Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Why every business needs a digital marketing agenda

In an exclusive year-end article for Storyboard18, Infosys's global CMO, Sumit Virmani, spotlights the necessity of future-proofing brands with holistic digital strategies

Published: Dec 22, 2022 04:41:56 PM IST
Updated: Dec 22, 2022 05:16:51 PM IST

Why every business needs a digital marketing agendaEvery company is not only a digital business, but every business can be accelerated by digital marketing. Image: Shutterstock

Are you someone who reads news from social media feeds on your phone? Do you compare prices on websites, discuss pricing plans with a chatbot before buying your new phone? Or read online reviews before contracting services for your home or office? Well, you are certainly not alone.

Gone are the days when branding was about wooing consumers on TV or Out Of Home media, with one-way communication, and then deploying demand generation tactics at points of purchase to drive sales. Both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) buyers today want to actively learn about product categories and evaluate choices; they expect brands to engage with them and help them make informed decisions.

Supplementing offline channels with holistic digital marketing is possibly the most data-driven, agile and productive way we know to do that. Which means every company is not only a digital business, but every business can be accelerated by digital marketing. If digital is still not among the dominant channels in your marketing mix, here are some very compelling reasons to rethink:

Consumers have embraced digital wholeheartedly

OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot crossed 1 million users in less than a week since its launch.

While over half of Gen-Z consumers are on TikTok, in 2021, 36 percent of TikTok users were between 35 and 54 years old, a 10 percent increase from the year before. Little wonder then that even hallowed brands like The Economist have embraced TikTok. Many supposed that digital habits would change with the pandemic waning, but consumers accessing businesses digitally is stronger than ever. In fact, the number of industries accessed online has doubled, from before the pandemic, and has remained stable even after a leveling off.

Also read: Digital Marketing Mavericks: Why Schbang wants to stay independent and be a truly Indian agency brand

Extreme personalization is hygiene

With the experience benchmark set by preference-based entertainment curation on OTT platforms like Netflix, and algorithmically curated hyper-personalized content served up on digital platforms like Instagram and TikTok – consumers have come to expect deep personalization of content before they will engage with it. This sets the bar high for marketers. They are having to onboard data about past purchases, preferences, interactions with salespeople and then trigger campaigns with personalized content elements over time. Having the digital capabilities to analyze data and use it to signal customer preference is becoming key. For example, Sephora, the American beauty products retailer, deploys mobile notifications for customers walking past the retail store, with customized offers based on their app browsing patterns.

It’s hard to manage if it can’t be measured

It’s always a good idea to have the right metrics and language to clarify to the broader executive audience the value of marketing efforts. Digital platforms are conducive for delivering outcomes that can be measured, and therefore better-managed. Digital also allows significant opportunity to get creative – not just with content but with form factor and engagement – think NFTs, chatbots and all that’s possible on the metaverse. Even better – the efficacy of something as subjective as creativity is also made measurable on digital channels. It’s important, however, to articulate how it all adds up on the organizational scorecard. For example, while an attempt to convince the C-suite about the value of digital impressions may fail to impress, digital also makes it possible to express metrics attribution in terms of impact to the top and bottom line.

Also read: Digital Marketing Mavericks: Publicis Groupe's Digitas India looks at marketing from a fresh lens

Digital can turbocharge your brands offline presence too

Think about the physical customer meet-ups, dealer or partner conclaves, user conferences and thought leadership conventions that are a staple in so many industries. Event apps and interactive screens on-location, of course, can help deliver more personalized content before, during, and after the occasion. But even more significantly, we often walk away from these events leaving so much data, which our guests shared, unharnessed. Which sessions and content tracks were most attended? Most liked? By whom? What were the questions asked? Insights derived from these and other questions can potentially inform the personalization of marketing campaigns – across channels - more holistically. For example, deliver targeted mobile ads with click-throughs to topics of interest gathered during the event, with an invitation to continue the conversation with your expert post the event. Another customer-facing analog channel that can deeply benefit from digital marketing insights – is the famed sales pitch itself, when the sales rep is empowered with contextual intelligence before they engage in a client conversation. It can help the brand evolve into a true sales accelerator while further strengthening the sales and marketing partnership.

Future-proofing your brand with a holistic digital strategy is clearly a necessity. Digital marketing, however, can sometimes feel like a world of constantly shifting contours.

Working its dynamics into all marketing efforts can feel daunting. Instead of looking to develop a perfect system, you can benefit from starting small, working your way up from low-hanging opportunities with small but persistent efforts to help marketing amplify the potential of traditional channels with an active digital boost.

Sumit Virmani is the executive VP and chief marketing officer of Infosys. Views expressed are personal.