21 September 2016

BUSINESS - Post-Digital Age Presents Marketing Challenges

Have we entered the post-digital age?

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Reading this post on a digital device – your computer, smartphone, tablet, or even smart tv – the question of whether humans have entered the post-digital age may seem counter-intuitive.

And, indeed, arguments have been made that it is not the end of the digital age, but the beginning.

David Sable, the CEO of leading global communications company Y&R, believes that “we are only at the very beginning of what’s digital. We wake up every morning to new technology and stunning new applications.”

Sable calls this new technology and its new applications, many of which tie into the Internet of Things to further blend the physical and digital worlds, “digital exponential.”

A Peer Reviewed Journal About (APRJA) is an open-access journal that publishes scholarship on “key aspects of contemporary digital culture” and featured a special issue on post-digital research in 2014.

In that issue, Florian Cramer wrote that “the term ‘post-digital’ can be used to describe… a contemporary disenchantment with digital information systems and media gadgets.”

American tech and market research company Forrester recently hosted Forrester’s Marketing 2016 with a focus on marketing in a post-digital world.

One of the key takeaways from the event was the mantra to “Be human, be helpful, and be handy.” The consumer’s disenchantment with digital information systems is evident here – in most cases, a bot is not the answer.

Whether framing the current shifts as post-digital or as digital exponential, what’s clear is that consumer behaviour is changing.

Trust is built slowly, and lost quickly. Consumers adopt new brands and technology quickly, and abandon them just as quickly.

Consumers are accessing digital information more frequently than ever – 80% of internet users have a smartphone, and within that demographic, 89% of their time is spent in mobile apps.

This is the other definition of post-digital – a world in which digital engagement is so ubiquitous that it is no longer differentiated, because it is fully integrated.

This presents challenges for marketers because although it may be true that digital life is so fully embedded that marketing must seamlessly bridge online and offline, it is not true that marketing strategies have kept up.

Adapting to a new generation of consumers that expects instant results and human responsiveness is an expensive, daunting proposition.

Forrester suggests five key strategies.

Adopt a post-digital mindset (adaptability), understand customers’ moments (responsiveness), win customers’ trust (reliability), engage with customers in context (integration), and lead the change (innovation).

Although navigating the post-digital/digital exponential presents unique challenges, it also presents unique opportunities.

With consumers being online all the time through their smartphones and other connected devices, the opportunities to engage are everywhere.

Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook are all vying for what Forrester’s Carl Doty refers to as “customer moments,” which are fleeting moments of potential marketing engagement. This could be the opportunity to suggest a restaurant or activity, or respond to a customer’s physical location with marketing opportunities.

In these moments, the consumer is already using their mobile device to make decisions, and the marketing opportunity is completely dependent on already being present in the mobile environment.

By Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a writer, editor, academic, and animal lover who came late to her appreciation of pets. At 18, a rescue pup named Tasha saved her from a depression and she hasn't looked back. She has worked as the canine behaviour program coordinator for the Calgary Humane Society, and was a dog trainer specializing in working with fearful and reactive dogs for many years. She doesn't have any pets right now, but makes up for it by giving her petsitting clients (and any dogs she comes across on her frequent coffee shop adventures) extra snuggles.

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