Digital marketing is still relatively young and in development compared to what are dubbed as “traditional” marketing methods. However, digital marketing has taken over the business world by storm. Small and large businesses alike use some form of digital marketing in their overall marketing strategy, and most have at least one employee dedicated specifically to digital marketing.

Why has digital marketing become so pervasive? With laptops, mobile phones and tablets, the consumer has access to information at any time in any place. This means that businesses have much less control of the messages customers receive about their company. Instead of only hearing carefully crafted advertisements, people get opinions from the media, relatives and complete strangers. The clincher is the customer is going to believe these people over you every time, so companies have to become more transparent and more personal with their interactions in order to build trust and loyalty.

The Current Landscape

Digital marketing allows those interactions by providing a forum to talk to customers who may live all over the world all on one Facebook page or Twitter feed. Most of these interactions are used to monitor customer satisfaction and participate in the feedback loop available to customers. Many companies have also found social media to be a powerful marketing tool to drive up sales and website traffic. By holding contests, offering scholarships, building up loyal followers who may not even live near a store, and providing an online experience, marketers reach those they couldn’t reach before. Digital marketers are having to get more and more creative in order to connect with the ever elusive consumer. The digital marketing company 97th Floor built an entire website dedicated to a blogger’s post called “The Pixar Theory“. This was a very clever tactic to try and gain exposure by providing  a unique perspective on a soon-to-go-viral piece of content. There was no other reason for building the site than simply getting their name out there. Who knows what came of it? The fact that they were able to foresee something going viral and went with the flow. The current digital marketing landscape requires you to stay ahead of the curve, anticipate the trends and capitalize when possible.

That’s not to say digital marketing doesn’t face its challenges. The different digital channels are all unique and provide their distinct challenges for marketers: The difference between creating a website for a desktop and a mobile device for instance. The industry is always changing and moving in different directions that it is nearly impossible to predict. The surge of smartphone users has brought a lot of opportunities, but a lot of challenges as well. Many marketers have struggled to get sales from consumers that use smartphones because their apps or websites aren’t conducive to mobile devices. Many in the digital industry are trying to define what “mobile” even means. From smartphones to tablets, conforming to the trends is difficult to say the least. In addition, since digital channels are relatively cheap using digital marketing is within the reach of every business, and since most businesses take advantage of it there is a lot of content out there vying for the consumer’s attention. Finally, with so much data being created staying on top of all of the data and dissecting it is near impossible with current methods.

Social media in business has also become a big player in the digital marketing industry. More and more sites are targeting the social media aspect of marketing. From the popular Twitter, Facebook, blogging, and Google Plus, to Reddit, BuzzFeed and Tumblr, there are more and more businesses using these sites to connect with customers and their target markets on a deeper level.

The Future

To address the onslaught of competitive advertising and accumulation of data, marketers will turn to big data more and more to be able to segment the consumer more effectively and store and manage the data effectively. Big data has the potential to allow marketers to cater to individuals online rather than segmented groups. This means that an email offer from say, Vivint or Defensive Driving, will feature the exact security system or driving meme that a user was pinning on Pinterest or talking about on Facebook instead of a general coupon.

Digital marketing won’t be going away, so more than ever businesses are going to need to come up with a story to tell and be able to tell it over multiple channels consistently. Diversifying your playbook by including SEO tactics, SEM, PPC and content marketing, among many others, will help keep you ahead of the game. To do this effectively companies are going to have to know their customers better, and better enough to know where, when and how the customer is most receptive to their marketing message. This means constantly listening to what the consumer is saying, so you can get an idea of what they are thinking.

Finally, digital marketing will become ever more personal as organizations evolve from a brand to a living organizations that talks with the consumer and adapts to the needs and wants of each individual.