Digital marketing: Propelling business performance in the 21st century

Digital marketing: Propelling business performance in the 21st century




Contents. 3

Introduction. 4

Increased exposure. 5

Measurable results. 7

Low cost 10

Personalisation and customer journey. 11

Business operations. 12

Conclusion. 14

References. 16




Digital marketing is defined as the process of marketing goods and services using the internet. The term covers all technologies that are used to advertise using the internet as the universal platform. According to Ryan and Jones (2012), this has been made possible due to the evolution of internet technologies have transformed how people access information and communicate with each other. Receiving information and acting upon it has coupled with enabling technologies to change how customers make purchases. There is an increasing population that uses these technologies for different functions and in the modern world, using and accessing these technologies is not for the technology savvy. This essay discusses several ways in which digital marketing has transformed business performance in this century where its use continues to increase.

McKinsey noted that digital marketing is a new way of marketing more than an extension of this business function, and listed a number of ways in which organisations will be propelled in this 21st century.

Increased exposure

While supporting the fact that social media has several advantages in increasing exposure and enabling businesses to optimise their performance, Miller (2012) added that the most important feature was the generation of exposure with 88% of businesses reporting so. Other following benefits include increasing traffic and number of subscribers for online-based businesses, improving search ranking, creating new business relationships, generating qualified leads, and reduction of overall marketing expenses. Surprisingly, the least of these benefits was the improvement in sales. These are all potential benefits that businesses are posed to gain in the event they align themselves to social media as part of their digital marketing campaigns. According to Johnsen (2017), digital marketing enables users to use marketing analytics which was said to be critical to the success of organisations. However, the extent of success also depends on the strategy of an organisation and how well these strategies are positioned to take this advantage of the available opportunities.

An increase in market exposure is a benefit for small and big corporations to play on leveled ground. Johnsen (2017) quoted the report by ING that 95% of consumers were using social media and 44% were affected. This effect was felt by small and big businesses alike due to availability to small and large businesses alike. Besides doing that, this strategy is essential for businesses to boost their reputation in the market. According to (Miryala, 2015), the technology is available for use to enhance the performance of businesses and its outputs are traceable. This increased exposure does not necessarily translate to better business prospects if an organisation does not realise the needs of its customers. Aligning with specific customers of known needs is essential to better provide information that matches their expectations rather than aimless marketing. The increased exposure can also enhance the brand equity of an organisation.

According to WSI (2015), digital marketing can be used to boost the reputation of a brand but organisation need to take active steps in managing it early. Using a number of site-specific modes of managing reputation such as star rating, the mode gives businesses an opportunity to respond to feedback from customers especially using social media where most customers are and can access goods from preferred sellers. Getting the required exposure is possible but takes equally hard work and knowledge, especially on the usage of keywords and optimising webpages for search engines. But as (2016) noted, digital marketing happens everywhere online, including video games, online reviews, emails, webpages, and everything that is connected to the Internet. There is no limit on how much digital marketing can do to a business if it is well-positioned and aligned with the desired business strategy.

Ryan and Jones (2012) observed that there are a number of things in digital marketing that need to be done to improve the visibility of a brand. Organisations need to find and use keywords that is properly aligned to their business and stay focused on their niche. Findings specialists in a given industry are essential to provide enough information to customers with product-related information such as reviews of popular or new products utilising new technology, providing specialist information while linking the information to pages where these products are sold. For example, eBay has a number of sites that give detailed and specialist information on certain products that they stock. Companies that focus on their niche will gain trust and follow with time. This increased exposure boosts the brand of a product or organisation. As an increasing number of customers are accessing the internet for this and other information, a properly aligned business will likely succeed in this modern age.

Measurable results

Being measurable is advantageous to a business to assess how they are doing and to measure and therefore gives the business a platform to work to meet desired results. Flores  (Flores, 2013)noted that in digital marketing, a business can know what the interests of their customer and visitors are, they can check the time spent on a site, and what they clicked among other variables. Doing so is necessary as the organisation will know where to diet its efforts and resources. Click-through rate (CTR) is one of the popular quantitative methods that can be used to assess the performance of an organisation on its website. Assessing behaviour of customers is important for the business to know its direction. Adjusting is necessary but it also depends on the goal and objectives of an organisation in digital marketing. Without a plan, it would be difficult to assess its direction. What is to be checked depends on the key performance indicators chosen.

Digital marketing allows businesses to measure their performance and this tracking can make it to be effective in the desired goal. Choice of goods KPIs is necessary for this process examples of good KPIs include being aligned to business objectives and strategy. They must have someone that is accountable for them and allow the action, including forecasting in them, they must be limited in number, be easy to understand and communicate, standardised, contextualised, and simple yet not simplistic. Typical tools used include the number of page visits that measure interest generated in that particular site. The number of fans, followers, or subscribers can also be a measure of interest in people. Time taken on a site can also tell the level of interest of customers in certain content, similar to the frequency of visits.

What is measured gets better managed and in this case, measuring the performance of marketing efforts means that a business can realise its goals more effectively. Harden and Heyman (2011) also noted that in the case of use of digital marketing using social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, the appeal to a large audience is because the spread of information is likened to word-of-mouth fashion where conversation between people on the same platform is unmediated. This creates a snowball effect that is hard to measure results. Digital marketing should make it easier to measure the return on investment (ROI) of the measures of an organisation. According to Hemann and Burbary (2013), online marketing analytics make it 100% doable to measure the effort of an organisation. While there is traditional analytics such as Google Analytics, Omniture, SiteCatalyst, and Web Trends, real-time analytics have become popular in the recent past as they tell what is happening at the very instance that information is required. WSI (2012) listed ab number of tools that can be used to measure success or marketing progress online. These included Discoverly, Pocket, Feedly, and Hootsuite, all of which have a way of integrating with customers, especially in social media and other online tools like browsers.  

There is an option to use clickstream analysis to tell how an organisation is doing. It measures volume conversions and websites can use feedback on their pages for customers to respond to how their experience is on that site. Some of the questions that are often asked include “rate of overall website experience, primary purpose of visit, ability to complete intended purpose, and suggestions for improving the website”. Once this information is acquired, it gets useful to a business to make decisions that are useful to achieve the intended purpose. However, the ability of an organisation to use this information depends on the number of visits made to the site. Social media is one of the popular digital marketing platforms and to measure performance, there are aspects to be checked to assess how campaigns are doing. On Twitter, users can use followers, retweets, replies or clicks-through-rate (CTR), and impressions. YouTube also has ways to track the performance of a campaign. For example, a business can post a review of one of its products or services. The number of views, length, likes and dislikes, subscribers, favourites, comments, and shares can tell an organisation performance of that organisation or product. Pinterest has ways of measuring performance using similar or related tools such as followers, number of boards, number of pins, likes, repins, and comments. Sterne (2010) recommended attention or lack of it can be used to guide if an organisation is in the right direction or not, reiterating the essence of goals in business and noting a number of issues that are essential and possible to measure in digital media. Audience reach is a measure of influence, recognition, and measurement of the audience.

According to Rishi & Sharma (2017), measuring what is possible in social media or digital marketing is critical for business performance as it enables the prediction of results, and the input is known. It has to be acknowledged that the process of measuring may be possible but not easy for most firms, especially in social media where it was said, information sharing snowballs, and sometimes difficult to measure the quality of visits to a given site where this marketing is done. Miller (2012) wondered how possible it is to measure the performance of a blog other than the usual analysis process of checking the number of views, comments, and duration among other metrics. That takes a lot of time and what is needed is to know how to convert these visits. Measuring on its own is not only hard but also fruitless if the intelligence gained is not used to guide businesses in realising higher profits. There are opportunities provided by social media or digital marketing especially making the business more profitable through realising where there are opportunities, realising business weaknesses, and working on them to aid its profitability. For example, a business would assess interest in a given line of products to increase attention towards that line rather than manufacturing and positioning one that is not popular.

Metrics can thus be used to align customer needs to business strength to realise its intended potential. Again, as Quevedo et al. (2015) observed, it all boils down to branding and targeting that is done by an organisation. Each business needs to identify its own key performance indicators and track them. The author emphasised how key performance indicators can be used to guide an organisation towards realising its potential, informing it if it is close to achieving its desired goal or not. Mayar and Ramsey (2011) observed that such performance indicators need to be aligned with the objectives of an organisation. Thus, it would be appropriate for a business to have clearly defined goals and objectives to know how to design digital marketing campaigns Done correctly, can boost the performance of organisation compared to traditional media where the response from customers would be a hard and enervating task even to attempt. It is also realised that the internet breaks down social and cultural barriers as it is universally accessed by all people with basic hardware and software support.

Low cost

Comparing traditional and the 21st digital marketing opportunities that are available, the latter are not more effective in realising the desired objectives but also cost-effective. Traditional media would media such as magazines, radio, posters, and newspapers, most of which would be afforded by big and established companies to meet the necessary capital outlay required. Digital media, by being more accessible meant that it would propel many businesses more than they would in traditional media.

For the low cost that is associated with digital media, they are known to have advantages such as community tools such as emails and instant messaging that are easier to acquire and use for various organisational needs. Content can be distributed easily and this can be done in the shortest time compared to traditional media in marketing, hence propelling businesses to greater performance. They are low cost but this also means that even small businesses have the same platform to use tools such as blogs, emailing, Twitter, Facebook, websites, and contextual ads by search engine companies such as Yahoo and Google to reach their targeted audience. With skills, these can be done quickly and executed almost immediately. This is advantageous to businesses to execute plans quickly. Low cost has implications of higher profits left after the business pays for the expenses for the same cost that would otherwise be expensive. Ads in the present world can reach many people for the same or even lower due to the deep and wide penetration of mobile devices, especially in developed and emerging markets.

Mayar and Ramsey (2015) observed that digital media is not only cost-effective bur but has higher ROI, ensuring better performance of organisations. The two observed that there are Performance Measurement systems that are not just cheap but easy to execute and result in better performance. These tools were noted to attract customers to the site and being consumer-driven, it leads them to develop a competitive advantage in the marketplace. This advantage is huge when there are offline marketers that are yet to realise the potential of digital marketing. It was also noted that more than 60% of all internet users visit social media networks and 75% of these are millennials and teenagers. These also blogs and 12%. 70% of internet users in the US regularly watch online videos such as YouTube and Video. Further, Mayar and Ramsey (2015) added that 15% of internet users do ‘tweet’ and participate in some kind of microblogging. The statistics mean

Personalisation and customer journey

Digital marketing can be customised to reach intended customers. Where a business has a website and database, which can be developed over time from subscriptions and previous purchases. With such information, it is easier to address customers by name, anticipating their needs by sending them information to their personal SMS numbers, emails, and social media pages. Whereas this is true and has been used in the past, digital marketing in such a case is associated with personal data which has some test of trust in the recent past. Where cookies were used to collect data on web behaviour on some websites, the law has required that customers be informed and consent to their data being used for this purpose. People are also increasingly wary of their personal data, especially after cases of theft on major sites such as Yahoo. This may decrease the level of use of customers’ data.

The actual implication and benefit of the collection of customers' data are to know their preferences at that insight and be able to track these preferences over time. There are advanced tools and techniques that have been developed to assist in this function. According to Edelman and Heller (2015), these tools are able to track customer preferences over different media and trace any changes. Tools such as Clickfox aggregate a number of channels and develop user reports on customer behaviour and how they are changing. These data need not be an end in itself, it needs to be utilised in marketing operations to make sense of it. The management team needs to assess who these customers are, why they like certain products, and how a business can keep them satisfied.

Petersen (2014) observed that personalisation is one of the major benefits of digital marketing where customers get a chance to get messages that suit their personal needs rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach. A business that needs to use digital marketing should have digital goals to work on. A business cannot have digital marketing without having its other functions digitised to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of operations. Thus, a business needs to upgrade itself in general and develop goals for each of its functions and focus on how they will be achieved. Once a business gets its campaign across, it needs to convert these interests into business and this gets easier where messages are personalised. An organisation already anticipates the needs of its specified customers to whom certain products are directed to. Personalisation has also other benefits of testing a product or service before a major roll put to all customers. This would enable a business to avoid blunders that would be costly to its image or even a fall in sales. Personalisation helps to choose and direct specific products that are relevant to them to increase chances of conversion. Again, as this happens, it is possible to measure the performance of these efforts using specified key performance indicators. A business will be propelled to higher performance if these key performance indicators are linked to the strategic objectives of an organisation.

Business operations

Lord and Velez (2013)  noted that there are many numerous ways in which interaction between marketing and technology has transformed businesses and has led to improvements in several aspects such as efficiency. Widespread technology has led to the creation of customer-centered brands. Organisations now engage customers using their personal accounts, engage them and assess their experience with them. This not only informs the company’s strategy but also creates a competitive front for them. There is customer-centric communication using several social media ecosystems such as Facebook and Twitter. Digital marketing has made it easier to offer customers the same service in offline stores as it is in online interaction. This convergence has widened the space of operations where customers can get service wherever they are. This creates flexibility which not only enhances customer satisfaction but also enables businesses to serve customers better. It is now possible to keep customers in the long run, which is beneficial to a business as loyal customers tend to be easy to keep than acquire and therefore bound to be more profitable.

A good example is that of L’Oreal which used its Makeup Genius app to market its several makeup products to suit several customers of different shades and skin tones. This data was collected from different customers via webcams, using different algorithms to suggest makeup for different clients. While this could be done in their traditional stores, the same experiences have been extended online where digital assistive tools are used to offer this service. Although the experience online may lack the personal touch, it is an indication of how digital marketing has been tapped to enrich the experience of customers to the satisfaction of business. Edelman and Heller (2015) elsewhere noted that marketing operations improved by between 15% to 25% in ROI after the adoption of digital marketing. This does not happen to all businesses due to gaps in knowledge on the subject. The same author noted that 84% of the marketers did not have a digital marketing strategy to feed into their supply chains. Other additions that are needed in operations before the results of improved ROI can be realised include new governance, improvement of processes to generate new content, and discipline in the management of content. There is a need to select the right marketing technology that fits the needs and situation of a business and is not necessarily the best technology in the market.

Marketing has been transformed beyond the usual campaigns. It now extends to include new senior roles such as chief marketing technologist, chief digital officers, and others which have been created to make businesses more innovative and adaptive to modern technologies to affect marketing to even greater success. Kaufman and Horton added that digital marketing has transformed many businesses and will continue to do so as these functions are no longer siloed, the potential of businesses can only see them expand and succeed.  Communication is enhanced and this is seen in the speedy, responsive, and strategic alignment. Communication is central to not only marketing but also the success of the whole firm in the generation and passing of information among members. Businesses such as Electronic Arts, a games software design company that used to have a silo system of communication changed to the hub and spoke model where the creation of virtual communities enhanced collaboration and communication among many players to keep them aligned to the objectives of the company. (Kaufman & Horton, 2015).

The effect of the extension of service and transformation of business operations has also the effect of enhancing the brand image of an organisation. Westerman (2014) observed that digital marketing has transformed communication with customers. This has been useful to the business in that the image of the brand is restored where it is flagged and this is often from the perspective of increased exposure. One such business is Burberry under the leadership of Angela Ahrendts. The once-failing luxury brand was boosted to several strategies that were used to revive the brand, among them, using digital marketing to inform customers of available products, engaging them, and creating an emotional connection with them like luxury brands should. It should be noted that no single digital media was used but a rich digital media mix. There was substantial redirecting of the marketing budget towards this before the brand regained its position. Burberry was propelled to success although it was fast failing with several profit warnings. It was not only poor marketing that led to this turn of events but alongside other strategies, digital marketing whose market budget increased to a third proved key to the process of business transformation and propulsion to success.

Digital marketing is a whole new way of communicating with and to clients as was seen in the strategies that successful companies like Burberry. The company created a webpage where customers submitted their designs while Starbucks also developed the My Starbucks page where customers submitted their best ideas (Starbucks, 2015). This engagement of customers helps in brand equity as well as a collection of data on customer preferences to work on. Where popular ideas are supported and approved by the company, it goes a long way that makes the business meet its needs.


The essay discussed the potential of digital marketing for business performance in the 21st century. The aim of the essay was to assess how digital marketing can be used to propel businesses to greater heights, depending on their objectives in this 21st century. A number of potential ways in which a business can grow were presented including increased exposure and building of online and offline reputation. This was linked to brand equity and businesses have already used digital marketing to reposition and realise their potential in this century. Examples such as Burberry and Starbucks were given in this respect although, for each point, the examples given illustrate the idea. Besides, a digital marketing that is associated with Big Data was explained. The internet is interlinked and using several tools available, customer data can be collected and analysed to anticipate their needs. Customer journey and personalisation were one of the benefits that were explained. Though a huge potential, organisation need to put in a little effort in having a clear objective, choosing proper keywords, and being in the right niche.


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