With the rapid rise of social media and mobility over the past five years, together with the increasing growth of new digital touchpoints, many marketers are asking what comes next. Which digital tool is emerging and which will have the most influence in the market place? Will it be a new type of tablet, a wearable computing device, or perhaps a new social networking service that is still a glint in some entrepreneur’s eye?
While no one can predict where the next Instagram or Twitter will come from, or whether smart watches will change the way we interact with technology, the one certainty we have is that digital technology is being woven deeper into consumers’ everyday lives all the time. This means that the relevance and influence of digital across the communication landscape is growing for marketers.
However, dated discussions about what the next digital trend is going to be, while important to be cognisant of, is not where our deeper and more valuable attention should be. Rather, we must look further ahead and more holistically; creating long-term strategies that integrate digital into the hearts of brands and organisations. These should not be fuelled by trends, but rather by a sound understanding of how consumers are using digital as part of their lives – seamlessly jumping between many different mediums and devices every day.
Digital is changing the ways that consumers think and behave, enabling them to interact with brands beyond the shopfront and the product. A huge portion of our population is already actively using digital technology to add value to their lives and take control of brand conversations. Interactive social tools have given them a voice they are not shy to use, and mobile technology means they expect to be able to engage brands 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
This is the world of increasing (and I hate to use the buzzword) convergence, where technologies, media platforms and the consumer are all coming together to form an evolved behavioural model. Digital is no longer simply a website or something your customers do in isolation – it is far more integrated into their daily routine. For example, they are also influenced by the growing number of digital screens they see in the retail environment, the new digital outdoor billboards, as well as the phone applications that help add value to their lives on the move.
We are also seeing business solutions converging with marketing and media. Owned media such as websites and mobile apps are transactional platforms, as well as spaces brands use to communicate with their audiences.
Loyalty cards are being tied into mobile apps and digital points of sale. These solutions don’t just converge a range of technologies, but also blend marketing and transaction with customer relationship management.
So, when we’re considering the question of who’s connected to digital and what digital is, we not only need to include the 10 million online (predicted by the end of 2014), but also everyone who browses a self-service kiosk in a mall, uses an ATM, sees an electronic billboard on the road, or uses a smartphone to bank.
Some brands are ahead the curve, such as FNB, who seamlessly blend the physical in-bank environment with their digital touchpoints.
Getting it right is complicated and requires a relook at the agency partnerships around the table, and very often a relook of the remuneration model too, as mediums are no longer influencing in isolation.
There are many fragmented pieces to put together and many moving parts to manage, and when done correctly, this evolving space undeniably offers enormous potential for brands – but only if we stop looking in isolation at digital and embrace a longer term and more integrated view of the increasingly digitally enabled consumer.
Pete Case is founder and CEO of award-winning digital agency, Gloo. Follow on Twitter @glooniverse