Digital Marketing: A Revisit

The global internet revolution has indeed accelerated the adoption of digital-first technologies in all age groups, writes Niranjan Gidwani

The average consumer has matured a lot.

If we do not agree with this comment, let each of us look at ourselves as consumers. We seek meaningful interactions and experiences with brands and businesses, we all wish to seek personalised experiences, quicker responses, and resolutions to issues. Digital experiences define our everyday lives. Reaching any modern-day consumer can no more be about just having an email address or a phone number.

Yet, businesses and brands which have gone digital feel that emails, push notifications and SMS marketing are the be-all and end-all of reaching customers. Is it any wonder that they all keep complaining about low marketing returns on investment (ROI), low engagement rates, and limited customer insights. And then, to compound issues further, they increase the frequency of the same. The net result being that email inboxes and SMS messages are flooding our devices, tending to further frustrate relations with consumers.

No doubt, the task is not easy. How do brands and businesses solve problems related to costs and marketing spends such that greater visibility is possible in customer campaigns? How do they curb overspending on ineffective channels and double down on what’s working to unlock growth? How can businesses optimise their limited marketing budgets while focusing on a higher level of personalisation?

We all have access to effective tools such as Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and other social channels.

As a starting point, strategic teams should spend more time to do a deeper study of the past purchase behaviour of a customer and identify pain areas where conversion is failing or where the engagement rates are low. There is an extremely misguided notion that personalisation means including the first name in a standardised message. What actually lies at the heart of personalisation is creating sub-segments of well-defined customer groups and building unique messaging journeys for each of these sub-segments. Creating such sub-segments may require some amount of effort and trial and error to get it right.

Segmentation also helps in the process of narrowing down which channels work for certain products or services or customers. For example, data and collective team experience may indicate that a certain category or community of customers is more reluctant to open up and read emails. Another segment of customers may have reached what could be termed as app-download fatigue.

So, whether it is the app, the website, social media channels, WhatsApp, SMS, or email, understanding which channels work best is critical for optimising budgets.

As mentioned earlier in the article, let decision-makers and marketers also wear the hat of being customers. Can sending repeat push notifications to a large database be considered as personalisation? Aren’t we all feeling the fatigue of being bombarded by too much?

The starting point would be to get more consumers to interact with the brand or business app or website. Then to study ways to intervene at the right time to optimise their journey. Using this as a way to tailor messaging at various points in the shopping journey would probably be far more effective than the relatively broader messaging in advertisements and push notifications.

A word of caution. Not many of us like to be pushed to buy something. Push marketing can create good brand awareness amongst the company’s target audience. But if consumers are nudged into making buying decisions which they feel are their own, that is a whole different way which would require pull marketing. Pull marketing always drives better conversions.

The global internet revolution has indeed accelerated the adoption of digital-first technologies in all age groups. As decision-makers and marketers, we would need to study whether the younger generation prefers low-touch marketing and whether older audiences find greater value in more hands-on experiences. Whether post-covid going out is shifting consumers back to brick-and-mortar experiences? What are the products and services that are being browsed, purchased, and delivered via online? And which are the ones just being browsed?

Each segment can be customised according to the individual. It is critical for marketers to address their mobile and digital-first strategies to each segment accordingly.

One new area which is beginning to gain attention and great interest is conversational commerce. In a short duration of time, one will get to see more brands and businesses running Click-To-WhatsApp Ads on Facebook, which in turn could drive traffic directly to the WhatsApp account of a business and encourage conversational commerce interactions. Conversational AI and large language models are going to further change the game as interaction in several languages and dialects opens up.

Another area waiting to make it big is Generative AI. It will surely help decision-makers and marketers solve their challenges while running their day-to-day campaigns in a more personalised manner. It will also help in optimising digital campaigns by understanding and converting large amounts of data into practical and actionable strategies.

At the end of the day, two things need to be internalised well. A) Holistic marketing fundamentals will always remain the same — keep customers at the center of our campaigns and deliver a seamless and consistent experience, and B) A lot of data is being generated. It requires that decision-makers spend time studying, analysing all of this for better implementation.

It’s part B which could become the area of weakness.

(Niranjan Gidwani is a Consultant Director, Member of UAE Superbrands Council, HBR Advisory Council & Charter Member Tie Dubai)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.