What digital transformation means (or doesn’t mean)
Right now, the term “digital transformation” is bandied about a lot. Usually, the message being hammered home is that businesses must transform or risk being swept away by the digital revolution – as if that revolution were a rapidly approaching tsunami.
This is pretty fuzzy.
The internet is no longer new, and businesses have been leveraging digital technologies that suit their needs for some time.
Also, there’s not a lot of consensus about what’s involved. The term is used in relation to everything from cloud computing to mobile apps and smartphones – none of which are new to us. This article about digital transformation in South Africa is a prime example.
At heart, the real idea behind digital transformation is that digital technologies can profoundly change the ways that businesses operate. Instead of just supporting traditional business processes, they can enable completely new (and presumably better) ways of working.
What is really changing?
Existing technologies continue to be expanded and newer ones, ranging from artificial intelligence and machine learning to sophisticated automation capabilities, are emerging. It may take time for businesses in South Africa and elsewhere to figure out what uses the newest technologies have for them.
One thing that is clear – massively increased computing power, cheaper data storage and new technologies for gathering and analysing data are changing the ways that businesses make decisions.
If there’s one arena where this is especially obvious, it’s digital marketing.
How data science and big data are changing marketing
The internet is yielding massive amounts of data about what people do and even say when they’re online. Data mining involves sifting through all this “big data” to find information that has business value – and data science involves analysing the data for useable intelligence.
A survey by 2nd Watch of 500 respondents indicated that the majority of medium to large businesses are already using big data to support their marketing efforts.
Small to medium companies, including African SMEs and startups, are also turning to big data to drive product innovation and marketing.
Digital marketing and big data
Via the internet, businesses have access to more data than ever before about their customers, markets and competitors. Even the smallest companies are using this data to inform their marketing, both online and off.
Drawing on data analysis for digital marketing purposes can help companies to:
- attract streams of highly qualified prospects
- identify target markets and their preferences, without investing in time-consuming surveys, focus group studies or other research
- recommend products or services based on customers’ previous activity online
- target ads based on individuals’ online activity, preferences, locations, demographic profiles, jobs, interests and more
- tailor promotional offers for particular customers.
At Gnu World Media, we assist companies with this process.
We’re not data scientists and we don’t work directly with big data. However, any competent digital marketing today involves drawing on big data in the form of data analytics.
Sources of big data for digital marketing
Data and data analytic capabilities are provided to advertisers as a matter of course by platforms like Google and Facebook, and are available via a wide range of apps and so-called Data as a Service (DaaS) providers.
Among the main sources of big data for digital marketing purposes are:
- web mining, including mining of information about browser activity and about website structure and links
- likes, shares, comments and check-ins on social media platforms
- search information – what users are searching for and, for instance, which search queries get the most visitors to your website
- tracking of website transactions
- details of mobile device use
- surveys, forums, polls and online communities.
Digital transformation and marketing in the future
Trends we’re already experiencing are likely to continue, with digital transformation having a greater impact on the sale funnel and resulting in increasing personalisation of advertising for particular customers.
It’s also likely that demand will result in access to more and better sources of data analytics – ones that don’t force businesses to waste excessive time wading through data to get to actionable insights and information that’s really of value.
At the same time, it’s predicted that demand for qualified data scientists will continue growing by leaps and bounds.
Big data and data analytics don’t guarantee more effective digital marketing – it’s what you do with the data that counts. But having that data in the first place has become an imperative for most businesses.