The Third Wave of Digital Marketing: Embracing the Human Element

Posted on by Kevin Cochrane

people-faces-300As digital marketing has become increasingly data-focused, it has evolved into three distinct ‘waves’ of consumer online experiences.

The first wave of digital marketing was going from having a business card to having a website. Then came online ads – lots of them. This was the unseemly birth of digital experience. Creativity fought with page views and CPM. We saw the good, the bad and the very, very ugly.

The second wave of digital marketing was sparked by the rise of social media, content and analytics which brought both greater reach and a scientific discipline to marketing. It became possible to test and optimize efforts at nearly any scale. This second wave reintroduced the idea of people as an important aspect for business and marketing; however, there remained huge barriers between the human element and the overriding need to scale and measure.

Today’s enterprises are standing at the threshold of the third wave of digital marketing. This third wave reexamines the nature of commercial relationships. It looks to acknowledge and embrace the humanity of both consumers and solution providers. It looks to bring the power of human relationships into the entire brand experience, including digital experiences. The third wave is about building trust and respect through more creative digital experiences tailored to individuals.

Shortcomings of the Second Wave

As marketing advanced from the first wave’s introduction to new media into the second wave’s laboratory of social media and analytics, we redesigned the way we interacted with customers. We evolved from a consumer-vendor relationship that was primarily vendor-driven to a time when the Internet gave consumers back a measure of control. Consumers could research products and see product reviews without having to talk to a salesperson.

The rise of data collection and analysis enabled brands to collect and use information about customers in ways that were not always obvious—or even fair—to the individuals. And with data breaches in the news daily, customers began to worry about how much data was being collected about them, and what vendors might be doing with that data. Is it secure? Is it being sold to third-parties? Are there limits on what businesses can learn about someone and how they can act on that knowledge?

The second wave of digital marketing built our ability to learn and to scale. But it also weakened our ability to build authentic and appropriate human relationships with our customers based on insight, empathy, ethics and courtesy. This has led to the third wave of digital experience in marketing—a time to set the balance right in consumer-vendor relationships.

Building Trust in the Third Wave

In the third wave of digital marketing, the focus is no longer just on customer acquisition but also the full range of customer experiences both pre- and post-sale. Technology is now THE economy. The companies that move fast to innovate the entire customer journey will win the race for digital mastery.

Following are three key areas to consider:

  1. People: In business, there are the colleagues we work with and there are the people we work for—our customers. The rise of technology had previously taken the focus away from people to cold, hard numbers, which strained the consumer-vendor relationship. Today, technology exists to help build a complete picture of each customer in order to act with appropriate and authentic empathy and courtesy. Context is king for building any relationship; accordingly, businesses must ensure they are tailoring experiences to individuals in order to deliver what customers want in the exact moment they need it.
  1. Trust: Trust is the basis of any human relationship, especially in business where money is exchanged for value. For this reason, customers need to be at the heart of every business decision. Even more, to build long-term loyalty with customers, be transparent about customer data, including what data is being kept, where it is stored, for how long and how it is being used. Allow customers to choose what data, if any, gets stored. And at all costs, avoid marketing’s ‘gray area,’ where businesses buy or sell second-party data on unsuspecting consumers in order to better target advertisements. This is a matter of brand integrity, honesty and ethics. The customer should have control over their digital lives – period.
  1. Experience: Experience is your brand, and brand is your experience. All your customer interactions in the field – from online to in-store – must be positive, informative and helpful. Your brand is every perception of every experience associated with your company – from using your website, to speaking with a representative in your call center to entering one of your stores. Ensure your brand experiences are bright, modern and stunning and that they can deploy for websites, smart devices and employee collaboration tools where needed. Make sure you innovate to pace the Internet of Things, build valuable mobile experiences and stay one step ahead of your customers.

Marketing’s third wave of digital experience is about creating a seamless, personalized experience for customers across all channels – 24 / 7, 365 days a year. With this kind of non-stop access, combined with consumer power in sharing their experiences publicly, consumer trust and authentic 1:1 relationships are paramount. Enterprises that do not recognize this will get left behind in today’s competitive business landscape. The time is now to recognize – and lead – the third wave of digital experience in marketing within your organization.

Kevin Cochrane is CMO of Jahia.

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