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History of Digital Marketing: The Evolution that started in the 1980s

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At the time when Digital Marketing is all-over, if you go in retrospect, you would find that the History of Digital Marketing jumps off in the early 80s.

Moreover, this journey has been equally revolutionizing and fascinating as well.

The world is now in the digital space. We have reached a time where 170 million active users are log in to social media every day. Technology and the market were always linked to each other. Today when most of the potential consumers are present in the cyberspace, companies are also reaching there and devising marketing campaigns to target them.

Such widespread presence and absolute dominance of Digital Marketing compel the curious lot to know when it all started. – In this post, we will deep dive into the roots of Digital Marketing and understand everything.

An Uruguayan journalist, writer and novelist, Eduardo Galeano once said-

History never really says goodbye.

History says, ‘See you later’.

So, let us say a hello to the History of Digital Marketing and start deciphering its evolution-

History of Digital Marketing: 1980s

  • 1981- First personal computer was launched by IBM
  • 1986- American National Standard Institute (ANSI) adopted SQL as a standard 
  • 1989-  Storage capacity of the computers was 100mb 

The advent of digital marketing can be traced back to the days of the 1980s.

This was the time when new innovations were taking place that made the computer system advanced enough to store information of the customers. It was in the year 1981 when IBM came out with the first personal computer and the storing capacity of the computers increased to 100 MB in the year 1989.

The 1980s was also the time when companies recognized the importance of harboring customer relationship rather than just implementing the practice of pushing products. The marketers now dropped limited practices that included list brokering to adopt the database marketing. This was the year when it started to become a practice of maintaining a database of prospects, customers, and commercial contracts.

Consequently, in the year 1986, the customer management company ACT was responsible for launching the database marketing software for the first time. This database marketing software was now allowing the storage of a huge volume of customer information.

Robert Kestenbaum and Robert Shaw who are known as the father of marketing automation together created several database-marketing models that helped BT and Barclays. These Database Marketing solutions contained many features that included sales channel automation, campaign management, contact strategy optimization, marketing analytics and marketing resource management.

The 1980s saw the emergence of Digital Databases that changed the dynamics of the buyer-seller relationship.

It enabled the companies to gain information, store and track their customers like never before. The only catch here was that the whole process was still manual. Further, in this period the launch of the personal computers and client architecture brought the revolution that changed the marketing technology in a decade. The Customer Relationship Management or CRM software brought this revolution in the 1990s.

History of Digital Marketing: 1990s

History of Digital Marketing

Evolution of Digital Marketing Since 1990s-Source- Simplilearn

The development that took place in the 1990s:

  • In 1995 the worldwide internet users reached 16 million
  • In 1996 the Americans were reported to spend an average time of 30 minutes online
  • In 1998 41% of the users logged in to AOL.com regularly
  • In 1998, Google was officially launched

In the 90s, CRM tools became very popular. It can be defined as software that tracked the interactions, taking place between the current as well as future customers. Sales Force Automation (SFA) was the early form of the CRM and provided companies the important information regarding inventory control and interaction tracking.

CRM was massively upgraded in the late 1990s when vendors such as SAP, Oracle, Baan came in the market. Now, the increased competition led the vendors to also offer sales, marketing, and service applications. In 1998, Google appeared. It is now utilized as the most popular web-based search engine. It plays the most significant role in optimizing Digital Marketing Campaigns and Search Marketing.

Again, in 1999 the internet came into the picture which supported the emerging eCRM vendors and made possible to store huge volume of customer data online, further increasing the competition.

Now, the eCRM vendors made the customer information dynamic by allowing marketers to continuously update it, leading to an enhancement in the customer experience. But there was a challenge that companies had to face. They did have heaps of data on customers but didn’t know how to make some sense out of it. This was later changed in 1999 with Salesforce.com the first SaaS Company.

The business application first being delivered through a website was done by the Salesforce company, now it is known as ‘cloud computing’. This served as the central point for future marketing technology.

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History of Digital Marketing: 2000s

  • The internet users in 2002 increased to 558 million
  • 2007 saw the birth of iPhone
  • In 2004 Google goes public

While discussing history and evolution of Digital Marketing, when we delve into the 2000s, we see the big names like Dell and Cisco selling off their stocks after the burst of the dotcom bubble. However, this led to prominent SaaS companies like Oracle, PeopleSoft, Siebel, and SAP transform their business model and give the internet a more central aspect of their services.

The mid-2000s saw a change in the behavior of the customers as people began to research their product online using Google and other search engines before the actual purchase. This behavior left the marketers perplexed as they found it hard to understand the buying behavior of the customers.

Marketo, Act and Pardot companies were the ones to solve this challenge through marketing automation. Marketing automation allowed marketers to segment the market, start multi-channel campaigns and deliver personalized content. This was the first marketing technology devised by marketers for marketers.

Marketing automation was fast enough to adapt to ever-evolving consumer behavior and also faced a challenge as it didn’t anticipate the social media as a marketing outlet. However, Social Media comprises a history dating back to 1970s with ARPANET; it got a little prevalence in the early 1990s. But in the 2000s, it was just all over and since then, it has been playing the very important role in the history of Digital Marketing. Let us go through a brief history of Social Media Channels-

  • GeoCities in November 1994
  • Classmates in December 1995
  • Six Degrees in May 1997
  • Open Diary in October 1998
  • LiveJournal in April 1999
  • Ryze in October 2001
  • Friendster in March 2002
  • LinkedIn in May 2003
  • hi5 in June 2003
  • MySpace in August 2003
  • Orkut in January 2004
  • Facebook in February 2004
  • Yahoo! 360° in March 2005
  • Bebo in July 2005
  • Twitter in July 2006
  • Tumblr in February 2007
  • Google+ in July 2011

Prevalence of Social Media created a new dilemma for marketers that was solved through many new software companies that devised solutions for social, search, mobile and analytics but this explosion of solutions wasn’t stranger to other challenges.

History of Digital Marketing: 2010s

Now consumers are no longer tech savvy but have become tech-dependent. Consider the following facts:

  • Americans spend an average of 11 hours online every day
  • Expected loading time has reduced to 250 milliseconds
  • Even without a notification 67%, people check their phones

This tech-dependence has diversified the marketing technology scenario and has raised the digital expectations of the consumers.

Young companies are emerging every day in a bid to provide digital marketing solutions to upgraded consumers, and big companies like IBM, Oracle, and Google are acquiring new companies to remain ahead in the race to provide the best digital solution. The marketers today are faced with a variety of options and this in itself is proving a big challenge for them to decide on which option to invest in. In midst of this confusion, Integration has become the most attractive trait of marketing technology.

But, even with integration, marketers are facing the following problem:

  • How to make use of all these technologies for their business goals
  • How to keep the customer and not the technology or tool in the focus

Change is happening fast and organizations are lagging behind in adopting the change. But, yes, changes are taking place that too in executive level. Now, a new position Chief Marketing Technologist (CMT) has been set up who will be responsible for identifying as well as devising strategies around the technologies to enhance user experience.

Marketers have to up their Digital Marketing games as today’s consumers expect a smooth experience over all the channels as well as devices. Further, for meeting these expectations marketers need to invest in omnichannel technologies to provide an omnichannel experience.

New channels like Neuro-marketing, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) are slowly coming into the picture and they are going to be the future of Digital Marketing. Technologies like digital currency (crypto-currency) and Blockchain have come into the arsenal of new-age marketers. –That will for sure take the rich and empowering history of Digital Marketing to the new heights.

Get ready for the Future of Digital Marketing!

Now, we have come to a point where I will be concluding this journey of the evolution of Digital Marketing.

I know it was quite a brief history of Digital Marketing, but I hope it was intriguing, interesting and inspired you to be the part of this revolution.

The world of Digital Marketing is not confined to the world of marketing & technology only, but it has been deciding our pasts, and for sure, it will shape up the future of human civilization.

Opting for Digital Marketing Training will empower you to be ready for a future, where innovation, construction, and positivity will be the driving force for the channelization of human civilization.

-& Then, there will be no any dilemma that if Science & Technology are a Boon or Bane!

Share your views in comments about the ‘History of Digital Marketing’ & how it has been shaping our behavioral preferences- And where we all are headed!

Engineer by Education, Marketing Influencer by Profession, and Creative Writer by Passion- Shivendra is involved in Branding, Advertising & Consulting in the domain of Digital Marketing over the years. He relies upon his Digital Marketing learnings and uses the creative DNA for composing blogs that have the applied zeal to engage, entertain and inspire the readers- to Connect- Convince- Convert their target audiences via different digital media channels.

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