Channeling Their Energies

Getting the message right is half the battle in digital marketing. The other half — technology — is redefining the way the relentless fight for consumer connections is being waged today.

So … you say technology is constantly changing the way you do business, eh? Well, if you’re truly a technophobe, you’re not working in the realm of digital marketing, where Richard Cherra of MBB+ assesses the pace of change with two words: “Every. Day.”

“Having that content and the audience and the message, that’s the foundation for how we build plans for clients,” says Cherra, the firm’s vice president of strategy and development. “The technology does give us the opportunity to provide content in a more relevant setting, delivering messages for the brands we represent. But it is changing every day.”

The Leawood agency, like many of its peers, has pivoted to dedicate manpower and resources trying to stay ahead of the changes, which can involve new consumer communications plat-forms and social media channels, as well as end-user hardware in a world where mobility and consumerism go hand in hand.

That technology is changing the very nature of how those firms do what they do. No longer driven just by the creative side, agencies must concern themselves with a client’s technological status, too—for example, how fast its servers can load a page with content a consumer might be seeking. These days, even frac-tions of seconds matter, says Josh McCoy, director of integrated channel delivery for Trozzolo Communications Group. 

Google, now a partner for almost anyone in business, “tells you what you need to do to make sure your landing page is loading as quickly as possible,” McCoy says. “Their new Think With Google will show you the lost-traffic probability at three seconds vs. four seconds, and it will show you losing 15 percent of potential visitors who won’t hang around that extra second.” 

The best creative, the most finely tuned messaging in the world, won’t matter a lick if those consumers click away. Google’s tools, McCoy said, can also tell you, based on number of visitors to a site by day, their order values, conversion rates and other metrics, how an improvement of even half a second in page loading can mean an additional $5,000 or $10,000 in sales.

That plays directly into the nature of changing consumer expectations, digital marketing executive say. 

“Probably the biggest change that’s come through the speed of tech change is that customer expectations are now portable,” says John Stauffer, managing director of strategic planning and channel strategy for DEG. A great experience with a movie suggested by Netflix, a song recommended by Spotify or a Uber ride that shows up within 90 seconds reframes the way consumers look at the concept of service, he said.

“With all of those experiences and conveniences, customers do not limit themselves to that device or channel,” Stauffer says. “The expectation of personalized content, greater convenience, automation—those expectations are portable and they travel with the customer wherever they are.”

Operationally, marketing agencies must pivot to incorporate new platforms and channels as they emerge, and at the same time understand the impact of new tools in the hands of the people receiving that marketing message. A real challenge in all of that is trying to discern what new tools will truly gain traction, and which will become passing fads or fail the test of real-world usage, executives say. How to differentiate the truly innovative ones from the background noise?

“It is a challenge,” says Alexis Bossi, managing director of paid media for MBB+ “We surround ourselves with information, try to get to that one nugget of what differentiates one vendor from others,” she says. “A lot of it is taking in the information and determining what the end goal is, and what client needs are, to determine the best fit for achieving those.”

One thing coming down the road that could be a game-changer is the Internet of Things, the ability of machines to communicate and become part of the marketing ecosystem. McCoy cites the example of a home’s HVAC system gone digital. “If that furnace isn’t operating at maximum efficiency, then maybe it triggers an e-mail to the repair company about a client opportunity,” he said.

Interestingly, Stauffer observes, even as technology advances, it’s creating new opportunities for legacy channels, too. Print, he said, will remain a viable marketing option in the hands of those who know how to make it complement and leverage their digital strategies, thanks to new technologies that can allow for more personalized delivery of those products, as well. 

“In a lot of ways,” he said, “what’s old is new again.”