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Who is winning the tug of war – marketing or the internet?

(Image credit: Image Credit: SFIO CRACHO / Shutterstock)

In today’s digital age, the internet continues to evolve and develop at a rapid pace. The high speed at which the internet has developed over the years has meant that the marketing industry is often left struggling to keep up. Marketers have had no choice but to digitalise, fastening onto social media in a bid to create a strong online presence.

Where the high-street retailers once drove buying trends, consumers have now gained control to dictate the market. At a time where it seems almost impossible to keep up with rapid innovations, is it fair to assume marketers are playing a losing game?

More often than not, things once considered ‘the next big thing’ end up consigned to the pages of history books. As the internet and technology develops, traditional websites are rendered obsolete, with many consumers quick to adopt the next novel trend.

We have found ourselves in a time where the consumer knows more than the marketers themselves. This once-impressionable customer base now has become wiser. They have access to all of the same information that marketers have, but on top of all of that, they also know their wants, needs, motivation and interests, and that drives their purchases.

The purchasing power is in the hands of the people

Today, millennials are the largest living generation, and they are hugely shaping how marketers interact with consumers. Today’s population has access to online shopping at the touch of their finger, and 22 per cent of them primarily use their phone to do so. Shopping habits are also different to the generations before them; only 7 per cent of millennials identify themselves as brand loyalists, while 75 per cent are influenced to shop during a retail sale or promotion.

This has changed the game for retailers, who now acknowledge millennials’ need to for online platforms as well as personalisation. The problem that marketers face now is that they need to find a way to firmly cut through the volume of content that people are bombarded with daily on their phone, whilst only sending them relevant information, which is personalised to each consumer.

In stores today, 71 per cent of shoppers have admitted to using their mobile devices in-stores whilst they carry out their browsing and shopping. Be it for reading reviews, or comparing prices or products, consumers have become a lot more savvy with the way that they shop. Retailers are no longer in a position where having a product in stock is enough to result in a sale – it needs to be the best product in the market, for the best price.

In a consumer survey, 74 per cent of millennials said they often felt frustrated with too many marketing communications, and 60 per cent of them said they receive too many irrelevant ads. Unless marketers find a way to adapt, combat and overcome these issues, they will inevitably suffer. If they can’t manage this, marketers run the risk of being left in the internet’s shadow. Further to this, they will without a doubt suffer. Marketers will be doomed to repeat broken processes, waste money, miss opportunities, deliver inconsistent experiences and treat even their very best, most loyal customers as if they’ve never met them before. Which isn’t what they set out to achieve at all.

It is very easy in this situation to assume that technology is a silver bullet solution to surviving the changes the industry is encountering, but a business model must be strong before companies can even consider digitalising it. It is imperative that the customer journey is mapped carefully and correctly.

It is not too late for marketers to use technology wisely to enhance their organisation and map their business model to ensure they prosper through the inevitable digitalisation. Marketers have adapted to new technologies since day one so why can’t they embrace this new wave?

Next step: Connecting the channels

The problem is, every single one of the channels marketers use to reach their audiences is its own little island. Each of these islands – be it mobile, social, banner ads, native advertising or email – has dozens of third-party partners who can help them reach people. Further to this, each of these has its own platform to automate engagements, and each of these have its own way of identifying people as well as devices. And you guessed it, each of these are speaking their own language.

This issue is what caused marketers to fall behind in the first place. Today’s marketing ecosystem is an exploded universe of fragmented channels, partners, platforms, data sources, APIs, and integrations, to list a few. This leads to the biggest problem.

Because of this complexity, marketers find themselves limited by how much they can impact the customer experience: they cannot simply take what they know about their customers and prospects and apply it everywhere they see fit, as they would run the risk of diluting their message, or disengaging their target audience through generic, superfluous, or irrelevant content.

A person we recognise in our store as a left-handed, motorbike-riding artist gets the same messages as any other person when they see ads in print, or online on a desktop, smartphone, or tablet. This means inconsistent, uninformed, wasteful marketing – leading to consumers who think marketers are clueless, or foolish, or both (they’re not. They’ve just been rendered blind).

We desperately need someone to come along and resolve identities back to real people across the marketing ecosystem. Only then when this is done can marketers step out of the internet’s shadow.

This ability to resolve identities just may be the most important part of every marketer’s technology stack. And it just might be the only way over the wall that stands between all of the smart marketers out there and the kind of marketing they know they can deliver.

Richard Foster, UK managing director, LiveRamp
Image Credit: SFIO CRACHO / Shutterstock

Richard Foster is the UK managing director at LiveRamp.