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What’s Digital Got To Do With It?

Redefining “Digital” In The Omni-Channel Environment

If you ask me, we’re no longer living in a “digital” world. We’re now living in what can be best described as a post-digital reality.

In short, what I mean is that the perceptual line between offline and and online shopping isn’t just blurred – it statistically doesn’t even exist. Take the convergence of two trends – webrooming and showrooming. Webrooming is where consumers browse online and shop in-store, whereas showrooming is the opposite.

Research into customer buying behaviors indicates that webrooming and showrooming have now reached the point where they are now equal. Customers are just as likely to engage in one as they are another. Let that sink in. We don’t think about making purchases in one channel or another – we just think about making purchases.

This isn’t just a B2C thing, either. B2B commerce is increasingly neither tethered to a single channel for decisions nor purchase mechanism. This begs the question – what does “digital” mean in today’s marketing lexicon?

If online decisions are now being made offline and offline decisions are being made online – where does “digital” fit? The answer is that “digital” doesn’t matter anymore. At least not from a marketing perspective.

Too many marketers confuse marketing technology with actual marketing and call it “digital.” Don’t get me wrong – DMPs, AI, AR, and bots are all fabulous marketing tools. However, there are far too many applications of these technologies that really don’t do anything. They don’t enhance the customer experience, they don’t inform customer purchase decisions and they certainly don’t provide any added value. At best they’re novelties.

If you really want to make these technologies work, we have to look back to move forward. I’m talking back to the beginning of marketing “technology” – the door-to-door salesman. You see, the best door-to-door salespeople knew their territories and their customers so well that they could anticipate their needs. Customers didn’t even have to ask for something.  The salesperson showed up at their door at just the right time with the right pitch for that specific customer.

For technologists who want to be marketers, ask yourself this question, what if we had an army of those kind of salespeople? What if we had enough salespeople to match every customer one-to-one – millions of them? What if we could send them around the world in an instant with all the information they needed for just the right pitch.

That, my friends is digital in a post-digital reality.

Customers would never again have to walk into a store or open their Amazon app because our salesperson would be there with what they needed before they knew they needed it. That’s what digital can do for the customer relationship.

It’s not that technology and innovation don’t have a place at the table or that we don’t need experts at commanding that technology. We just can’t take our eyes off the fact that marketing still happens just one sale at a time. We can’t forget that people buy things from people – and always will.

Too many times as marketers we become so enamored of our own creations – of new technologies – that we forget what got us into this profession in the first place.

In the end, the future belongs to those who find a way to create great things in service to the customer. The future belongs to great marketers who harness data, and technology, and innovation not for the sake of accolades and press mentions – but to place valuable and interesting information in the hands of the right decision makers.

That’s the future. That’s commerce. That’s marketing.

Now, let’s get to work.

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