My How Youve Grown 20 Years of Digital Marketing

Scott Brinker’s marketing technology landscape report begs a question:

If the marketing software vendor market is 947-vendor deep, at least, what the heck was digital marketing like 20 years ago?

So we asked.

“We are now in what I call the second ‘digital decade'," said Forrester Research analyst David Cooperstein, vice president and research director.

In the Beginning

And the first decade? What was the landscape then? If Brinker had his report out then, what would it look like?

“The first decade was supply-led in that marketers were using digital tools to extend their marketing efforts — websites, search and display ads primarily,” Cooperstein said. “Much of that was digital interpretations of existing sources, but new marketing vehicles things like online search and display allowed people to act on an impulse or do research and go directly to a purchase.”

It was a bold, new world, this digital advertising thing, but it had limited tools. Direct marketers loved it, but brand advertisers weren’t convinced.

“Because there was an over-supply, marketers had many choices for inexpensive marketing, but it was only appreciated by more technically sophisticated marketers,” Cooperstein said. “The take-up rate remained low except in direct-to-consumer businesses like retail, travel and credit cards.”

From the Trenches

One company that’s been there for 20 years is Webtrends, which began in 1993.

Bruce Kenny, chief technology officer and executive vice president of product at Webtrends, said the digital marketing industry is currently in what he calls a fourth generation -- where customer experience optimization and capturing the customer’s journey in real-time with relevant marketing messages rule.

Where prior Internet generations were about using data with a rear-view mirror approach, today’s marketer is jumping into the customers’ journey in real-time using actionable data, he said.

“We’ve come out with more focus on the customer journey,” Kenny told CMSWire. “How is my customer interacting with me across all my channels? What is their journey? The customer experience optimization generation is all about the customer.”

Twenty years ago, in data analysis, marketers would have numbers to share regarding Website visits but could not distinguish between people and bots.

“Now we’re truly understanding the customer’s lifetime journey with us,” Kenny said. “In real time.”

Demand-Driven Decade

Speaking to his “second digital decade” theory, Forrester’s Cooperstein said today’s digital marketing industry is demand-driven. Customers use digital tools to make demands on marketing. They use search, price comparison, in-store mobile show-rooming, social media connections and multi-tab browsers on smartphones and tablets to shop from home. As Cooperstein explained:

Marketers have been forced to break through a very cluttered environment with highly targeted ad placements based on audience profiles, and using content supported by the brand rather than advertising next to pure content. With consumers spending more of their time in digital media, brand advertisers have started to embrace digital channels, moving significant budget over to digital for brand advertising and customer engagement.”

What Once Was

Before today’s fourth generation of digital marketing, Kenny reflected on the days of the early to late 90s, where the webmaster and data scientist ruled. It was very basic metrics -- “let’s call it site analytics,” Kenny said.

Web analytics became part of a company’s strategy in the early 2000s through 2006 or 2007. It was a boom and bust phase, where websites were no longer just IT projects, but vehicles to interact with consumer prospects.

“It’s where web analytics took off,” Kenny said.

Enter the actual digital marketer, who back then and still now copes with multi channels, from mobile to social and Web. “The marketer saw this all as an opportunity,” Kenny said.

Each era has built upon its predecessor, Kenny said, rather than replace it. And over time, the marketer got data savvy.

“We’re seeing today the senior director of data strategy,” Kenny said. “We’re seeing the merging of marketing and BI teams happening over the last couple of years. Marketers are data savvy and now understand the science.”

Title image by jörg röse-oberreich (Shutterstock).