The History and Evolution of Digital Marketing: A Guide
We’re taking you back thirty years to the 1990’s when digital marketing was first introduced, changing the way many businesses operate and strategize today. Digital marketing rapidly evolved with the rise of the internet, social media, and smartphone technology. According to the Digital Marketing Institute, “Digital marketing is the use of digital channels to promote or market products and services to targeted consumers and businesses.”
While traditional marketing isn’t dead, digital marketing has certainly surpassed it – by a long shot. According to a study by Salesforce, it’s projected that marketers will spend 75% of their total marketing budget on digital marketing instead of traditional marketing by this year.
Traditional Marketing vs. Digital Marketing
Three decades ago, businesses relied on traditional marketing, such as newspapers, TV, radio, direct mail, phone calls, billboards, brochures, and other print materials for all their marketing efforts. In fact, traditional marketing is still the best way to reach an older, mature demographic.
Depending on your demographic, you may find that a well-thought-out traditional marketing campaign actually performs better than a digital marketing campaign ever could. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t participate in digital marketing efforts at all. As of 2020, Gen Z is officially the largest generation of consumers. Not only that, but they are the only generation who doesn’t know life without the internet. Eventually, this generation will be your target audience. Begin nurturing them through digital marketing efforts so when they’re ready to use your services, they’ll know where to turn.
Let’s dive into the evolution of digital marketing!
The 5 Key Turning Points of Digital Marketing
The World Wide Web
In 1991, the World Wide Web was born and search engines would soon come into play. Over the years, more and more people began using the web to complete searches.
When the number of web users increased from 16 million to 70 in only a couple years, the digital landscape evolved. We welcomed Yahoo! In 1994 and Google in 1997. According to HubSpot, there are about 5.6 billion searches per day on Google.
The Benefits of Using The World Wide Web For Businesses:
- Communicate and network with customers from anywhere
- Ability to recruit employees online
- Branding of businesses and online marketing is facilitated by the WWW
- Create an interactive website
- Allow customers to purchase products and services online
- Helps to establish a presence for your brand
- High rankings on search engine results through successful SEO efforts
What started out as an online tool to stay connected to friends and family, has now become a platform that many businesses rely on for marketing and brand awareness. Now, businesses use social media to:
- Increase brand awareness
- Generated leads and increase conversions
- Develop and nurture relationships with customers
- Learn from and watch their competitors
- Engage with customers
- Be more cost-effective
- Enhance SEO efforts
Not only has technology advanced for social media, but so have the expectations of the people using it. These days, consumers want instant gratification. They want to send you a message and get a response within the hour. They want to purchase your product online and receive it the very next day. Businesses across the world take advantage of what social media had to offer – simpler ways to interact with customers and new ways for customers to buy their services.
According to Smart Insights, over 4 billion people use the internet and over 5.14 billion have a mobile phone. In 2007, when Apple released the first iPhone, the smartphone era had officially begun. This was a huge turning point for digital marketing. It not only allowed marketers to reach consumers more accurately, but it allowed them to reach them directly and for longer periods of time than ever before. In a sense, smartphones greatly changed the game for marketers across the world.
With the rise of smartphone usage, also came the rise of social media activity. Because this information is available at your fingertips and social media can be accessed on-the-go, more and more people find themselves using their mobile phone to not only search the web, but also access their social media accounts.
Smartphones allow consumers to access pertinent information and answers to their most pressing questions on-the-go.
Many of the advantages of smartphones for digital marketing includes:
- Easy access to the internet
- Ability to reach people anytime, at any place
- Ad personalization and targeted ads are made possible
- Instant transactions and communication
- Cost-effective advertising efforts
Targeted campaigns have evolved into something that not only benefits the business, but also benefits the consumer. Personalized and targeted ads help businesses minimize wasted advertising because it allows you to use detailed information about people and their intentions with your brand. Truth be told, targeted campaigns would not be possible without the evolution of digital marketing. Back before we had the advanced technology we have today, tracking ads and campaigns and making sure they reached the right people at the right time was nearly impossible to do.
Nowadays, companies can create targeted marketing campaigns that are only shown to those most likely to want what they’re offering. This can be achieved by using things such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools that provided data on people’s individual needs, characteristics, interests, and behaviors. This is a sure-fire way to make sure you’re maximizing your ROI and only reaching the people you want.
Let’s be honest – ads can get annoying, especially when they’re about products and services you would never consider using. And that, my friends, is why targeted campaigns has changed the game here.
- Consumers feel tailored to because of the personalization efforts
- They can relate to the content, making them more likely to interact with it
- It doesn’t feel like such a hard sell
- Allows businesses to communicate and connect with their audiences
Interactive content is another key turning point in the evolution of digital marketing. A major goal for businesses is to increase engagement with customers and focus on fostering a sense of community and brand loyalty. When it comes to interactive content, people love brands that focus more on interactive content, such as:
- Contests and Giveaways
- Polls and Questions
Last but not least, voice search is not only a key turning point in the evolution of digital marketing, but it is expected to completely change the digital marketing landscape as we know it. Voice search changes the way people search for information online. Not only is it a convenience to many people, but it is particularly easier to navigate in general. According to PwC, 65% of those aged 25-49 years old speak into their voice-enabled devices at least once a day.
But how will this impact you as a marketer? Well, because voice searches are much more conversational and natural than typing into a search bar, it will prioritize the semantics of search queries. Therefore, this forces marketers to have to look at not only the keywords they’re using, but their marketing strategy as a whole. Here are some things to consider as you adapt to voice search in your digital marketing efforts:
- Your content should be more conversational
- Avoid keyword stuffing, but try long-tail keywords
- Include interrogatory statements and words in your content
- Use the right meta schemas and markups for added visibility to your site
- Regularly update your listing on Google
- Optimize your website to make it mobile-friendly
Even though digital marketing has evolved a lot in the last 30 years, it’s not done. Digital marketing is constantly changing and evolving, opening up new opportunities – and challenges – for businesses every day. Technology will continue to introduce new tools and channels. In order to make sure you’re evolving right along with digital marketing and keeping up with the trends, you’ll want to consider focusing more on your marketing strategy.