Digital marketing is an umbrella term for all of the online marketing efforts of a company. Business organizations leverage digital channels like email, social media, Google search, as well as their websites to connect with their potential and existing clients. Digital marketers, as Ryan and Jones (2014, p. 54) pointed out, monitor things such as what the customers are viewing, for how long and how often, what content works and what does not work, sales conversions, among other things. Even as the Internet is, conceivably, the channel that is mostly linked to digital marketing, there are also other channels such as digital radio and television channels, electronic billboards, podcasts, mobile applications, mobile instant messaging, and even wireless text messaging (Bird 2015, p. 43). This paper provides a detailed discussion of digital marketing. The different types of digital marketing channels are analyzed. The paper also describes the importance and benefits of digital marketing, as well as any challenges associated with digital marketing.
According to Roberts and Micken (2015, p. 98), digital marketing can be broadly defined as a form of advertising that is delivered through digital channels, for instance, mobile applications, email, websites, social media, and search engines. In essence, it entails promoting brands and products through the use of one or more types of electronic media. It is distinguished from traditional marketing given that digital marketing makes use of methods and channels that allow a company to assess marketing campaigns and know what is working and what is not working, usually in real time (Kannan & Li 2017, p. 25). The three main things that digital marketers should take into account to ensure success of their digital marketing efforts include: marketing intricate customer relationships across various channels, both traditional and digital; responding to and initiating dynamic client interactions; and extracting value from big data for the purpose of making better decisions quicker (Patrutiu Baltes 2016, p. 34).
The world is rapidly becoming digital as people these days consume electronic content quicker each day. Business organizations and the world, on the whole, are beginning to understand why it is crucial to go digital. Marketers should quickly familiarize themselves with the new circumstances and actively hire people who are experts in the area of digital marketing (Patrutiu Baltes 2016, p. 32). Marketers need to recognize why it is important for them to implement digital marketing in their business strategy. Using new forms of media in the current era is a wise investment decision, over and above being a necessary thing to do (Roberts & Micken 2015, p. 98). Digital forms of media comprise highly efficient marketing channels that present a lot of advantages which could be helpful in growing and expanding the business. The common forms of digital marketing are discussed below.
This form of digital marketing occurs when the marketer communicates with prospective and existing clientele using carefully designed emails. The marketer uses emails in promoting service and products. Martin (2018, p. 17) stated that through email marketing, marketers utilize emails in developing relationships with the prospective clientele. Email marketing at its best enables business organizations to keep their clients informed and adapt their messages to their prospective and existing clientele. The marketer can personalize email marketing. The company can target certain individuals or groups of clients. Digital marketing features a variety of demographic options such as gender, location, age, interest, among others (Martin 2018, p. 17).
One method of email marketing personalization occurs when the marketer provides individual clients with special deals on services/products on the birthday of that customer. A restaurant, for example, may send emails to clients on their birthday in which they offer a 45 percent off. Email marketing helps marketers to establish and sustain a relationship with customers over time that hopefully leads to increased customer loyalty and increased sales (Arni & Laddha 2017, p. 39). As a form of digital marketing, email marketing is particularly advantageous regarding ease and price. Setting up an email marketing campaign and tracking it is very easy. It is also a cheaper way for the company to advertise its services and products than many other kinds of marketing methods. Therefore, email marketing is a very accessible sort of marketing for small companies (Kannan & Li 2017, p. 26). The marketer can send newsletters to the email listing that it has created from the individuals who gave their details on the company’s website, for example, offering them news updates with regard to the organization, special offers, upcoming events, and reminding them that perhaps it is time for them to visit the company again.
Mobile Instant Messaging
Instant messaging marketing, as Leibtag (2013, p. 128) stated, is quickly becoming accepted within the business community as a practical tool for communication. It is free on the client side, it is quicker than email, and even novice people could effortlessly grasp the interface in only one or two minutes. With instant messaging, a marketer can quickly send instant marketing messages to a group of customers or individual clients. Also, a marketer can set up a recurring or automated marketing message to forward to their clients at a specific time. While some business organizations see mobile instant messaging as more of a tool for personal communications than a tool for advertising, Roberts and Micken (2015, p. 96) pointed out that instant messaging marketing is among the most effective and best advertising methods available for marketers. Instant messaging is not only used for text-based communication. This form of digital marketing allows the marketer to share everything including videos and images for free. It could even be utilized for ordering food and taxis. As mobile instant messaging becomes more and more popular, it appears wise for companies to incorporate it in their marketing strategies.
There are various instant messaging applications that marketers can use, ranging from WeChat, LINE, KakaoTalk, Snapchat, to WhatsApp. These mobile applications have hundreds of millions of active users each day. Snapchat, for example, has nearly one-hundred million active users every day while WhatsApp has over 700 million users daily and 1.2 billion users every month worldwide (Mazereeuw 2016). All these applications offer an excellent way for marketers to connect with their clientele in an intimate and informal setting at an extensive scale. WhatsApp and other mobile messaging apps have very high engagement rates: it is of note that 98% of users open and read mobile messages, and 90% of mobile messages are opened in just 3 seconds after being sent (Mazereeuw 2016). If the company’s potential and existing clientele comprise younger people, such customers have a higher likelihood of being comfortable using mobile messaging applications for their daily communication. Researchers have reported that in comparison to a mere 19% of smartphone owners aged 50 years above who use mobile messaging applications like WhatsApp, 42% of smartphone users aged 18 – 29 years utilize them (Mazereeuw 2016). As such, marketers should seek to include mobile instant messaging and mobile apps as part of their digital marketing campaigns.
Having a dedicated, official company website is of major importance as it allows the organization to keep its clientele informed. A website is crucial for both online companies that have a business online, and for bring-and-mortar companies that do not have a business online. Having an official website is also important as it will provide prospective clients with a place to go to when searching for the company’s brand, instead of just looking at maps or local search results (Taiminen 2016, p. 389). Using the company’s official website to promote the products and services of the firm is also advantageous since it is a lot cheaper compared to paying for a digital television marketing campaign.
A website does not necessarily have to have extensive copywriting or complex graphic design. Even a small company website that contains a small number of pages is adequate to improve the chances of searches selecting the company for the services/products that they desire. The company might only need the homepage plus a handful of supporting pages, such as contact information, general information, and organization history, among other details (Todor 2016, p. 51). Even so, the website could do more than just serve individuals who are searching for the company’s brand name, or offer contact information to customers. A small content marketing, local Search Engine Optimization campaign, and link building would be helpful in ensuring that the company increases its reputation online, ranks for many keywords within its area, and provides possible leads with useful content that would keep them returning for more (Taiminen 2016, p. 390).
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing entails the use of social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook in connecting with the company’s clientele, and marketing the services and products of the company. This sort of digital marketing offers a company a way of reaching new clientele, engaging with the current clients, and promoting its desired mission, culture, or tone (Ryan & Jones 2014, p. 86). In the past, people mostly used social media to post selfies and watch videos. Nowadays, however, people are relying on social media platforms for discovering, researching, and educating themselves about brands before they engage with those organizations. For a marketer, posting on their Twitter and Facebook accounts is just not enough. They should also weave social aspects into all aspects of their marketing and create more peer-to-peer sharing opportunities (Ryan & Jones 2014, p. 86). In essence, the more their audiences want to engage with the marketer’s content, the higher the likelihood that they would want to share it. This may in due course lead to them becoming a client. They might also influence their friends to also become customers (Levy & Gvili 2015, p. 96).
When promoting a product/service using social media marketing, the company may need to hire a social media marketing manager who will be responsible for planning and supervising how the organization uses social media. This individual directs marketing campaigns with the use of various social media sites. An important strategy that it is utilized in social media marketing involves developing content and messages that users may share with their colleagues, friends and even family (Roberts & Micken 2015, p. 97). It is of note that this strategy is contingent upon word of mouth and offers a few benefits. Firstly, shared content tends to carry an implicit endorsement when it is sent by a person whom the recipient trusts and knows. Secondly, it will increase the reach of the marketing message to users and networks that social media managers might have otherwise not been able to access (Roberts & Micken 2015, p. 97). With social media marketing strategy, the manager creates content that is sticky, which means that it would get the attention of the customers and increase the likelihood that she/he would conduct the desired action, for instance, share the content with other people or buy a product.
The marketer creates viral content that is designed to spread fast between users. Besides, social media marketing has to encourage clients to create and share their content, for instance, comments or product reviews. Social media marketing, as Todor 2016 (p. 53) pointed out, has purpose-built data analytics which enables the marketer to track the effectiveness of their social media marketing efforts. Although social media marketing could be very beneficial, it could also bring hindrances that the company might have otherwise not had to cope with. As a case in point, a viral video on YouTube that claims the products of an organization can cause customers to become sick has to be addressed by the firm, notwithstanding whether or not the allegations are false or truthful. However, even if an organization sets the message straight, customers in the future might still be less probable to buy from the firm (Todor 2016, p. 58).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization refers to various tools and best practices that a marketer uses to help its official website rank higher in search engine results, and thus drive more traffic to the site and ultimately help the company achieve increased business. SEO is mainly concerned with increasing visibility in the non-paid/organic search engine results. It comprises the creative and technical aspects that are essential in improving rankings, increasing awareness in search engines, and driving traffic (Martin 2018, p. 19). SEO entails attaining the highest ranking or position practically in the organic or natural lists as the vital body of the search engine results pages across a various specific mixture of key phrases or keywords that users of search engine enter.
SEO has to be viewed as a long-term investment. Google regularly announces updates and the website of the marketer should be compliant basing upon those Google updates. Customers typically utilize the Internet in getting information on virtually anything. It is therefore imperative for the business to ensure that it catches the attention of customers whenever the need comes up. As such, marketers should look at search engine optimization as a long-term objective (Ryan & Jones 2014, p. 87).
Also known as digital billboards, electronic billboards refer to electronic image displays which present many static adverts on a rotating basis. They are computer-controlled electronic displays. Whereas smaller indoor billboards are often displayed in entertainment venues like sports arenas, more prominent outdoor billboards are usually displayed alongside city streets, major arteries and highways (Kannan & Li 2017, p. 28). Electronic billboards present many different advantages for a marketer. For example, marketers can display their product/service advertisements within just minutes; they can stream user-generated content and live data from their social media sites or websites in real time, and they can change their marketing messages as frequently as they want without production cost. For example, they can change their messages in real time, hourly, every day, weekly, or even monthly (Taiminen 2016, p. 392).
Anything on the company’s official website could be streamed in real time to the electronic billboard, including trending items, products on offer, news feeds, and more. Leibtag (2013, p. 87) pointed out that text and images on the social media pages or website of the marketer could be pulled and displayed in real time on electronic billboards. It is also an excellent way of creating a one-to-one relationship with both potential and current customers and establishing brand ambassadors for the business or product. The company could use an electronic billboard to display a live countdown to generate not just excitement, but also awareness for store openings or upcoming events. An electronic billboard could count down to a particular time or day, even down to the second. Bird (2015 (p. 122) pointed out that the countdown will update automatically with each rotation of the digital display. It is worth mentioning that the flexibility of an electronic billboard is the fact that it will allow the marketer to alter its marketing message based upon the traffic condition, time of day, among others. Companies that operate digital billboards are even able to tap into the local forecast and create pertinent designs to display when the weather is sunny or rainy. Also, they can create digital displays basing on the outcome of a football match (Bird 2015, p. 124).
Importance of Digital Marketing
Digital Marketing is the Future of Marketing
Digital marketing is of great importance given that it is a fast-growing force in the marketing playing field of today. Besides, digital marketing is projected to be the future of marketing as digital media are overtaking the old conventional forms of media. Patrutiu Baltes 2016 (p. 34) observed that digital forms of media are rapidly replacing the conventional forms of information consumption. The new methods are not just more versatile and more practical but are also faster in comparison to the traditional marketing methods. Even though older consumers may lament the ending of paper-based books, newspapers, communication methods, as well as traditional radio broadcasts and television, consumers of the younger generation who have grown up with cell phones and the Internet, are already espousing the new world of digital consumption (Kannan & Li 2017, p. 30). All in all, the digital age is here, and business organizations that are not adapting to the new marketing climate may go extinct sooner rather than later.
Digital Marketing is Cheaper than Traditional Offline Marketing Methods
Digital marketing is considerably cheaper in comparison to the conventional offline methods of marketing such as newspapers, magazines, radio, and television. For instance, social media campaign or email marketing could convey a marketing message to prospective and existing customers for a small fraction of the cost of a print campaign on a paper-based newspaper/magazine or television advert (Leibtag 2013, p. 66). A small company needs to save a large amount of money to be able to advertise on television finally. With digital marketing, however, a marketer can be able to conduct marketing campaigns within its financial budget. Ryan and Jones (2014, p. 89) observed that marketers could plan their marketing strategy such that they can only utilize digital marketing channels that lie within their financial budget. Official company websites and business profiles on social networking sites in most cases create more traffic free of charge.
Digital Marketing has a Wider Geographical Reach
Additionally, digital marketing can help the marketer to target more customers and easily reach a broader audience of consumers. It gives a marketer the chance of expanding its advertisement campaign beyond its geographical boundaries. The marketer, for instance, can promote its services and products to people in different countries around the world without even having a physical presence in those nations (Kannan & Li 2017, p. 32). Business organizations located in small regions can easily promote their products to consumers who live in large cities.
Results can be Tracked Easily and in Real Time
Another benefit of using digital marketing pertains to the ease with which the marketer can track and monitor the results. Arni and Laddha (2017, p. 40) stated that instead of the marketer carrying out extensive consumer research, they could speedily view the response rates of customers and measure in real-time the success of their marketing campaign. This, in turn, enables the marketers to plan more effectively for their next digital marketing campaign.
Enables Marketers to Target Specific Groups of Customers
Furthermore, digital marketing is important because it allows the marketer to target a particular grouping of consumers. For example, targeted email can be used to address customers with unique preferences, interests, and tastes. Likewise, digital marketing will allow the marketer to customize their marketing efforts basing upon their business as well as the behavior of their customers (Arni & Laddha 2017, p. 41).
Digital Marketing Allows Marketer to Stay Connected with Customers
The company can be able to stay connected with its clientele twenty-four-seven by providing a frequently-asked-questions (FAQ) section and a live chat support section on its website. If the marketer is planning to offer any discounts, it can easily spread the message regarding the discount by posting on social media platforms or by sending them emails. Staying connected with its clientele will allow the company to establish a good relationship of trust with its customers (Todor 2016, p. 61). Moreover, this type of marketing allows clients to contact the marketer in a direct way devoid of any hassle, for instance through the company’s social media sites or its official website. On the whole, the company can convert its social media page and official website into a place in which prospective and existing clients could give suggestions or ask queries regarding the company’s products/services. This may engender positive relationships between the company and its customer base. The result could be increased leads, revenues, and profits for the company.
Higher Conversion Rates and Potential to Earn Higher Revenues
Digital marketing has a higher conversion rate and gives the marketer a higher return on investments (ROI). According to Martin (2018, p. 19), email and social media are some of the digital media approaches with a high rate of conversion given that they can be used to communicate quickly and effectively with the customers. Digital marketing has the potential of allowing the marketers to earn higher revenue because the amount of money invested in the digital marketing campaigns is less and the return on investment is more. As such, the company has a higher scope of making money. Researchers have reported that digital marketing generates nearly three times more revenues than the traditional offline marketing methods (Arni & Laddha 2017, p. 44). This together with higher rates of conversion ensures that the company can earn a lot of money through digital marketing channels. This would enable the company to grow.
Challenges with Digital Marketing
Everything has limitations, and digital marketing is no exception. One notable challenge is the propagation and explosion of digital channels. Consumers these days utilize many different digital channels and various devices that utilize unique interfaces, specifications, and protocols. They interact with those devices for diverse purposes and in unique ways (Martin 2018, p. 18). The second challenge is the exploding volumes of data. Consumers in general usually leave behind an extensive trail in digital channels. Getting a handle on all that data is very hard. It is also challenging to locate the correct data in mounting volumes of data that could help the marketer in making the right marketing decisions (Patrutiu Baltes 2016, p. 33).
Moreover, competition is very intense in digital marketing. The prospective clients always have various choices for the marketer’s products. Whenever customers are searching for the company’s product, they also get recommendations from other companies. They could easily switch to the products offered by the competitors who offer better products or prices (Arni & Laddha 2017, p. 45). Also, the strategy or even the whole business model used by the marketer could be tracked and copied by other companies at any time. Furthermore, not every kind of product could be sold via online portals. As such, digital marketing could only be beneficial to companies that sell consumer goods. Marketers cannot sell many medicinal and industrial goods through digital marketing (Bird 2015, p. 55).
Besides, digital marketing may be prone to a variety of risks such as adverse customer feedback that has the potential to ruin the reputation of the company. Marketers typically allow customers to provide feedback, reviews, and express their opinions about the company and its products, for instance through reviews on social media sites and on Google. Even just one negative feedback from a customer about the company or its service/product could lead to reputation damage which may take a long time to restore (Taiminen 2016, p. 402).
In sum, digital marketing refers to a form of advertising that is delivered using digital channels. There are many digital marketing methods such as mobile applications, email, websites, social media marketing, mobile instant messaging, digital billboards, and search engine optimization. It differs from traditional marketing since digital marketing makes use of techniques that allow the organization to assess marketing campaigns and know what is working and what is not, often in real time. Digital marketing is important because it is widely recognized as the future of marketing; it is cheaper, faster, and more effective than the conventional, offline methods of marketing; and has higher conversion rates and higher ROI than traditional methods. It also enables the marketer to market its products to a larger geographical region and the marketer can stay connected with its clientele. Major drawbacks include intense competition and the fact that the company’s reputation could be easily damaged with a bad customer review or negative feedback.
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