The Evolution of Digital Marketing: Past, Present, and Future
Digital marketing has come a long way. From email to search engines, mobile to social media, digital ads to content marketing—the industry’s evolution hasn’t been boring at all. To help put things into perspective, this post reviews the history of digital marketing and provides insights into where we’re headed.
Digital marketing is a strange beast. It is the rare intersection of technology, human nature, and business. It’s come a long way from the good old days where the cost of “eyeballs” was measured by some very basic means, to now where it requires hours of research, hundreds in online advertising fees, and sometimes years of waiting for results that may or may not happen.
From the birth of the internet to the dotcom collapse, digital marketing has seen it all. The art and science of selling through the internet have come a long way from its early days when finding a market was so hard it seemed like a miracle. It’s moved from being an obscure craft for digital ad-men to having a firm place in mainstream business, with virtually every major brand having some sort of digital marketing strategy in today’s world.
To provide an overview of this ever-evolving discipline, we will take a look back at how things were, how they are today, and how they will be tomorrow.
This blog post contains the following information:
The History Of Digital Marketing
- The First Clickable Banner & Yahoo’s Emergence – 1993
- Turning People Into Searching Machines – 1994
- The Birth of Google – 1998
- Saying Hello to Web 2.0 – 2000
- The Emergence of Social Media Platforms – 2003
- The Digital Age of Cookies – 2006
Understanding Digital Marketing As Of Today [The PRESENT]
The Future of Digital Marketing is Web 3.0
- The dawn of a new paradigm in Metaverse
- Voice Assistant
- Generational Targeting
- Customized Marketing
- Influencer Marketing
- Live Video Streaming
The History Of Digital Marketing
Digital marketing was born out of the invention of the World Wide Web. It actually precedes the web by several decades, to the emergence of the earliest electronic media: radio, television, and print ads for these media. It began around the time of the launch of Web 1.0 in 1990. Since then, it has become a core element of business success. And one that directly influences 7 out of every 8 sales.
The First Clickable Banner & Yahoo’s Emergence – 1994
It might surprise you to know that in 1994, the first clickable banner went live. While this may not seem like a huge deal now, it was the start of something new. Because before this there were only static images.
The first clickable banner ad was an ad for AT&T on Hotwired, a website created by Wired Magazine. From this point onward, digital marketing evolved rapidly.
At that time, the internet was still in its infancy and only a small percentage of Americans were online. However, even with limited exposure to this exciting new space, people could tell that something big was happening.
Turning People Into Searching Machines – 1995
The year 1995 saw new technologies enter the digital marketplace, like Yahoo.
Receiving close to 1m+ hits in the first year of its launch, Yahoo! prompted wholesale changes in the digital marketing space, with companies optimizing their websites to pull in higher search engine rankings as opposed to focusing on brand placement and building brand loyalty through word-of-mouth recommendations.
In 1996, we saw the launch of a couple more search engines and tools like HotBot, LookSmart, and Alexa—the latter of which is still one of the most popular tools for analyzing search engine traffic today.
But then Google came along. The company, co-founded by Stanford University students Sergey Brin and Larry Page, introduced its search engine in 1998. The birth of Google ushered in a new era of search engines and tools that made it easier than ever to find what you were looking for online.
The Birth of Google – 1998
Before the year 1998, Yahoo was just a site that had a listing of websites that people could search through. That’s it. It was just a list.
But this new search engine–Google–was different from Yahoo’s. Instead of providing a list of websites to users and letting them choose which website to visit, Google provided an algorithm for matching keyword searches with relevant websites. Users didn’t see any listings; they saw results one after another in the order that Google’s algorithm deemed most appropriate for the search query.
Microsoft launched its own search engine in 1999, hoping to compete with Google. And Yahoo soon launched its own search engine as well—a service known as Yahoo Web Search—in 2000, hoping to keep up with the competition and retain its position as a leader in the field of internet search technology.
These three companies—Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo—continued to be leaders in this field for the following years, and set the stage for all digital marketing strategies later on down the line.
Saying Hello to Web 2.0 – 2000
The launch of Web 2.0 in early 2000’s and all that followed were the greatest things that ever happened to digital marketing. Information flow volumes increased by an order of magnitude. And the interaction between digital marketers and the general public increased from being mostly transactional to also being conversational.
The Web 2.0 revolution was a milestone as it changed everything in a flash. It allowed users to interact more freely with one another as well as businesses and other organizations. Suddenly, you weren’t a passive user of information; the information flowed to YOU. You could interact with businesses, and they could interact with you. And that information flow increased exponentially. We’re talking about an entire river of data. It was revolutionary.
However, the implications that came with the second generation of the web were enormous. It’s because internet marketers had to deal with a greater volume of information than ever before, which created new challenges for them.
But at the same time, it was a great time for digital marketers, who found that the increased information flow allowed them to target consumers in a much more efficient manner.
The Emergence of Social Media Platforms – 2003
In the mid-2000s, web design reached a new kind of maturity. With the initial wave of sites made possible by the first generation of web platforms now complete, it was time to look at what else could be done with this technology. And that’s exactly what happened.
As time went by, the pendulum began to swing more to the side of consumers. Social media became increasingly popular, as people began taking an active role in their own information network. Users started sharing their thoughts and opinions with one another (and with businesses) through blog posts, chat rooms, and social networks.
MySpace was the first of these platforms to appear, and we soon saw Facebook. Both of these sites introduced a new way to share information and connect with others—one that would soon be considered vital in the world of digital marketing.
The change brought about by these new networks was nothing short of revolutionary for digital marketers—it meant that information about products and services was no longer being filtered through official company channels. Marketers had to become more creative than ever before if they wanted their messages to stand out in the crowd.
What’s more, these platforms gave marketers a brand new way to reach potential customers. Companies could now build profiles and pages for themselves, then share updates about their products and services as well as engage in conversations with potential and existing buyers.
The Digital Age of Cookies – 2006
Cookie? More like COOL-kie!
It was one of the most important developments in digital marketing. Before cookies, advertisers could only guess what their audiences were interested in.
For example, if a user went to a makeup website and browsed for lipstick, and then later went to a nail polish site, the advertiser wouldn’t be able to tell that the user was likely looking for beauty products.
However, with cookie tracking, advertisers were able to target users who browsed or purchased similar products or services. This allowed companies to customize their marketing material to each customer’s interests.
Cookies were especially useful because they can target specific demographics like age and gender. This allowed advertisers to create targeted ads that will draw in specific types of customers and increase sales.
Before the emergence of browser cookies, advertisers were limited in the amount of information they could collect about their users—and that meant their marketing collateral and promotions had to be fairly generic. With cookie technology, however, digital marketers could tailor marketing materials to a user’s particular tastes and interests. This allowed for much more targeted advertising and marketing, which was a huge boon to companies trying to reach customers on the web.
Understanding Digital Marketing Of Today [The PRESENT]
Today we are living in a time when:
- We can send each other graphics-enriched emails to say “Happy Birthday.”
- We can contact our friends and family instantly on the social media site of our choice.
- We can buy things from a website that looks like a real store.
- We can send text and multimedia messages to one another.
- We can watch videos of anything that catches our eye.
The Present of Digital Marketing is the perfect combination of the old and the new web 2.0 elements that you already love mixed with cutting-edge technology.
While email marketing has been around for over 30 years, it’s only recently that companies have begun to understand how to leverage it to create an effective digital marketing campaign. Social media sites like Instagram and Tiktok are also relative newcomers on the scene but have quickly become powerful tools for reaching consumers in a more personal way.
Social media sites are offering businesses a way to connect and interact with their existing community of customers, while text and multimedia messages are allowing brands to deliver individualized messages to their customers. And, as mobile devices become increasingly popular, businesses are turning to video marketing as a way to convey information about their products in an engaging way.
The Present of Digital Marketing is all about using all these elements together in a cohesive campaign, instead of relying on just one or two things. By doing so, businesses are making sure they’re connecting with audiences who are most likely to be interested in what they have to offer—and also spending their advertising dollars effectively.
Take email marketing, for example, you can reach thousands of people, right in their inboxes—and if you include a video, they’ll get to see your service in action!
Social Media Sites
Or take social media sites: there are nearly two billion users on Facebook, so if you pay attention to what’s trending, you can be sure your customers will be too. And just think about all the opportunities that Instagram and Snapchat can give you!
Text and Multimedia
And even more powerful than any other form of marketing is the ability to combine traditional advertising with new digital methods. Text and multimedia messages, for example, are simple but effective ways to communicate—and studies have shown that including a video in your text message increases its effectiveness by 300%!
Video marketing is also a great opportunity for reaching more people with your message. If you have a large enough YouTube following, then showing testimonials from satisfied customers can make an unbelievable impact on how people feel about your brand—and it costs less than traditional forms of video marketing like TV commercials.
The Future of Digital Marketing is Web 3.0
The future of digital marketing is upon us. It’s called Web 3.0, and it’s a brave new world of augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality.
Web 3.0 is going to change everything you know about digital marketing today and will make things as we know them today look like a Paleolithic cave painting. That means better ways to market your brand, higher engagement rates, and more sales than ever before!
In Web 3.0, marketers will have access to the technologies they need to create a truly immersive experience for their customers. It’s not just about banner ads anymore—it’s about creating an online experience that feels real and true to the customer, giving her a product that she can interact with in many different ways.
It refers to an era where web pages will be virtual, instead of physical. In other words, websites themselves will become more immersive and interactive for users, relying more heavily on Virtual Reality instead of just text and images on a page. As technology improves, we should see websites that are more responsive and intuitive, helping users feel like they’re actually experiencing a brand’s products or services firsthand, rather than just reading about them on a screen.
The Dawn of a New Paradigm in Metaverse
The future of business is digital.
In the future, you’ll be able to buy anything you want using cryptocurrency, and do all your digital marketing on platforms like Metaverse by Facebook.
– Imagine watching a commercial for a product in virtual reality. You could walk around the product, look at it from every angle, try it on, put your own spin on it—literally immerse yourself in the experience.
– Businesses will be able to create any kind of virtual environment they can imagine: a luxury villa with a pool and a butler? A classroom where you feel like you’re really learning? It’s all possible.
Businesses will become increasingly digital as more and more people adopt virtual reality headsets. Virtual stores will pop up all over the place, selling everything from clothes to food, with digital marketers creating ads tailored to each shopper’s preferences. In fact, the Metaverse by Facebook has already started making strides towards this reality – just look at their 3D ads!
In addition, virtual reality currency will become increasingly popular as well. Millennials have already adopted crypto currencies like Bitcoin as an alternative way of investing, so it’s only natural that they’d turn to them as a method of conducting business. Plus, the decentralized nature of crypto currency means there’s no need for banks or other institutions to get involved – just your crypto wallet and your product.
This practice has already been used by some companies, who have been working closely with Facebook to develop an immersive virtual reality experience for those who wear their Meta headset. These users can walk inside a simulated world and encounter digital objects that advertise a business or its products or offer them services.
The ability to customize what these virtual, realistic experiences look like gives companies a level of control that they simply aren’t able to achieve with print advertisements and billboards.
If you’re thinking of taking your company into the future with you, you must familiarize yourself with this new style of digital marketing, so that you can stay competitive.
There’s no denying that Alexa, Google Home, and Siri are changing the world. It’s a simple fact: voice-based search queries are on the rise, and voice assistants are quickly becoming a must-have in any tech-savvy household. They’re being integrated into everything from cars to kitchen appliances to our phones, which is great news for digital marketers. It means that it’s time we make the switch to voice-based advertising.
What do I mean by that? Voice-based ads will sound differently than their text or image-based counterparts. They’ll be more conversational in tone, they’ll use natural language, and they’ll be contextual to your situation at the time you hear them. They’re going to be interactive and helpful—they won’t just tell you about a product you could buy, but give you real information about what you need right now.
Generational targeting will be the primary focus for businesses: identifying where each new generation is likely to spend its money, and ensuring that you’re making your products available to them there.
Gen Zers are going to be the big winners in the coming years as they move into positions of power and responsibility in the workforce. And while some senior executives may be uncomfortable with this new generation, their experiences and the expectations they bring with them will inevitably have a major impact on how businesses operate.
Gen Zers have been called “the entrepreneurial generation”. They’re also referred to as “digital natives”, meaning that they have grown up in a time when the internet was not just a luxury—it was a necessity. It’s where they get their news, talk to their friends, and find jobs.
While Millennials are often pegged as being entitled or lazy, Gen Zers are described by those who know them best as being ambitious go-getters with a strong desire for success.
While Millennials are often criticized for spending too much on unimportant things like vacations or avocado toast (and buying into expensive, brand-name products too easily), Gen Zers are already taking control of their financial futures, working part-time jobs at local stores or small businesses to help save for college or contributing money to investments instead of brand-name handbags.
The two generations have some distinct differences in how they use technology and interact with businesses. This means that in order for businesses to succeed in the future, they will need to be able to target their products and services to these generations.
If you’re an entrepreneur or business owner looking to get your products and services out into the world, it’s important to learn about what these two generations have in common (as well as what sets them apart) so that you can focus on targeting them just right.
Before digital marketing, companies wanting to market to customers had one option: blanket-market to everyone. This made it difficult to really connect with their core customers and meant that the company was spending a lot of money on marketing that wasn’t bringing them the results they wanted.
Imagine if you could take one customer’s interests, likes, dislikes, and needs …and tailor your marketing efforts specifically to them. Imagine what kind of boost your conversion rate would get.
But that’s not all. Imagine if you could also use your data on previous interactions with customers to guide the development of future products and services, so you could create products that are truly tailored to their needs.
With the rise of social media and personalized advertising, consumers are demanding more personalization from the brands they do business with. They want to be catered to in a way that is unique to them. This demand for personalization applies as much to online advertising as it does to in-person interactions.
Consumers are taking note of marketing efforts that are uniquely tailored to them and their interests, and they’re responding in kind by being more responsive to these personalized messages than ones that do not take individual preferences into account.
What’s more, consumers who engage with customized messages are 72% more likely than those who do not to spread positive word-of-mouth about their experiences with a brand. That’s a big number! So how can you capitalize on this? Send emails with personalized greetings and alter your newsletters according to the wants of various segments of your consumer base, even if it means sacrificing some efficiency. It’s worth it!
Influencer marketing is also the future of Digital Marketing.
The average consumer is getting tired of ads and videos that are too pushy, too obnoxious, and just plain bad. That’s why influencer marketing is so effective—it takes a page from the personalities and styles that consumers actually want to emulate, instead of pushing products on them.
Influencers have a large and loyal following, which means they can influence their followers’ purchasing habits. They also have a high engagement rate with their followers, which means that when they post about your product/brand, it will be seen by a large number of people.
In addition to this, influencers are credible sources of information for their followers because their followers trust them. This is why influencer marketing is so effective—it’s a sponsored post from someone you trust, who has a reputation for putting quality products out into the world.
Live Video Streaming
Live video streaming is a trend that’s only going to continue growing, and it’s a trend that we’re here to get on board with. From live gaming to live concerts to live news updates, streaming has become the most popular way to connect with people digitally. In fact, 68% of people say they’d rather watch a live stream than read a blog or article!
When you’re creating digital marketing, you want it to be exciting, dynamic, and engaging. You want your customers to feel like they’re not just being marketed to—they’re actually engaging with your brand and becoming part of the experience. Well, live streaming allows you to do just that!
Live streaming allows you to reach out and connect with your customers on a personal level in real-time. It’s not something that can be achieved through old digital marketing tactics like email or print advertisements—you need something more raw and real.
Live streaming also gives you the chance to be yourself, share your personality, and truly connect with your customers in a way no other digital marketing tactic can provide.
And although it is not a new phenomenon; however, it has gained prominence in the last few years. The trend took off with the popularity of Periscope, which was launched by Twitter in 2015 and now has over 100 million active users. Facebook Live Video Streaming was launched in 2016, and in 2017 it was embedded into Facebook’s main app. Facebook also opened its live-streaming feature to celebrities and other public figures in 2017.
Other platforms such as Instagram introduced live-video features in 2016, adding another dimension to creating live content for brands.
Therefore, a live-streaming video strategy should be considered at the very beginning of a marketing campaign on any social media platform—with a plan that includes engaging content and an optimized environment for your followers, who are more likely to watch live videos if they can comment on them while they are broadcasting.
There you have it. A snapshot of the past, present, and future of digital marketing.
The story of Digital Marketing is still very much a work in progress. As digital marketing evolves, new trends, opportunities and challenges will present themselves. These changes aren’t just affecting the marketing world, but all markets.
A mobile strategy will be at the forefront. The rise of live-streaming and E-commerce are also reshaping this world. This can be seen across the digital landscape – from video content to email automation. Startups are now using social media for their voice and to promote their brands, instead of a TV or Radio Commercial.
It will also be interesting to see how marketers leverage the immense power of virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence-powered experiences in the years to come.
But as the dust settles, it’s clear that only the strong and highly adaptable companies will make it through this changing landscape.