Thursday, January 27, 2011

Which way is the digital future headed?

Britons now spend 45% of their waking hours watching television or using mobile phones, computers and other communications technology, according to new figures from Ofcom. Meanwhile a survey of the 'Changing face of e-mail' by Marketing Week revealed the continuing popularity of e-mail as a marketing tool with over half planning to spend more on e-mail marketing this year. Emerging from these insights is the recognition of the advance in capabilities and use of new devices such as iPhones and the rise in popularity of new platforms such as Facebook. And then deciding whether these offer new marketing opportunities or threats.

As digital evolves so does user behaviour and user interest in receiving and consuming marketing communications. For example is visually interesting e-mail that works on a computer the right format for a smart phone? Or will some form of e-mailing perform better than text messages as more people view the Internet 'on the go'? The fact is the survey confirmed the continuing importance of e-mailing to marketing campaigns. Integration is now a growing issue. One perceived challenge is moving customers and prospects from an e-mail database to social media platforms. Perhaps the more pertinent question is whether this is even desirable.

Not so long ago marketing messages to a target audience were through a publisher that acted as an intermediary between suppliers and buyers. The publisher offered a product - in the b-2-b world - typically a trade journal with editorial interest that attracted a certain readership profile of interest to the supplier. Most commonly the business model evolved to a free, verified circulation so that publishers held the database, not the suppliers. Not surprising then that marketers having collated their own customer and prospect e-mail subscriber lists want to carry on using them. Not only is it cheap to send an e-mail campaign, but it bypasses the intermediary and the still relatively expensive cost of display advertising. The question might be are the Facebook and Twitter consumers the same people that have proved receptive to e-mail hence the interest in migrating them to social media platforms. Or are they a different group. Indeed are they even prospects for a b-2-b company?

Of course display advertising and publishers are also under fire from online advertising, particularly AdWords and on Facebook which is driven by user behaviours and profiles where the new media owners control a different set of end user data. So going that way may be passing the interface with prospects from an old media broker to a digital media broker. It makes sense to continue to build and own contact data for company to buyer communication, but in a form and on a platform the buyer prefers, users and trusts.

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