The first true digital transformation occurred when companies ditched filing cabinets and manual processes for computers. However, today digital transformation has not only impacted the way we work but has also fundamentally changed our society and the way we shape our digital narratives. Today’s digital natives don’t get much of a say on creating a digital footprint, as parents create their kids' first traces of online activity by reserving email addresses and cultivating a social media presence before they are even born. Unknowingly we are creating a digital footprint that will follow us our entire lives and exist even after we are gone. But what does this digital takeover mean for marketers? The key to truly capturing these life-long digital natives requires marketers shifting to a digital-first paradigm, built to target consumers that are device-driven, digitally focused, and fast-paced.
What is a Digital Footprint?
A digital footprint is information about a particular individual that exists on the internet because of their online activity. Your digital footprint is not only made up of active content that you choose to put online, such as social media posts, blogs, or emails, it also includes passive content you unknowingly contribute, when an app records your location or companies save information about the products you are browsing. However, unlike actual footprints, your digital footprint will never wash away and instead will build over the course of your lifetime.
Is Having a Digital Footprint a Bad Thing?
We have all heard the stories of a long-forgotten digital faux pas resurfacing to damage someone’s reputation. However, is having a lifelong digital footprint always a bad thing? There are plenty of positives that can come from living your life in the digital-first age. Having a digital trail can come in handy when you are the victim of fraud or a legal issue. Also, while you may find marketing tactics like retargeting and remarketing, a bit invasive or dare should we say creepy, you must admit they are helpful. In the digital age, you don’t even have to search for your product, instead, the products come to you.
Of course, sharing your information with the world means taking precautions when it comes to both active and passive digital footprints. As a company or an individual, it is crucial to safeguard against your information being stolen. It is also imperative to think before you post, share, or publish. You never truly know who is viewing what you put on your profile - no matter how tight your privacy settings are. However, at this point no matter where you stand on the merits of a digital footprint, one thing is clear, they are here to stay. In today’s digital world, the option for opting out is long gone and if you want to survive and thrive, it means creating a large digital footprint.
So, What Does This Really Mean for Marketers?
Today’s marketers are well versed in using their consumers' digital footprint to gather information about their wants and needs in a particular product or service. They use this data to deliver targeted advertising based on what they have in their search history or what they have clicked on. However, using sophisticated targeting or an advanced SEO strategy is not enough when thinking about reaching today’s consumers. Marketers are still stuck thinking of digital mediums as a secondary way to reach customers, rather than reorienting their end-to-end marketing strategy around digital behavior.
Targeting the Impulse Generation
At Boston Digital our strategy is 100% focused on understanding, anticipating, and changing the digital behavior of what we call the Impulse Generation. Whether members of the Impulse Generation have grown up with a digital footprint or have only recently digitally reoriented their lives because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the one thing they have in common is their digital behavior. Today’s consumers are device-driven, have a short attention span, and expect fast results. By looking at your audience’s vast digital footprint, you will begin to see new patterns and behaviors that will allow you to communicate with them on an individual level. When crafting a digital strategy, it is crucial that you refine your targeting to focus on your audience's wants and needs, otherwise known as their psychographics, rather than focusing on assumptions about how their demographic behaves.
As marketers, it is our job to get consumers to change their behaviors, and that starts with understanding the tracks they are leaving through their lifelong digital footprints.