Over the last 30 years, the business world has rapidly changed in the face of dramatic changes in technology and the resulting changes in people’s lifestyles. The first major changes in marketing occurred when inventions such as the telephone and television became common in consumer households, but the next shift was probably even more transformational. That is the prevalence of home computers with internet connections.
Even though the role of marketing has changed so much in the last 30 years, professionals tend to believe that their roles will be very similar 30 years from now. In order to try and predict what will happen in the future, it’s very difficult to predict what will happen without looking at the changes in the past. The developments of the internet, smartphones and big data are very instructive for predicting future market trends.
Over the last 3 decades, the biggest technological influence is undoubtedly the emergence of the internet. Before this happened, there was a surge of desktop publishing that increased print marketing briefly during the ’80s. At this point in history, home computers were mostly used as word processing machines. The World Wide Web began in 1991, but it did not really become mainstream until the Netscape browser came into widespread use in 1994. This enabled a dramatic rise in internet usage from 16 million people to over 70 million people within two years.
As the number of internet users increased, the marketing landscape changed. Email usage grew rapidly to rival “snail mail” almost overnight. Search engines like Google and Yahoo improved the power of internet search, and this led to a revolution in online shopping platforms such as eBay and Amazon.
The ubiquitous nature of email provided a very powerful tool for internet marketers that is still important today, and it rivals traditional channels such as radio, TV and print advertising. Search engines also began to have a huge marketing impact with the introduction of search engine display ads such as Google AdWords, now called Google Ads.
In order to cash in on the power of online ads, marketers exploited search engines in order to gain cheap and abundant traffic by using keyword stuffing, spamming junk web pages and littering pages with affiliate ads. Search engines rapidly adapted to these tactics by punishing websites with poor content and focusing more on brand authority to rank websites higher in search results.
Big data revolution
As internet usage and bandwidth has skyrocketed, so has the amount of user data that is gathered. Researchers soon discovered that these vast amounts of user information about shopping patterns and spending trends could provide invaluable insights for marketing and business decisions.
The speed and convenience of recording media online rapidly overtook other forms of media storage such as DVD and CD for audio and video content. These changes had a transformative effect on the amount of digital data that is shared online.
The dot-com bubble burst in 2001 caused a shift in marketing tactics. Rather than focusing on sales-oriented landing pages, a greater emphasis began to be placed on the sharing of information and designing a more user-oriented internet that became known as “web 2.0” style technology. User-uploaded information rapidly increased on sites such as YouTube and Myspace. The social media revolution was born.
The development of mobile computing was another major technological transformation that has dramatically changed society and business in recent years. Early cell phones were designed to be used in cars, and the devices of the 90s were only capable of voice calls. Early attempts at hand-held computer devices did not catch on until the invention of the BlackBerry in 2003. These devices and the touchscreen smartphones that came afterward provided mobile interfaces for many forms of marketing such as web advertising and email marketing.
With all the vast amounts of social media shared information that is easily accessible online, the amount of big data that can be analyzed has grown exponentially. Big data is able to gain insights about trends in human behavior and preferences. The role of big data is becoming indispensable for all types of businesses, and its role is certain to keep increasing in its power and prevalence in the marketing industry.