabilities will also proliferate in the coming months.

The continued advancements of social networks as advertising platforms will further advance the industry in the near and long-term future, says Jason Parks, founder and owner of The Media Captain. He adds, "Social networking sites are really starting to generate a nice return on investment for our clients, with great features like Facebook's lookalike audiences."

Lastly, Ash Nashed (founder and CEO of Adiant) and others point to the promise and increasing popularity of content marketing and native advertising as bellwethers of continued digital marketing growth and vibrancy in 2015. "There has been an increased focus on developing, producing, and distributing content and native ads as a means to reach consumers," says Nashed, who cites Netflix's Orange is the New Black sponsored post in The New York Times as a good example. "2015 will be the year of native marketing on mobile, in particular."