Discover how we arrived at the point we're at today in digital marketing.
- In the summer of 1981, IBM brought the world the first PC. For as little as $1500, you could have a system that came with about 50 kilobytes of memory, that could hook up to your television, play some games, and even process text. With this, you could certainly argue that the impending digital revolution was born. Businesses began to take advantage of this new, compact computing power in all sorts of ways, but when it came to marketing, one of the first applications was digitizing customer and prospect information.
Many of us take this for granted today, but a company called "Act!" was the first to do it in the mid-1980s, and their software gave rise to the sales force automation platforms that eventually turned into today's customer relationship management systems. On the consumer side, the early internet had made its transition into the public space. Building on networks like France's Minitel and services like Prodigy, and later, America Online, the first graphical web browser was created in 1993, at the University of Illinois' NCSA labs.
It was called Mosaic and its core components would later be taken to market as Netscape Navigator. Microsoft soon got into the game with Internet Explorer and suddenly, just about everyone was online. A few short years later, the dot com boom was in full swing, and consumers and businesses alike jumped in to anything and everything that had to do with the internet, realizing the virtual sea of possibilities that the future would hold. Suddenly, there was a webpage for every product and service out there.
Marketers realized that consumers now had access to all the information they would need to make new kinds of buying decisions in a new kind of purchasing cycle. Search engines became the de facto gateway to anything to be found online, and by the year 2000, Google had realized that this could be monetized, and it launched the first version of its AdWords product, letting advertisers bid to show their ads to people typing in keywords that indicated an interest in their products and services. Publishers were plastering their content, widely available for free, with banner ads, and ad serving technology was connecting supply and demand at scale.
We had all learned to depend on email throughout the 1990s and by 2003, we already had CAN-SPAM compliance legislation to deal with the advertisers that had figured out just how cheap and easy it was to blast their messages in this electronic version of traditional direct mail. As spam was brought under control, a new breed of tools and technologies was created, and the modern integrated email management platforms and marketing automation platforms have now evolved. Now, keep in mind, that this was just a little over a decade ago, and there was still no such thing as YouTube, social networking meant physical encounters with other humans, mobile phones were used to actually call people, and if you said the word "tablet", people would assume you were talking about writing on stones.
As infrastructures raced ahead, providing ever more bandwidth, storage, and computing power, the web changed from a place to present static information to a platform for interaction. During this time, people's original skepticism of entering credit card information on a website has turned into an e-commerce revolution. By 2011, eBay had sold nearly 40 Ferraris on its mobile app, and today, we regularly tap our phones to today's new cash registers to beam over payments for our lattes.
Perhaps the most importantly, the exhaust stream of data left behind every one of these interactions has never been richer. From the log file parsers to today's enterprise analytic solutions and big data tools, marketers have never before had access to more data. Couple this with unprecedented computing power, and today, we're realizing the dreams of data driven decision making, and even real time prediction and automation to achieve massive, customized, one to one consumer interactions at scale.
Despite the years and years of doomsday predictions about the demise of traditional media, all of this has happened while it has remained an integral part of the marketing mix. While on demand and streaming media has indeed burst onto the scene, there's yet to be a mass throwing out of our television sets. Billboards and outdoor advertising is still surrounding us as we traverse the streets, and there's no shortage of radio to listen to, or print media to hold in our hands. Sure, these mediums have adapted. Television has embraced the online channel, magazines have moved into digital formats, and there's even technology out there that will switch ads at a bus stop, depending on who might be standing there.
A lot has happened in just over 20 years, and we as consumers, have made massive shifts in our behaviors based on this digital revolution that we're all living through. Marketers have kept up, leveraging these new mediums, and platforms and processes to address the new purchasing patterns that we all exhibit. These are exciting times. It's worth looking into what today's landscape looks like and how you can leverage it to reach and interact with the consumers of the 21st century.
NOTE: While specific software and platforms aren't endorsed, you will see how tools like a customer relationship management system and web analytics work in a successful marketing mix.
- What is digital marketing?
- Understanding the marketing data being generated
- Reaching customers via digital channels like social, search, and display
- Working with digital experiences
- Selling online with ecommerce
- Going mobile
- Measuring and optimizing with testing and analytics
- Running and operating a business with technology
- Storing and extracting data
- Learning and predicting with data exploration and modeling