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What Is Digital?

Social media are part of a company's digital strategy. Digital comes from the Latin word digitus, meaning fingers, because fingers were used for discrete counting. We often use the term digital when talking about computers or electronics. Digital is also widely used as a buzzword without understanding the true meaning of it. For some, digital would mean publishing books in the form of PDF files or eBooks, whereas for others launching videos on YouTube or launching a website is going digital. So what is digital?

Digital is a data technology that uses discrete (discontinuous) values. In contrast, non-digital (or analog) systems use a continuous range of values to represent information. In other words, all the digital data you have can be represented by 1s and 0s. So all the digital videos, electronic files, websites, mobile phone signals, and other digital phenomena are digitized, decoded, and encoded for you to be able to see or hear the content in a recognizable format. Digital has moved from the days of Morse code, where all the data was transmitted in the format of dashes and gaps and sent via electricity or light. A prime example is the electric telegraph. Now we have the Internet, digital television, and mobile communication, which send and receive all our messages digitally.

The main advantage of using digital technology is that it is fast, effective, and inexpensive. For instance, compare a newspaper to a blog. (A blog is a contraction of the word web log. It enables individuals and organizations to broadcast opinions in the form of text, images, and videos.) Although a newspaper is a great way to transmit news, it is limited when it comes to obtaining feedback from customers. The interactive nature of the web makes it possible to easily connect with the brand and increases the value of your offering. On the other hand, blogs enable businesses to transmit news and post comments. This enables an organization to post news about its company or an incident and get responses from its customers. The customers can contribute to the news and discuss their views or enrich an article by adding their own experience. Powerful, right?

Digital communication is powerful because, unlike the more traditional forms of communication, it can help customers in more than one area of selling, which is the lifeline of any business. Just so that we can test our supposition, let's take an example. Say you are a new ice cream producer in your town. Apart from producing the product, you are responsible for marketing and selling it. You have just launched your new ice cream called Jo's Ice Cream. You need to make people aware of it, so you start advertising on television, in local magazines, and online, all of it for awareness. People are now aware of your brand, but they don't know how your ice cream tastes. Therefore, you start to give free ice cream samples on a hot summery day, which is a fantastic way to trial your ice cream. Lots of people now know about your ice cream and have tasted it. Suddenly, you realize that people like your product and have started to recommend it to their friends. For people who haven't had the opportunity to taste your product, you offer testimonials of people who liked it. This helps increase the credibility of your offering. Now that you have awareness, testimonials, and credibility, the next thing on your list is to develop channels to sell more. So you decide to invest in salespeople who can sign up shops to sell more. Once you manage to sign up stores who sell your product, you need customers who come back time and again to consume more.

Channels of sales/marketing are important to anyone involved in the process. Typically, you'd use mass media channels—whether it's radio, television, or the Internet—to get the word out. This is often referred to as above-the-line advertising. You can also use below-the-line advertising, which is targeted advertising utilizing more direct, less "mass" media, such as brochures, banners, competitions, and direct mail. Companies often use press releases to help get reviews or mentions on television and in newspapers. Increasingly, point of sales systems are popular; in them, customers are offered deals such as two-for-one and discount vouchers. This helps sell more items not only in the shop, but at other businesses. Another way to communicate with customers is to send regular newsletters or magazines. These are often managed by customer relationship management (CRM) tools. CRM involves using technology to maintain, record, automate, and manage business processes like sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support. According to Forrester Research, spending on CRM is expected to exceed $11 billion per year by the end of 2010.

Figure 1.4 summarizes this marketing and promotion strategy.

Figure 1.4

Figure 1.4 The value of a typical marketing solution and how companies promote products and services.

Organizations can digitally implement the new way of doing things. This enables them to integrate all forms of marketing into one manageable and trackable campaign. Media are available in various formats, including video on demand, websites, and digital television. Below-the-line advertising is widely practiced on large online marketplaces like Amazon, offering users the opportunity to sign up and try products. I'm sure you have also seen banners on sites that replace the billboards and posters with the online version. Online banners and billboards enable publishers and advertisers to track the campaign—that is, number of visitors, user's behavior, and demographic, with real insight into the users and providing targeted advertising. For many companies, their website/blog is where they release news about the company. Many media sites pick up news from these sources and consider them as official press releases for the organization. Digital media are also used as point of sales systems, especially when purchasing products online. Sites like Amazon and Dell suggest other products that complement the products you are currently buying. Point of sales systems also work in the form of discount coupons (you can print) when you buy something from their store/e-store. Several CRM systems are available online to help you manage your customer base. Some of them integrate with your online sales platform; successfully using these channels provides an integrated offering. Having them all online means that you can now initiate, grow, and track your progress remotely.

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