The marketing technology landscape, 15 years ago…

The marketing technology landscape, 15 years ago…

As virtualROI celebrates 15 years in business, we thought we would look back at how things have changed over the years in the marketing technology landscape.

Marketers have been put through their paces in the last few years, eh? Ever since the personal computer ‘took off’, it’s been a fast-changing world. One and a half decades ago in September 2008, Google Chrome was launched and the first mobile device on Android made its appearance; iPhone only having appeared the year before. GDPR wasn’t even a four letter word on the horizon, and Blackberries were purely for checking email. But since that time, technology has exploded and digital marketing is unrecognisable. It’s been quite a journey so far…

The internet is now a given

Let’s assume that the internet took off in 1994 when the first mass-market browser, Netscape, was released. Since then, everything from email, to search engines, to ecommerce has become the norm. But interestingly it’s only in the last few years that content has become king. Before then, the search engines catalogued sites, some forward-thinking businesses implemented crude SEO techniques, and users searched with keywords and found all sorts of information.

In the background, as all this was going on though, the pool of big data was growing. Information was building, just waiting to be analysed and dissected. But this wasn’t a collection of any old universal bits of knowledge, it was discrete bites of information that related to individual actions. Lots of great insight just waiting to be used. And as word started to get out about this, the shift from outbound marketing towards inbound marketing began.

How has this changed things over the last fifteen years?

We’ve gone from megaphone blasted messages in 2009 to tailored content that can be shared specifically for business on social media platforms. Twitter (now X) was only in its infancy having launched in 2006, the same year as Facebook (now Meta) was launched to the public. Even though LinkedIn was started in 2003 in the US, it wasn’t until 5 years later in 2008 that they focused on a global scale with offices in UK, Spain and France. We’ve moved from blunt-edged email marketing to finely tuned personalised contact with advanced account-based marketing programmes and targeting inclusive of lead scoring and marketing automation sophistication. We’ve shifted from licking a finger and holding it in the wind to in-depth analytics. And if that isn’t mind-blowing enough, note that all this stuff, which used to happen over a period of days, weeks or even months, now takes place real-time.

What does this mean?

Well, from a digital marketer’s perspective, first and foremost it’s brought us into contact with our market 24/7. But in addition to this, it’s also brought both engagement and shifting brand loyalty. That’s quite a heady mix. A well conducted digital campaign can now make a huge difference to a business’s bottom line… but so can a disastrous one, just not in the same way.

Has there been a particular facilitator?

Of course, technology has both fuelled and facilitated all this. When Marketo was founded in 2006, responsive design for email wasn’t even conceived; laptops and desktops still ruled the roost. However, as it was right at the dawn of the smartphone revolution, features and functionality were developing fast, and since then they’ve overtaken PCs as the primary digital device for going online. We can now do it every second of every day… and we do.

So what does this mean for the digital marketer?

Fifteen years ago, Instagram, SnapChat and TikTok didn’t exist so selfies were still amusingly quaint and the graphics of an advert could be enough to catch the eye. Now, you have to time everything just right, regardless of whether you’re B2B or not. Personalisation is key. Present your customer with the information they’re wanting when they want it… and you’ll get them to share it with others. Even for the B2B marketer there are many places your customers may touch your brand.

For the digital guru, this means agile thinking and responsiveness have become the cornerstone of successful marketing. Information is everywhere, and if you’re not using it you can be sure your competition are. However, as the general public has become more aware of the availability of this information, GDPR came into force to govern privacy as well as cookie related restrictions.

To put things into perspective, Unilever’s Senior Vice-President of Marketing, Marc Mathieu, has an interesting take on how things have changed … Where marketing used to focus on creating a vision and selling it, it now relies on people finding the truth and sharing it. Your customer base has got smarter, wiser, and able to access information like never before. People can compare, read reviews, and price check within seconds. Much of the buyer’s journey now takes place before you even know the person exists.

But one thing will always stand true

The fact that a marketer needs to constantly question, investigate, analyse and learn is as much true now as it was 15 years ago. New trends, new technologies, and new ways of being in contact with a customer continue to come along every year, such as the extended use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and ChatBots. So, nobody can be an expert in everything…

But you never know what the universe might throw at you. Covid as a global pandemic thought us that in the modern world and all of a sudden, the aspects of company physical premises and boundaries came into a completely different light with home and remote working the new norm. Strangely enough, virtualROI was set up on that exact principle, 15 years ago…

By focusing on strategy, planning, and understanding your market, and then passing the day-to-day implementation of your strategies and planning to specialists, you ensure your business continues to stay ahead and not left behind.

At the end of the day, it matters not how many website visits, customer clicks, or likes you get, only how many of those engagements then translate into profitable business. Good strategizing, analysing, and planning is still the only way to ensure this happens…

The main lesson learned over the last 15 years is that the only constant is change.

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