Digital marketing in today’s world

In today’s increasingly digitised and digital world, there is no escaping the reality that digital is now integral to marketing discipline. Whilst some traditional platforms and approaches continue to hold weight, digital offers a world of infinite possibilities – and some challenges – that allow brands and businesses to accelerate their marketing efforts into more always on, real time efforts, and engage with consumers in wholly more intimate and human ways.

Digital marketing in today’s world

The situation in Southern Africa, indeed even in Botswana, may feel a little behind, though not if we really pause to examine the dynamics of change at play. Indeed, we are living in the era of the customer, and in a digital world, customers are more connected than ever and, at the same time, exposed. Digital marketing is quickly on the rise, growing at a rapid pace, and we see the outcomes of this every day: it is giving customers more agency, and at once giving brands a run for their money. However, far from a clearly back and white situation, there is a spectrum of impact and effectiveness, and many moving parts to contend with. Similarly, context is important, and the growth is pleasing, as part of an integrated approach.

According to the BOCRA Report - Internet services 2018, a sizeable proportion (60 percent) of respondents indicated that they used Internet services, with their main providers being Mascom and Orange Botswana. The most (96.8 percent) commonly used type of Internet is mobile data, 97% are pre-paid, 3 percent post-paid, 58 percent broadband connected (3G & 4G); of the 3.2m mobile subscriptions; just about 42 percent connected to the internet.  We are connecting and connected nearly every minute of every day, and we have platforms and channels at our disposal that encourage readily sharing our voice, our views, our desires and indeed our criticisms; the consumer has never been as powerful as we are today.

Conversely, the same applies for brands, but how well they use and execute in the digital ecosystem will spell the difference between being embraced and on top, or being a veritable lamb at the slaughter. It is a constant struggle of relevance and value, and we see so many brands fighting to ensure they remain on the right side of that battle, aligned to their purpose, passion, and values, whilst still pushing tooth and nail to deliver returns to business. This is especially for those in a retail environment, when e-commerce, digital inclusion services, and consumer engagement reign supreme.

Of course, the arrival of COVID-19 has forced many to remain home, working from home, and resorting or turning to digital solutions or platforms to limit their movement and yet still be able to communicate, connect, shop, and transact. Lockdowns, curfews and reduction of hours and spaces for recreation and socialising have collectively pushed people to spend more time on social media (both business and leisure activities). People are now creating more content and talking to ordinary people like themselves to soothe their boredom, educate etc. This takes away the eyeballs which we would normally have; the “presence” is now different.

Secondly, the restrictions have made the public conversely hyperaware of brand communications. If your brand missteps the backlash can be brutal.  More than ever, Marketers have to be on the right side of public opinion and that is never easy because Marketing by nature is supposed to thrill, disrupt and make you question. Ultimately there is now a smaller window of opportunity to craft and rework communication or change perception when there is a crisis.

We have all made the move, perhaps a little faster than some may have planned, into digital platforms use. As Stanbic Bank, we actively worked to enhance our digital solutions and digital engagement strategies, in many ways becoming more inclusive and attune to our own transformation strategy. We see the transformation in our marketing too.

The role of digital marketing in organisations, including our own, has evolved.  There have been three primary roles:

  • Educating - giving public knowledge of the pandemic, meeting people where they are on whichever platform and engaging on a very human and very real level; disseminating information on solutions, being services and products; and disseminating information on self-service and delivery channels especially for FMCG and Banking. Stanbic bank, for example enhanced our mobile banking and online banking channels during the first major lockdown
  • Creating Awareness – awareness on opportunities, solutions, best practice, digital literacy and financial literacy
  • Engaging – being supportive, united and a partner through tough times; keeping the conversation flowing with customers especially when brick-and-mortar visits are discouraged and a flurry of customer requests are always coming in. The job of Digital Marketing is to receive, process, funnel and address requests/queries within a reasonable turnaround time. Having a one-way conversation on Social Media these days is a quick route to the grave. One must truly engage.

There are basic fundamentals we need to reconcile with: firstly, Digital Media in Botswana is oftentimes far more cost effective than Traditional Media. Secondly it provides more trackable KPIs than some Traditional Media channels which use a more generalised summary e.g. to give a guess of how many people have seen it, a billboard advertiser may use an estimate of traffic flow based on population and car volumes. A Facebook ad in comparison can show you how many accounts have seen the ad, where they are, their age, gender and how many times they’ve seen it. That is more useful information in many ways. However, as always, balance is key: traditional media is not obsolete because there is still a good number of people who still rely on these platforms because of the trust that these platforms have built over years. And, indeed, because some consumers also prefer to consume traditional media.

To seize and create new opportunities, Traditional Media players need to embrace Digital advancements and “play the game” i.e. integrating new ways of presenting and delivering information into their existing models. Marketers need to strike a balance between using both and using them effectively. It does not end there. We have to listen to consumers, create moments to have that conversation (moments that matter), understand customer journeys and go back and factor these new insights into our products, services and communication efforts.

No matter the platform, we must always understand the consumer better so we can service them better. Digital Marketing, when used effectively, can make this process much smoother, as a veritable weapon in one’s arsenal to transform how we communicate, and how we leverage communications and marketing to deliver true relevance value and relevance.

(Stephanie Sandridge is the Head of Marketing at Stanbic Bank Botswana)