2016 The Year Digital Entered Adulthood

2016 is going to be an important year.  It’s going to be the last year that the last of the mass media channels draws more dollars than digital media.  With TV likely to be surpassed by digital next year.  It’s the last year the CTO will outspend the CMO on digital technology.  It’s the year mobile continues to surpass desktop usage, and we move from a mobile first to needing to think mobile only in some cases. It’s the year that digital media buying becomes the way you buy traditional media through programmatic auctions. 2016 is the year that digital marketing IS marketing.

Pepsi’s Brad Jakeman said:

Digital marketing is the “most ridiculous term I’ve ever heard…There is no such thing as digital marketing. There is marketing — most of which happens to be digital. We ‘ghettoize’ digital as though it’s the life raft tethered to the big ocean liner. And we have to move on from that.”

What does all this mean when you live in a digital first, digital majority world for marketing?  It means Digital Darwinism will play out much more rapidly now.  Companies and marketers that are traditional in approach, that think of a linear customer funnel.  A funnel that begins with acquire and ends with conversion and loyalty have already lost.  While it’s an easy way to think of your customers flow, the rise of the customer journey replaces the funnel.  It becomes moments of inflection, and fluid movement up and down the funnel, across channels, devices and screens.

Experiences vs. Funnels

The concept of a customer funnel has been around for ages.  A digital world enables you to see the transient behavior of your customers.  They don’t move in a simple straight line forever towards a single goal.  Instead customer funnels can segment and identify customer intent.  Messaging needs to adjust faster and a focus becomes on interpreting intent, instead of driving call to action.

Marketers focused on acquisition, need to think about retention. Marketers focused on loyalty need to think about lead nurturing.  No single marketer owns a buyer, instead marketers need to think about how technology enables the shift of content relevant to that consumers needs. Marketing moves from campaigns to programs and experience tracks. Digital enables the opportunity to capture customers faster, and more targeted than ever before.  Moving from casting wide nets, to programs that are always on and ready pick-up customers at time of need.  Mass media which was wide reaching and focused on funnel, as changed marketers to be more targeted and focused on conversion and task completion.

Loyalty Isn’t a Program

Relationships need to be thought of from anonymous through to known entities.  Active participation in loyalty programs is declining which means points programs need to evolve to become more sophisticate. Loyalty becomes about experience and not rewards. Digital tracking enables marketers to get similar if not richer insights than traditional loyalty programs provided in terms of buying habits and product interests.  35% of Amazon purchases occur due to their recommendation engine.  A result of understanding customer behavior.  You’ll know you have a great loyalty program when customers are willing to pay for it such as Amazon Prime.

Digital Unites the C-Kingdoms

The shift to marketing spending more on technology isn’t a reflection on the value of one C-level over another, instead it speaks to the need for collaboration.  Marketing focuses on the need to become more intimate, more responsive and more relevant for the customer, while the CTO focuses on enabling these needs.  The CIO becomes the the neural synapse the allows the CMO to make decisions faster and smarter.  Digital as a whole becomes a unify factor for the C-suite, creating a deeper need for collaboration and alignment of vision.

Digital Exits Childhood

Growing up can be hard.  There’s no more crutch to lean on. Digital marketing needs to become more responsible, more accountable, and most importantly not lose the drive for innovation.  There’s no more screaming for attention, instead digital needs to lead with strategic purpose, and intent.  All marketers are digital.  Data powers great marketing, relevancy and purpose are the keys to the consumers heart to win loyalty. Competition accelerates and either hardens you or exposes your soft underbelly, as digital enables ways to learn more about your competition, about their customers, and to monitor and adapt to your industry trends, customer behaviors, and seasonality changes.

More so this means elements of digital are becoming truly commoditiezed at the most basic levels, but evolving very quickly in others areas.  SEO and media buying as examples hold little value if they don’t consider the message, the landing page experience, customer’s needs and more. Channels that were used to connect with customers need to be more connected than ever. Now underpinned by great creative, and data profiles that get richer by each customer contact.  Media buying as a whole is a commodity, but re-targeting, data and segmentation breaths new life into a tired channel.

Digital natives become the new norm (Facebook, Google, Uber, Airbnb, Amazon) lead industries, lead change, and at the same time are re-writing our laws, redefining our society, and rethinking how we as people connect, learn, but, and interact.  The biggest trend of 2016 is the exit of the teenage years, and into the adult years.

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