Panel: Applying digital marketing tools means rethinking verticals altogether

Digital marketing isn't just about mobile advertising or rolling out an app. It's about rethinking marketing from the ground-up.

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SALT LAKE CITY -- If there's one lesson to be learned before proceeding with any digital marketing strategy, it's probably that you can't just take old marketing strategies and assume they will work for any device.

In all likelihood, they won't.

Based on the comments from a handful of marketing executives during a panel at the Adobe Summit on Tuesday afternoon, the general idea is you have to start from scratch.

Initially, that might sounds frustrating, which is why plenty of C-level executives are probably reluctant (if not entirely against) embracing digital marketing techniques, much like they have been in the face of BYOD and the consumerization of IT.

Leading the way for the digital marketing revolution is arguably retail.

"The sale is what drives the activity," Cooperstein said. "The innovation is not just coming from doing things the old way in a digital context but what digital does to recreate the business you're in."

David Cooperstein, vice president and practice leader for covering marketing leadership at Forrester Research, argued that direct consumer businesses have embraced digital marketing more enthusiastically compared to the B2B sector.

He explained that B2B customers know that digital is important, but they don't look at digital marketing as just putting an ad online, but rather reinforcing what a salesperson is bringing to the table, such as using iPads during demonstrations.

Joe Megibow, senior vice president and general manager of omni-channel and e-commerce at American Eagle Outfitters, asserted that the clothing retailer is "very data-driven operationally, in general" for everything from design to manufacturing.

But he admitted that the challenge for retail is understanding that consumers have a very different outlook on how they interact with brands.

According to Megibow, consumers basically see online shopping and brick-and-mortars as the same company, same brand. He suggested businesses still fret that these two channels are conflicting.

Throw mobile into the mix and it gets more complicated for the business to discern what the customer is thinking and doing.

"Ultimately I shouldn't care if they buy online or in the store," Megibow said.

But the influence of digital technology goes deeper, which Megibow hinted could be seen in the way certain retailers are changing the way they sell products. He explained it's not enough just to try to design a website like one would design a store as a "glossy brochure of their brand's DNA" with certain products in the forefront.

But the tablet, however, was a game changer, according to Reynolds -- so much so that he said it spurred interest across the organization to tailor content to what the reader wants.

Cooperstein concurred, citing Gilt and MyHabit as examples of companies that are changing the way they drive people to a purchase.

Pointing towards the rise of online flash sales, Cooperstein chuckled they "make you start drooling at 11:45AM ET."

"The sale is what drives the activity," Cooperstein said. "The innovation is not just coming from doing things the old way in a digital context but what digital does to recreate the business you're in."

While retail is possibly making faster strides with these trends, there are plenty of verticals holding out.

One channel that has been particularly known to be resistant to change in the last decade is the publishing industry.

Condé Nast's vice president of marketing analytics, Chris Reynolds, defended that the venerable publishing house has been a print company for the last 100 years.

He stepped away from referring to "resistance" against change, but Reynolds commented that "there's an infrastructure where we're built to create magazines."

"The regular Internet was a foreign concept for a lot of editors," Reynolds remarked.

But the tablet, however, was a game changer, according to Reynolds -- so much so that he said it spurred interest across the organization to tailor content to what the reader wants.

Reynolds cited that one of the biggest pieces of internal research at Condé Nast in the last two years was to track the "consumer's decision journey" over a number of different verticals from fashion to automobiles.

"Even though everyone talks about big data, we're just not there yet," Cooperstein lamented. "Anyone who can crack even a piece of it has the attention of the marketer."

He explained that concept of the "journey" took hold at Condé Nast, citing that a lot of brands within the publishing house realized they needed to figure out how to fit into that roadmap.

Nevertheless, given how new digital marketing still is, there are plenty of potential pitfalls that have even yet to be discovered and resolved.

Big data, for example, is often touted these days as golden ticket to improving bottom lines. Aside from the fact that big data needs to be mined and analyzed before any decisions can be made, Cooperstein suggested there isn't enough enough data yet, especially when it comes to consumer behaviors and algorithms.

"Even though everyone talks about big data, we're just not there yet," Cooperstein lamented. "Anyone who can crack even a piece of it has the attention of the marketer."

More coverage from the 2013 Adobe Summit on ZDNet:

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