The proliferation of technological advances over the last three decades has changed life for people around the world. Smartphones are ubiquitous, computers have become smaller and more powerful, and people are spending more and more of their lives online. Businesses have long used marketing techniques to attempt to widen their customer base and identify exactly how best to serve that base. Increasingly, this has led to a different approach to traditional marketing. Now, digital marketing is becoming the primary method for businesses to connect with the public.

What Is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is the use of channels such as email, search engines, websites, apps, and social media to market a business’ goods and/or services. This contrasts with traditional marketing techniques like TV or radio advertisements, newspaper or magazine ads, billboards, ads on the sides of public transportation, and the like. Digital marketing began in the 1990s by using the same essential approach as traditional marketing in terms of ad content. Over time, however, digital marketing has evolved into something much more.

Today’s digital marketing is focused less on simply reaching the potential customer and more on creating an interactive environment where information flows both ways between customers and companies. As Clark Kokich, author of Do or Die: Surviving and Thriving in a World Where the Old Ways of Marketing Aren’t Getting It Done, says, “It’s less about advertising and more about creating an experience that transforms what it means to be a customer of a brand.” In the current consumer-centric environment, brand creation is one of the most important goals of businesses.

For people to interact with a brand, they must first become aware of it. A very important part of digital marketing is the use of search engine optimization, or SEO. This is a process that uses key words and phrases to push a particular article or website to the top of the list when someone uses a search engine such as Google. Most people searching on the Internet tend to click on the top results first, so effective use of SEO will drive them to the desired website.

Social media marketing (SMM) is another pillar of digital marketing. SMM uses sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to reach customers. It often involves the use of so-called influencers, who are Internet personalities with large followings, to promote a brand. Top influencers have tens or even hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, making them ideal for spreading the word about a brand quickly.

Email marketing has essentially replaced standard mail marketing. Most people check their email at least once a day. Many companies send out ads or newsletters daily. Also, the use of videos, blogs, and podcasts has increased, allowing advertising to be delivered either in pictures, words, or audio. Plus, many people multitask while using their computer, such as listening to podcasts while doing other work.

The Advantages of Digital Marketing

Digital marketing offers many advantages over traditional marketing methods. First, digital marketing’s scope is potentially worldwide. The Internet can reach potential customers across the world at a fraction of the cost of mailings, print ads, or billboards. The cost of creating and maintaining a website is negligible, and social media operations and email newsletters are equally cheap forms of advertising. This opens up customer bases previously unavailable, especially for small or mid-range businesses.

Return on investment (ROI) measures the real value of each dollar spent in advertising. Calculating the ROI of traditional marketing methods is difficult and time-consuming, but digital marketing lets businesses track ROI quickly and easily. Ineffective approaches can be quickly discarded, while successful ones can be identified and enhanced.

Traditional marketing campaigns must be planned and organized over a long period and are difficult to abandon once begun. Digital marketing can be adjusted or discarded almost immediately, giving businesses extreme flexibility in their advertising efforts.

Data collection is vital in business. Knowing who is buying a product or service lets a business know its audience better. Digital marketing techniques are easily trackable and provide detailed demographic information about consumers. Using multiple digital channels gives the most information possible, allowing businesses to target specific groups based on age, gender, geographic location, or other characteristics. This avoids wasted time and money trying to reach people who are not interested in a particular product or service and maximizes each dollar spent by reaching those who are.

Bojan Dimic, head of customer relationship management for UniCredit Bank Serbia explains, “We now have insight into how customers first interact with the bank, what the logical next-best offers should be and how to best retain customers moving forward.”

Digital Marketing Is the Future

There is no doubt about the advantages of digital marketing. Lower costs combined with greater ROI and detailed information about customers make digital marketing the most cost-effective and wide-reaching strategy for businesses. This is not to say that traditional marketing methods will disappear altogether. There is still value in traditional approaches, but digital marketing will become more and more prevalent in the future. New digital channels open up all the time, providing additional opportunities for targeted advertisement and brand building. For any business wanting success in the modern marketplace, adopting digital marketing is essential.