Measurement, Personalization, and Why the Future of Digital Marketing Isn’t Obvious

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As marketers and brands evolve with increasingly sophisticated technology, everyone wants answers to the same question:

What will digital marketing of the future be like?

In contrast to many blog posts, I won’t pretend to give any definitive answers because I don’t think they are available yet. But there are some hints about which through-lines will matter over the next few years. Those marketers that understand them will continue to be both strategically and tactically successful, while the rest will move from trend to trend to try and stay afloat.

Courtesy of Evolve! Marketing (as we know it) is Doomed by ARCOMPANY CEO & Founder Hessie Jones, here are a few things to look for as you grow your marketing and brand.

Personalization is in the eye of the end user

One of the ironies of digital marketing is that the ability to build up and break down (aggregate/segment) massive amounts of behavioral data frequently incentivizes marketers and brands to try to speak for the consumer when the consumer should speak for themselves.

Right now we’re in the middle of an odd shift – the open web is great for mass communication, but it’s not that good at connecting directly with an individual. This is part of why apps are becoming so popular, but they, too, don’t completely serve the needs of the end user.

Ultimately, push and pull are two separate modes. And while the ability to push content and notifications directly to end users is powerful, what will mean the most to consumers over time is the ability to craft their own experience, whether that’s with a brand, a brand’s web presence or products/services, or a platform or constellation of apps like Facebook or the Apple marketplace.

In other words, personalization will have to be driven by the person. It sounds obvious, but if you take a moment to think about what’s available now, it’s not meeting the needs of the individual. Mass communication matters, but building the concept of community and personal experience into technology is what will rule the future.

Measurement is far from an exact science, and Big Tech has only scratched the surface

How much of what Google, Facebook, and Apple do actually captures our attention? And once they have it what happens then?

One of the things that’s constantly implied is that we can know who people are and understand them by what they look at and what they click. But what we see is only a part of the story. For each action there is a reason or multiple reasons, and ultimately deciding what actions are important over time will have to be done by the brand.

Technology platforms have hopped in 100% with traditional advertising metrics like CPC or CPM, but these are not one size fits all. The smart marketer / brand will survey their own ecosystem and decide what matters (and it may not be a .003 click thru rate).

In this rapidly evolving environment, the successful marketer will be the one that understands quantitative and qualitative research, and can quickly frame which growth has the most impact in their own ecosystem. The attention economy, as Seth Godin points out, is one that demands permission and trust between you and your audiences and customers.

Marketers that keep evolving and leveraging owned properties will win

This one is obvious, but it matters. As marketers give up more and more of what they do and how they measure it to tech platforms, they have less control over how they communicate with their audiences.

It’s problematic when Facebook ratchets down organic reach so that you have to pay for anyone that’s already in your audience to see content (if you’re under 10k followers this is especially pronounced).

But end users / consumers don’t necessarily want to communicate with brands via 3rd parties, either. Recent studies from Pew and Principal Financial Group suggest Millennials actually use and like using email to get offers and connect to brands. Owned property (especially email) is one thing that smart marketers will continue to keep in their strategy and tactical approach.

Here are a few more quotes from contributors to Evolve! that highlight what the best marketers already know, and what you can do to join them

“We call AVEs, media impressions and social media increases the vanity metrics. It sure does feel good to see those kinds of numbers, but they don’t mean anything for your organization.” – Gini Dietrich

“We need to ask better questions when measuring marketing. What was the ROI of [insert activity here] in social media for Q3 2011? What was the ROI of shifting 20% of our customer service resources from a traditional call center to Twitter last year?” – Olivier Blanchard

“Communities have existed well before “online.” So many people think social media changed the game, and it has changed the speed at which we communicate and with whom we can connect. It has not changed the core concept of what has made communities work for ages: relationships.” – Tim MacDonald

“Give them what they want, when they want it, and make it quick, painless and super easy for them to take the action you want them to take.” – Shelly Kramer

“Keep in mind that marketing is a numbers game, but it is also about the wealth of human emotions. Making your company accessible via social media opens up your ability to listen to your customers’ needs and receive qualitative feedback on how you are doing.” – Susan Silver

“This is why marketing is hard. This is why most marketing is highly ineffective. 99.9% or more of banner ads are ignored. And yet Marketers continue to increase the budgets for online digital display. This approach is not sustainable. So it all comes back to storytelling. Brands will learn to partner with agencies and publishers. And they will work together to refine their narratives.” – Michael Brenner

“The most interesting thing about SEO is not the way in which SEO has changed, but rather, the way it has remained the same. The core of SEO has stayed largely unchanged since its inception. Even more importantly, it is likely to never change. Ever.” – Sean McGinnis

“That’s the direction all this data is moving in – a more personalized experience online and in real life. If you have the Walgreen’s app on your phone, it knows when you have walked into one of its stores and can serve you up real-time specials. Though I don’t believe it’s yet incorporated into your spending patterns, I can see it eventually being synced with your purchases on your loyalty card and maybe even your prescriptions.” – Amy Vernon

“People now expect retail to be all about them – their individual needs, preferences, purchase behaviors, and lifestyles. No longer settling for being anonymous customers, people want customized products, personal service, and individualized offers. Personalized product recommendations and individually addressed communications are the norm. Retailers must go beyond these basics to truly meet people’s desire for the personal touch.” – Denise Lee Yohn

“Follow-through on the promises you make, and only send information that is insightful and helpful. Sometimes you can even send something educational, without trying to sell anything at all! Businesses shouldn’t wait until the government steps in to resolve the privacy debate. Marketers need to learn to use private data responsibly, or the consuming public will make sure they can’t use it at all.” – Jure Klepic

“Brands are built by having good products. They are built when brands go above and beyond when solving customer problems. They are built by passionate customers who share an emotional connection and then tell others about their experiences.” – Michael Brito

“Moving forward, understanding the life cycle of a consumer and what factors affect those decisions, from brand awareness to the act of purchasing, will become the baseline for effective influence marketing and how it’s measured.” – Sam Fiorella

ARCOMPANY works with C-suite leaders across the United States and Canada to align brand reputation and insights gathering. If you’d like to learn more about working with us, say hi.

Joe is a product/ops guy working with the ArCompany team on content, growth, and analytics. He digs media, design, startups, data, rocanroll, anything science-y, and thinking about how to become a better human.

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