The influence that the internet has had on businesses can only be described as a sea-change within the context of all business practice. Similarly, business approaches to marketing have followed a comparable transformation. In their ongoing quest for a competitive advantage and an expansion of their markets, organizations of all sizes are pursuing ‘e-business’ strategies in their marketing function. This approach is increasingly dependent upon solid marketing information, especially as the economy places greater emphasis on services as a primary source of value. Consequently, modern marketing concepts focus on leveraging IT technology to coordinate with customers and business partners to achieve superior business results in non-traditional ways.
Into this model, marketing automation software emerges as a discipline that seeks to automate marketing activities such as e-commerce, decision support, sales, customer relationship management and customer service. Marketing automation strategies buttressed by the power of innovative and (more and more) intelligent IT technology will transform the field and function of marketing. But does this radically changed marketing environment in fact revolutionize the very concept and model of marketing? The response is neither simple nor unifaceted. Some researchers have argued in the affirmative, but there is also evidence that points to the fact that the marketing space itself and how consumers interact with it changes as quickly as the digital platforms which host it.
This reality gives rise to a unique marketing dilemma – how to remain relevant to your audience in an environment that continually changes and shapes their interactions?
Perhaps the answer exists along a spectrum of thinking that allows businesses to reinvent themselves and their branding story as quickly as the technical environment that supports them.
INTERNET MARKETING – PRESENT AND FUTURE
The pre-internet marketing function evolved from a support function to the “make and sell” business strategy (that essentially ignored long-term customer value) to a customer-focused business emphasis. This change in business emphasis not only elevated the importance of marketing as a core business function, but also made room for the evolving concept of “cybermarketing” which is a major proponent of this new model of marketing.
Marketing,in its earlier internet iteration, was tasked with monitoring changes in the business environment like buyer behavior, economic conditions and government policies (Harmon, R). This change elevated its role and required some original, out-of-the-box thinking. The continuing influence of the Internet and long-term cybermarketing strategies will intensify the convergence of computers, information systems, telecommunications and the customer with the marketing process. This is the route by which the ‘new model’ of marketing will continue to evolve and gain relevancy.
The argument for a ‘new model’ of marketing strategies is supported, by and large, by its economic counterpart – namely, ‘an economy that is undergoing continuing exogenous change … in unanticipated ways… is maladaptive to and out of date in its current environment”. (Nelson & Winter) The response to this problem requires a fully dynamic economic analysis, more in keeping with evolutionary than neoclassical economic theories. But this is an argument for another time and space.
At present, the engagement with this new marketing model is in its formative stages and far from perfect. Time, money, improved and more intelligent technologies, and new engagement principles will forge the way ahead for a truly innovative marketing approach.
At the forefront of this change, which is now in its infancy, is the innovative and challenging technology introduced by AI and VR models. This change has the potential to turn the old model on its head. This level of interconnectivity will no longer accommodate the marketer in their quest to sell their product or brand, but will place the consumer at the center of the marketing experience, allowing him/her to shape and envisage the product and brand prioritizing the consumer’s own system of needs, wants and social values.
This aspect of intimate, collaborative marketing no longer belongs in the realm of science fiction.
Going forward, this level of deeper connectivity to the consumer will represent a true break from the traditional human directed role in marketing, supported by technology to a machine directed approach that drives the interaction with the consumer.
Brave new world? Perhaps.
Contributed by Gabriel Gheorghiu – Experienced consultant and analyst focusing on business software and customer interactions