Staying ahead in the Digital Age

​By Nadia Cook, Digital Marketing Specialist, Acumen Republic

​We are in the middle of a technological revolution. We’re living in a global community where we expect everything in an instant – whether it’s transport, accommodation, or ordering McDonalds. This can be intimidating for traditional business models, but it’s crucial that brands evolve to keep up with the change.

The marketing and communications landscape has changed significantly alongside this, with the introduction of an array of social media channels as well as change and advancement in digital technology. Facebook was first introduced to the public in late 2006 and there are now 1.71 billion monthly active users. From 2009, people began to embrace smartphones, and today nearly two thirds of digital media is consumed on mobile devices.

For at least the past five years, the global buzz phrase has been ‘Digital Transformation’. But what does that mean for your business, exactly? A survey conducted earlier this year found that 96 per cent of business leaders across the world consider digital transformation vitally important, yet 62 per cent say that their organisation isn’t quite sure what to do. Unfortunately, Digital Transformation needs to be more strategic than simply throwing money at your IT or website. The most important thing is to get a holistic view of what your business is trying to achieve. Fundamentally, technology should help you build a better business, grow your profits and build an engaged community of advocates.

It used to be enough to spend a sizeable budget on an advertising campaign, but this has changed – and continues to evolve. How we spend marketing money has changed radically: instead of the easy option of a mass communication strategy we are now faced with developing and conducting digital conversations that we can track and measure. Add to that the ability to optimise in real time. In the last five years digital advertising spend has doubled and will soon take over traditional advertising spend; Facebook and Google control 76 per cent of all internet advertising growth globally.

Customers engage with brands on multiple channels. Organisations need to be operating an omnichannel communications approach. The biggest shift with utilising digital channels is that now brands can listen to and engage with customers in a way we couldn’t have imagined 10 years ago, and in doing so, can build trust and loyalty.

People trust people and brands they can relate to. The Acumen Edelman Trust Barometer highlights the role of everyday people in influencing and growing brands. This raises the opportunity of user-generated content. Done correctly, this provides a huge opportunity to build greater brand credibility and can also be very cost effective as your customers develop your content for you – the marketing team are merely the curators.

Organisations must also realise that customers will only positively engage with brands that align with their values and needs. The trust research found that 54 per cent of the general population will refuse to buy a product from a company they don’t trust, compared with 72 per cent who will actively choose to buy products and services from a company they do trust. Trust builds preference and ultimately, sales.

Despite these massive technological shifts, the fundamental principles of marketing and communications remain the same. The key is in telling engaging and creative stories to connect brands with people. These days we just have more opportunities to listen to our customers and more channels to share our messages. But this also means we have to create more content with specific audiences in mind in order to engage with them. This doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. Your business has this content already. It’s just a matter of collaborating and engaging within your organisation to find the stories, and working with someone to help you tell them to your current and potential customer base. Then listen and adapt.