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Is your Digital Marketing Strategy working?

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As we emerge from our second COVID-19 lockdown, Senior Lecturer at the Graduate School of Management and Executive Education’s facilitator of Digital Marketing Strategy Julia Fehrer paints a picture of where we are at now with digital marketing and offers some key takeaways on how you can get your digital marketing strategy working for you today.


Julia Fehrer2020 has been a challenging year for businesses but there have been opportunities also. How would you describe the current market in terms of Digital Marketing?

For the last decade, we have seen New Zealand companies make major strides toward digital workplaces, digital services, digital analytics, digital marketing and e-commerce and these efforts have accelerated since the first lockdown this year. Digital marketing is no longer a nice add-on in marketing strategy, it has shifted to the centre stage of marketing management. The big retailers in the food and beverages industry, for example, shifted to online delivery basically overnight. This was possible because these incumbents were working on digital strategies and e-commerce channels for years. However, the situation for many SMEs is different and I see much potential for New Zealand SMEs to boost their business by working more digitally. Setting up a website and an e-commerce platform for online sales, promoting local business on social media and measuring the success of marketing campaigns real time on analytic dashboards are all things that will help SMEs to become more resilient when dealing with changing alert levels.

Where do you see the focus of digital marketing heading?

I see three major trends emerging in digital marketing.

Firstly, when we look at the open positions in digital marketing, many of them are in digital analytics and this has two main reasons, the first being that companies are now able to connect different data sources (financial data, customer data, and market data) better and thus have more data points. The second reason is that AI and machine learning are making it easier to deal with large data sets. The better the data quality, the more targeted and successful are digital marketing campaigns. Understanding the principles of data management and analytics is thus absolutely crucial for marketing professionals.

The second major trend is related to big data management where we see ethical debates about data privacy and ethical standards in dealing with customer data becoming more prominent.

Third, augmented and virtual reality is up and coming and, once the tech gets more compact, looks set to become a central element of digital marketing practice in the midterm future. Already, we see in the real estate sector examples of virtual reality being used to imagine what new buildings will look like or how new furniture will fit with existing interiors and COVID-19 certainly fuelled developments in this field.

Why is it important to reassess your digital marketing strategy?

While a digital strategy has been important for the last two decades and many companies are championing the integration of their digital and traditional channels, we have now a situation where we need to go ‘digital first’. For example, higher education faculties are now setting up many of their courses digital first and if it is safe to be on campus, the courses will be adjusted to an in-class or hybrid experience.

Many New Zealanders enjoyed working from home, at least for a couple of days every week, and companies realise that they can reduce costs when employees are in their home offices. This and similar trends will change work, retail, teaching and social spaces and the way we work and live together. That’s why many companies will need to assess digital first strategies to operate successfully going forward in a COVID-19 (and post COVID-19) world.

Why is a digital marketing strategy important?

In turbulent times, successful companies strive for a balance between strategic planning and agility. A digital marketing strategy is important to create stability and a common understanding of where the company aims to go with their digital efforts. On the other hand, it is important to have mechanisms in place that allow for rapid changes in case the situation requires it. This can be achieved by using agile methods, including design thinking, experimenting and rapid prototyping to calibrate the strategy if necessary.

What can you do right now for your business’ digital marketing strategy?

Get into the shoes of your customer to understand their digital journey. What do they google to land on your page? Why do they land on your competitor’s page instead? What are they looking for on your website and how can you optimise it so they find it faster? What is the best way to guide your customer toward conversion? How do you engage them to spend time with your website or join the conversation on your social media channels? Finally, you want to understand why your customers are leaving you.

Once you’ve gained insights about your customers’ actions, their most important digital touchpoints and their pain points, you will arrive at your digital opportunities. Use these as the foundation for your digital marketing strategy.

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