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Your business, your brand, your customers – a unique combination

What we can do, however, is explore some of the trends that have emerged in the digital marketing space over the past couple of years, examine where we are today and then, in the case studies that follow, show you how some of the world’s leading brands are using digital marketing to engage more effectively with audiences, promote brand awareness and boost their bottom line.

Where are we now?

As authors, we’re very conscious that any book about digital marketing, including this one, is in danger of dating quickly. The topic is among the most fluid and dynamic imaginable and continues to evolve at a mind-boggling pace. Tools and services appear online seemingly overnight, and many disappear just as quickly, waxing and waning to the rhythm of fickle online consumers. All of which makes it a very exciting field to be involved in, but also makes writing about it in a way that will retain value for you, the reader, a challenging endeavor to say the least. But then, we’re always up for a challenge.

It’s a huge and still rapidly growing market

In North America more than 77 percent of people are online, in Australasia/ Oceania it’s 61 percent and in Europe 77 percent – although within that subdued European figure of just over half you have Scandinavian states sporting 80–95 percent penetration, and the UK with more than 82 percent. Asia’s internet penetration figures stand at around 21.5 percent, but that doesn’t give the full picture either, because there’s a massive swing from a high 81.1 percent penetration in South Korea to a very low 0.4 percent penetration in Bangladesh. Percentages can hide the sheer scale of the potential online market in some of these countries too

Take China as an example. Only 31.6 percent of Chinese people have internet access. That doesn’t sound like much, but translate it to actual individual internet users and it represents a massive 420,000,000 people, giving China the world’s largest online population by quite some margin.

A global phenomenon, local impact

Its report Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users, 2010 and Beyond: A New Balance, analyst firm Gartner predicts that by 2014 more than 3 billion people – or a significant majority of the world’s adult population – will have the ability to ‘transact electronically via mobile or Internet technologies’. That’s a staggering statistic that represents a fundamental shift in the foundation of global commerce.

Widespread internet adoption and the use of electronic media to facilitate commerce is a global phenomenon, but it’s one that even local businesses cannot afford to ignore. Whether people are looking for a plumber to fit their new bathroom suite or using a smartphone to pinpoint peer-recommended Italian restaurants near where they’re staying, consumers rely on the internet to guide their international, national and local purchasing decisions. Ready or not, that’s already having an impact on your business

Going social

The shift towards social media is perhaps the most significant recent development in online marketing. Who hasn’t heard about the meteoric rise of Facebook to the top of the social networking tree or the explosive growth of Twitter during 2009?

n April 2010, UK internet users spent 65 percent more time online (884 million hours) than they did in April 2007 (536 million hours), according to figures from the UK Online Measurement company (UKOM) (Nielsen Wire, June 2010). The same report reveals a huge shift towards social media, showing that in 2007, social networks and blogs accounted for less than 9 percent of all UK internet time, while in 2010, social sites and blogs accounted for nearly 23 percent of the total time UK internet users spend online.

How big is social media?

At the time of writing, Facebook is the king of the social media heap. According to its own stats page, it had more than 500 million active users, 50 percent of whom logged on to Facebook on any given day. People on the site interacted with 160 million objects (pages, groups, and events). The average Facebook user, the company said, connected to 60 pages, groups, and events, and created 70 pieces of content each month. In total, more than 25 billion pieces of content (links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc) were being shared on Facebook every month.

Any time, any place, anywhere

Thanks to the ubiquity of broadband in the home, the widespread availability of public WiFi hotspots, better 3G mobile coverage, and more affordable mobile data plans, internet access really is becoming an anytime, anywhere commodity. It’s cheap, it’s convenient and it’s changing the way we communicate and interact on a social and a commercial level.

As marketers, we need to be aware of these changes, understand them, and adapt to them. We have a remarkable opportunity to harness the potential of this shift in consumer behavior to connect with customers in a more targeted way that adds real value, instead of merely pumping out messages that few of them really want to hear.

Location, location, location

Coupled to a large degree with the growing number of high-end mobiles, many of them equipped with built-in GPS receivers, and the refinement of methods to determine the approximate position of non-GPS-enabled mobile phones is the rise of location-based services.

These services allow users to access (and businesses/marketers to deliver) relevant information (and targeted advertising) directly to their handsets based on their current location.

Last word

Location-based marketing is in its infancy but is certainly growing fast as sales of location-aware mobile phones continue to accelerate. We’re only beginning to tap into its potential. Whether location-based marketing offers great opportunities for your business or not will depend largely on what you do and who your customers are, but it’s certainly something to bear in mind as you ponder your strategy moving forward.

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