For businesses, having a digital footprint has become more of a necessity than a matter of choice. Not having a digital marketing strategy is a cardinal sin and can result in missed opportunities. Businesses from different industries understand the impact that an effective digital marketing strategy can have and spend a substantial amount of money and man-hours to design and tweak their strategy every year. But how did it all start? What’s the current state of digital marketing, and where is it heading? We, in this post, attempt to answer these questions.
How it all began
The first television advertisement popped up in the year 1949. In the 50s, every product, from cigarettes to washing machines, was given a face. Advertisements strengthened the connection between brands and customers and helped businesses improve their marketing outreach.
The term digital marketing was coined in the 1980s. There were many innovations from the early 1980s to the late 1990s. In 1981, IBM launched the first affordable and personalized computer.
The 1980s also saw a shift in the way buyers thought and took buying decisions. Businesses were forced to come up with ways to promote their products indirectly. It was during this period that the term Big Data was coined.
As economies opened up, many businesses entered the market. The development shifted the balance of power from businesses to consumers. Businesses can no longer afford to ignore their customers and felt the need to reinvent their marketing strategy.
By the late 1980s, businesses started realizing that they can no longer push their products. Brands now started focusing on creating awareness about their products/services. During this period, businesses also started realizing the importance of creating a better experience for their customers.
To better serve their customers, many businesses tweaked their product-oriented marketing strategy to reinvent it as a customer-centric strategy.
The internet goes mainstream
During the mid-1990s, the popularity of the internet rose to unprecedented levels. 1994 was an important year in the history of digital marketing. It was in this year that Yang and Filo launched Yahoo.
Soon Google followed suit and launched its first-ever search engine. The period also saw the growth of several e-commerce platforms, including Amazon and eBay. These businesses cashed-in-on the opportunity to cater to a global audience and soon became a force to be reckoned with in e-commerce.
The launch of Internet 2.0 was followed by the introduction of new concepts such as Search Engine Marketing and cataloging of websites and data. These developments did not just make it easier for marketers to track their website’s performance, but also made it possible for people to click on, view, and share links. The rebranded version of the ‘www’ helped transform the Internet into clickable ad formats.
Soon the whole world became one large marketplace.
Google gets smarter
Google was launched in 1998. In 2000, it introduced AdWords, which was followed by the launch of content targeting services in 2003. In 2004, search engines started employing algorithms. These developments had a major impact on the way businesses used to communicate and sell.
Just having a digital footprint was not enough anymore. To outsmart the competition, businesses had to think out of the box and come up with strategies based on search patterns.
The rise of social media
The launch of Facebook in 2004 marked the beginning of a new era of digital marketing. The years 2006 and 2010 saw the birth of Twitter and Instagram, respectively. These social media platforms were initially used by people as a means to connect with friends and family. With an increase in the number of users, businesses came up with the idea of using these platforms to promote their products and services.
Soon businesses around the world started focusing on building a social media presence. It was during this period that the term online reputation management was coined. Thanks to the rising impact of social media, businesses can now serve their existing customers and get new ones located in any part of the world.
SEO grows up
As Google’s algorithm got smarter, digital marketers realized that they could no longer get away with stuffing their content with keywords. To improve user experience, Google started penalizing websites that failed to comply with its guidelines. As Google’s algorithm evolved, there was a shift in the attitude of businesses. Digital marketers started realizing that they can no longer treat content as a cog in the wheel of their digital marketing. Instead, the content was the backbone of their strategy.
The rise of mobile technology
The first smartphone was introduced by Blackberry in 2003. The device supported email, text messaging, and web browsing. It was not until 2007 that smartphones went mainstream. As technology improved, mobile devices became more affordable. Soon, smartphone penetration reached unprecedented levels.
These internet-enabled lightweight devices opened doors to new opportunities for their users. People started using their smartphones more than their desktops and laptops to browse the internet. Today, around 64 percent of the global mobile phone population uses smartphones to access the internet.
With a rise in the number of people using their smartphones, businesses felt the need for coming up with strategies to optimize their websites for mobile devices. Today, developers take various steps, such as breaking up text bricks with images, to optimize their websites.
The current state of digital marketing
The need to stand out from the crowd is more than ever before. To make their target audience fall in love with their brand and improve their customer experience, businesses focus on customizing their content. Digital marketers use big data to get insights into user behavior. To influence their target audience (especially millennials), many businesses have come up with user-generated campaigns.
The future of digital marketing
The future belongs to Artificial Intelligence. In the not so distant future, the popularity of voice optimization will increase. With an improvement in technology, businesses will come up with novel ways to use big data and video content to better personalize their content. Improvement in AI technology will open doors to new opportunities to automate influencer marketing systems.