The best way to define a digital marketing platform is to break it down into its two parts: digital marketing and digital business platforms.
What is Digital Marketing?
Simply put, digital marketing refers to any marketing initiative that leverages connected devices or the internet. Common digital marketing initiatives center around distributing a brand message through search engines, social media, applications, email, and websites.
Today, digital marketing often focuses on reaching a customer with increasingly conversion-oriented messages across multiple channels as they move down the sales funnel. Ideally, marketing teams will be able to track the role each of these messages / channels played in reaching their ultimate goal.
Digital Business Platforms
Gartner notes that in the context of modern business, platforms are tools that provide multiple business or technology capabilities. While there are tools to address specific functions within one business need, such as a single tool to schedule social media updates alone, platforms support multiple functions across these needs. Platforms typically enable a more extensive set of functions with APIs, integrations, and partnerships with other applications or data sources.
Now, let’s revisit the initial question. What is a digital marketing platform? A digital marketing platform is a solution that supports a variety of functions within the realm of marketing over the internet. According to Gartner, it is important to note that to really classify as a platform, the solution cannot claim to support every component of digital marketing – but will rather cover functionality within one or two key domains. For example, a platform may have functionalities that extend into facilitating social media operations and graphic design operations. But, it will not cover SEO, social, analytics, media buying, user experience, and so on.
Why is Digital Marketing Important
Digital marketing is on the rise – surpassing spend on traditional marketing for the first time ever in 2019. This is because consumers are increasingly present on online channels. With tech advancements such as AI and machine learning, marketers are better equipped to reach consumers on digital devices at just the right moment. This is opposed to traditional marketing methods – which have to be planned and placed well in advance. Consider the following:
- The world has 7.7 billion people and 4.4 billion people use the internet
- Nearly 30 percent of consumers would rather interact with brands via social channels versus going to a store.
To be competitive, organizations need to be present across digital channels and devices. However, this doesn’t mean offline channels should be ignored altogether. The best way to meet consumer demands is with an omnichannel presence – which combines offline and digital elements.
Types of Digital Marketing
There are numerous ways to connect with consumers online. Below are several ways you can engage with prospects and clients:
Social Media Platforms
Todays’ consumers are highly reliant on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Snapchat. This is why it is essential that brands are active across accounts. Consider these stats:
- On average users have about 8 social media accounts.
- An average of 2 hours and 22 minutes are spent on social per person per day.
- Out of the 5.11 billion people who have a phone, 3.26 billion access social media using it.
- People spend about 1/7th of their waking time on social platforms.
Social media platforms allow marketers to reach their prospects in a myriad of ways. First, marketing teams can use these channels to distribute paid ads and sponsored content. Each platform has a way for marketing teams to create paid ad campaigns and segment users so these ads appear on the feeds of target audience members. While each platform is different, most have capabilities that allow marketing teams to place ads based on location, job title, interests, age, etc.
Levi’s ad on Instagram feed
Social media is also a great way to promote products or resources organically to your followers, and engage with consumers. Chances are, people that follow your brand on social media have likely purchased from you in the past. Interacting with them on social media or answering customer service-oriented questions is a great way to ensure continued engagement with the brand and cultivate positive experiences and customer loyalty.
Domino’s Pizza customer service on Twitter
Finally, marketing teams can use social media to build their brand and establish a voice that can make them popular to follow and share. For example, Wendy’s flippant and funny tone has made them exceptionally popular on Twitter, commonly earning likes, retweets, and responses.
Another effective way to harness digital channels to reach target audiences is with influencer marketing. Brands can partner with celebrities, sites, or others that are considered experts in their field, that share similar values. Brand can then reach these influencers’ followers with branded content and offers. Many marketers have found success with influencer marketing, with 9 out 10 noting that it was the same or better than other channels they use. Additionally, 1 out of 2 women based a purchase decision on a recommendation from an influencer.
Here is an example of influencer marketing example: GoPro partnered up with this Colorado-based influencer, Loki, whose followers include many outdoor enthusiasts. This put their product in front of their target audience, with a recommendation from a like-minded, trustworthy source.
Email marketing campaigns allow organizations to stay connected with prospects and customers, sending them customized newsletters or offers based on past shopping history or brand engagements. If an individual has interacted with a few of your branded touchpoints – like an email offer for 10 percent off the items they have been considering, or free shipping - may be what ultimately brings about a conversion. Nearly 60% of consumers say that email plays a role in their purchase decisions. Furthermore, transactional emails are more likely to be opened by subscribers.
Content marketing allows marketing teams to be proactive in answering their users’ questions. Marketing teams create content, videos, and other assets to answer questions or provide context to consumers throughout the three stages of the buyer’s journey:
- The awareness stage: Buyer realizes they have a need
- The consideration stage: Buyer determines a course of action to meet this need
- The decision stage: Buyer decides on a product / service to purchase to meet the need
For example, a consumer might realize they need new shoes to wear to the gym. The marketing team for an activewear company may produce a piece about what features your need from a sneaker if you run a lot, as opposed what you need if you focus on strength. Looking at this content, the buyer determines they need running shoes. Another piece of content might show the most popular running sneakers and their price points. Once they are educated on these factors, they decide. The guidance offered by your brand throughout will likely result in them purchasing from you. Content marketing is often less expensive than other forms of marketing, while producing nearly 3 times as many leads.
Search engine optimization (SEO) often goes hand in hand with content marketing. When the customer from the above example is conducting research for which gym shoes to buy, they will probably click on one of the first three results that appear on Google. With this is mind, the sneaker marketing team wants to ensure their article appears in those top results. This is done by optimizing content for user experience and ensuring the technical elements are in place to enable search engine crawlers to easily find and index this content.
Top search engine results are often dictated by SEO
Pay-per-click (PPC) is a form of paid advertising that allows marketing teams essentially purchase traffic to their website. Marketers place ads on websites or search engines such as Google or Bing, and pay a fee each time that add is clicked on. These ads often appear at the top of the search results page. Ads that appear on search engines are typically determined bids on specific keywords, while banner ads on websites usually have set prices.
PPC ads are often shown at the top of search engine results
Advantages of Digital Marketing Platforms
Digital marketing platforms span several functions in one solution – allowing marketing teams to get a more integrated / holistic view of their campaigns. When selecting a digital marketing platform, consider the following advantages of partnering with the right software provider:
Track and Allocate Spend
- Many marketers struggle with determining which channels are driving the most value, and therefore the ones they should spend more on. This challenge is exacerbated by the increasingly wide variety of digital channels they need to be present across. With this in mind, marketing teams should leverage a platform that uses advanced attribution modeling. This will give them insight into spend and success rates across multiple digital channels, and actionable suggestions on how to then optimize spend.
- There are many attribution models - and if your team is using outdated models (like last-click attribution), you could be missing out on opportunities to make the most of your digital channels. Using a digital marketing tool, marketing teams are more likely to be getting updated attribution modeling abilities, such as unified measurement.
The Right Ads to Drive Conversions
- With the right digital marketing platform, you can gain a better understanding of what type of content resonates with your customers across platforms. This allows marketers to understand which voice and creative elements garner the most engagement.
- These platforms can also assist in building out more comprehensive user profiles, to understand when to show they ads and on what device.
Correlate Qualitative and Quantitative Results
- The right digital marketing platform will help you make better choices to drive revenue when planning media, tracking your brand across channels, or conducting media buys. A major part of this is assisting marketers in understanding both direct response campaigns and more qualitative campaigns, such as brand building. Digital marketing platforms can assist in developing the KPIs to test these, and provide metrics into how their value compares over time.
What to Look for When Evaluating a Digital Marketing Platform
- Clean Data: Marketing strategy needs to be built on timely, representative data. Organizations that do not prioritize data quality and adhere to strict data quality standards will not make good software partners. This is especially true if you rely on these partners to augment your organization’s own data with second- and third-party data sources.
- Relationships with Third Parties: When allocating media spend and budget, it’s important to consider the relationships your third-party software provider has - they may have integrations with other tools or data sources to provide additional context to your media plans. If you’re using a digital marketing platform to create a media plan, these relationships can be leveraged to provide a more complete view of the customer. For example, if a platform has relationships with television networks or periodicals, your organization can use this subscription data to get a better understanding of who has been exposed to your offline ads.
- The Ability to Look at Campaigns Holistically: Your organization is likely running online and offline campaigns, so your marketing platform should not be limited to just measuring digital campaigns. Invest in a solution that can take both into consideration to provide you with the most accurate insights and profitable recommendations.
- The Marketing Attribution Model: Not all marketing attribution models are created equally. If your solution is not taking advantage of unified marketing measurement, your legacy, outdated measurement models can give inaccurate recommendations. For example, if the platform is using media mix modeling or single touch attribution, you team will constantly be relying on outdated, historical metrics, or could be missing key data regarding the buyer’s journey.
Digital marketing platforms are great resources as brands attempt to be present across a multitude of channels and ensure this presence is driving value. Before selecting a platform, determine your goals and KPIs to find the platform the covers the correct functionality to align with your business needs.
Additional Tips and Resources
- What is Data Quality?
- What is Media Planning?
- The Key Applications of Media Mix Optimization
- 3 Examples of Brands who Changed Their Media Plan for Success
- How to Best Optimize Your Media Plan Across Your Brand