Digital is the most quickly evolving department in any business today. The evolution of the digital area is a testament to its variety and diversity. Originally referred to web marketing, then briefly referred to as internet marketing, everyone seems to have settled on the name of digital.

This first part of our two-part series will showcase the relevant qualities that are essential for you to succeed.

Listening 

There is a tendency for us to overemphasise the quantitative in the digital space due to its abundance and ease of access. However, you may spare yourself a great deal of time and analysis by actually listening first. Nor will stakeholders and users be persuaded entirely by figures and statistics. There is a certain level of insight in the intuition of users that is too valuable to ignore. Listening passively may occasionally prove adequate but active listening where you attempt to draw out those hidden insights is more effective. 

Visual Thinking 

The bulk of the internet and digital is predominantly a visual medium with auditory aspects still a distant second. With the original technological limitations, websites were nothing more than text. Following the introduction of Flash, Java and other technologies, the web exploded into a more sensory experience, but the infrastructure and browsers of the time could barely support the bandwidth. 

With the introduction of mobile, the pendulum again shifted back towards a largely text-based and visually unappealing format. However, with the introduction of smartphones there are now really no limitations on the visual experience that today firms can provide to their users. Despite the newfound freedom the overall visual experience of websites is still not as good as it should be. The notorious 'hamburger' icon (where three horizontal lines, somewhat reminiscent of a hamburger patty between two buns, are used to represent a menu) you will find on most mobile websites is a perfect example. 

Considering all websites are global by default, ensuring that users with limited English-language capability can easily navigate them is essential.Despite knowing that all our sites and content are only skimmed we continue to write and present information as if our users had nothing to do but visit our sites. Digital teams need to ask, if there was no explanatory text just buttons, icons and header images would users understand what to do, or would they be helplessly lost.

RELATED: How to plan a digital career in a rapidly changing landscape

Email marketing 

In an area that is constantly evolving and changing one would expect that we would have retired email marketing long ago for a newer technology but email marketing will always have a place in an overall marketing strategy. Despite email marketing being around for 20 years best practices are still routinely ignored, take a quick look at your inbox if you need to be reminded. At the most basic level you will need to be very familiar with these best practices. Many companies and email marketing services have shared their insights into what is and what is not affected and this information is readily available. You will also need to communicate this information to others, so when the sales department want their email written in all caps, you can explain why that might not be the best approach. 

To truly add value to email marketing you need to demonstrate the ability to make sense of the analytic data that your email marketing provider will give you and to find the right innovative triggers to generate sales. This of course must also sit within a larger marketing strategy and show proof of contributing to overall business goals.

Analytics 

A truly defining aspect of digital advertising is the ability to produce extremely detailed analytics. Long gone is the old adage that ‘Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.’ We now have every detail imaginable about our users – exemplified by the continuous news coverage regarding online privacy concerns. 

In addition to the challenge of having to deal with a humongous amount of data we often find our analytics represent the answer, and we have no idea what the question is. Despite what many might think, the data generally does not come complete with a flashing sign pointing to what actions we need to take, often this is extracted by us.

Teamwork 

Teamwork is essential in the digital space. Very few individuals could single handedly put together a business plan, design a website, write copy, purchase and configure a server, and then launch public relations strategies to get an online business up and running themselves.

The challenge of teamwork in digital is coordinating between conflicting priorities. A change that might improve the SEO rank of a site could reduce the quality of the user experience. A strategy to increase presence on social media might not work without a clear content or PR plan in place. Demonstrating an ability to coordinate disparate priorities and get teams working effectively is essential.

Mobile  

We have already passed the threshold of some major sites having the majority of their traffic shift from desktop to mobile. However, many sites still provide a weaker experience with less features on a mobile platforms. You have probably been on a mobile site yourself where as you tap in frustration you have thought, this site was not tested. The ‘mobile first’ mindset is more critical than ever. 

Rather than just ticking the box of having a mobile site, digital professionals need to demonstrate a detailed understanding of mobile’s idiosyncrasies. 

Mobile represents for digital and marketers alike a completely uninterrupted, real-time connection with our customers. 

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Summary

Digital is a rapidly evolving area, and for professionals to remain relevant and marketable they need to ensure they are well-adapted to this pace of change.  These are the qualities that can help drive success into the future:

  • Active listening to draw out hidden user insights
  • Thinking visually first to deliver optimal user experience across all languages
  • Understanding of best practices in email marketing and how to meaningfully interpret analytics and data
  • A sound understanding of data measurement and analytics interpretation
  • Teamwork is hugely important
  • A 'mobile-first' mindset
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