Last year, Gartner analyst Laura McLellan predicted that by 2017, Marketing spending on technology would be greater than CIOs in the same company (http://goo.gl/CmI27). It's a bold claim, but not completely unbelievable - marketing budgets are generally bigger than IT budgets and most brands are coming around to the idea that Big Data is key to their marketing plans.
Marketing is becoming increasingly technology-based - this is an undeniable fact. Big-name brands might be starting to get to grips with digital marketing, but they need to do more to achieve the goal of growing their business if they want to survive in this ultra-competitive environment.
An Econsultancy report issued on 5th February found that 71 per cent of businesses plan to increase their digital marketing budgets this year. However, digital marketing isn't necessarily something a business can just throw money at and hope to get right. In fact, with the right strategy in place, they could even achieve more with less. So the big question is - how?
One way is to target customers individually. Really get inside their heads and create the kind of deals that they'll really appreciate to promote long-term loyalty. To do this, the marketer needs two things - firstly, enough transactional data to build an accurate profile of individual customers; secondly, a way of communicating with these customers after they've made their purchase.
The first step sounds simple enough. Unfortunately, though, many retailers don't have IT systems capable of storing and processing this data, then presenting it in an easy-to-analyse form. The natural reaction might be to spend money on replacing these IT systems. But as well as being costly, this can be complicated, perhaps even resulting in lost sales - or even worse, lost data - while the systems are swapped over. A better and lower-cost option would be to use a third-party system alongside existing IT infrastructure to get to grips with the data that is being generated.
The second part involves a much more 21st Century approach to marketing. Targeting a customer's smartphone, pushing them offers based on transactional history at the appropriate time - for example, when they're within 500 yards of a retail outlet or about to undertake their weekly shop - would be much more effective.
As for brands who simply put out coupons in paper form, but have no idea which customers are redeeming them, how do they expect to use this data to build customer profiles if they can't link it to an individual? Again, the ubiquitous smartphone - of which there are 36 million in the UK - is the answer.
The future of digital marketing is - as far as the consumer is concerned, at least - based on the smartphone. We already use them for researching products and prices, and sometimes even as a payment method, too. If brands can crack the concept of using them as a m-coupon and redemption platform, they'll be in a great position to promote long-term loyalty among their existing customer base and win over new customers too.
Again, this needn't be costly. What is required is strategic partnerships with financial services companies and technology providers. 2013 will be the year that forward-thinking digital marketers will be able to get the edge on their competitors. But it is the strategy, rather than the amount of resources at their disposal, which will count.