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Which companies were the first to make use of modern digital marketing and when?

Over the past three decades marketers have had to keep up with fast paced world of digital marketing. The industry has bounded into the 21st century and there seems to be no end to the new emerging technologies.

There’s no doubt that, personal computers and the Internet are this generation’s equivalent to television, or even the telephone. These technologies have brought about the fastest changes in the history of marketing!

If you really want to understand the online marketing landscape, you should take a look back to the first Marketers using digital platforms. By looking into the past you’ll understand what’s gone before this is crucial to your business. Many marketing professionals like Pathwwway Gambling believe that digital marketing will be critical to organizations over the next two years.

Where did digital marketing start?

Believe it or not digital marketing can be traced back to before the Internet was conceived, the new form of marketing was transpired through the huge technological advancements during the 1980s.

1980s: Computing Power – The 1980’s saw computer systems become much more advanced and they became sophisticated enough to store huge amounts of data. Most excitedly for Marketers computers could contain reams and reams of searchable customer information that they could utilise in their sales and marketing processes.

1980s: Relationship Marketing – With this change in technology there came a shift in the mindset of Marketers. Professionals were now conceptualizing and testing the benefits of ‘Relationship Marketing’. This new school of thought saw marketing professionals prioritize connections with their customers over quantity of people reached, it was simply quality over quantity.

1980s: The Database – It doesn’t sound sexy but the digital databases of the 1980s completely transformed buyer-seller relationships. They allowed brands to track their consumers like never before.

Computer Programmers saw a gap in the market for Marketers wanting to utilise the data they could now store. In the late 1980s consultants, Robert and Kate Kestnbaum, pioneered the way with an electronic database which stored and managed customers, prospects, and all commercial contacts. Compared to today’s technology the database had no bells or whistles it was essentially a digital rolodex! But, it was an essential tool that gave businesses the ability to store large volumes of customer contact information.

In 1986, the first database marketing software was introduced to the business world by ACT!, a contact and customer management company. Later Robert Shaw, the father of marketing automation, and Robert Kestenbaum developed multiple landmark database marketing solutions for big national businesses such as, BT and Barclays. These databases were groundbreaking at the time due to the new features incorporated into the models. The bespoke databases now incorporated telephone, contact strategy optimization, marketing resource management, and marketing analytics.

1990s: The Personal Computer & CRM – In the 1990s personal computing exploded onto the scene and offices around the world were now equipped with PCs! The popularity of computers at work saw the advent of servers allowing businesses to setup internal intranets where workers could work together easily. This paved the way for another revolutionary marketing technology ‘Customer Relationship Management’ (CRM) software. CRM software is a system for tracking interactions with current and future customers.

In its earliest form CRM automated the features of database marketing and also dealt with Interaction tracking and inventory control. This provided companies with more useful customer information.

CRM went through a massive overhaul in the late 1990s when multiple new businesses set up shop, Oracle, SAP, and Baan entered the market around this time. The competition forced more established businesses to broaden their services to include marketing, sales and service applications.

At the turn of the century the CRM market was crowded and was showing signs of reaching a saturation point. A number of CRM businesses made high-value acquisitions within the industry and consolidated a lot of the new competition.

1990s: The Birth of The Internet – As more and more businesses connected to the internet eCRM businesses emerged. eCRM allowed marketers to host more customer data than ever before by storing the data online. But with new technology comes new challenges, Marketing teams from all kinds of industries found that they were data rich and information poor. They could track and store a lot of customer information but they didn’t have the support to make sense of it all. eCRM went through another change with the founding of Salesforce.com which was the first company to deliver business applications from a website known as the first ‘Software as a Service’ company (SaaS). This web centered model served as the blueprint for future digital marketing technology.

2000s: The Dotcom Crash – The dotcom bubble hit its peak in March 2000 and burst when major stockholders, Dell and Cisco, sold off the majority of their stock. CRM companies that boomed in the 90s were hit hard, many ran out of capital and liquidated or were acquired by larger companies.

The burst prompted SaaS leaders like PeopleSoft, Oracle, SAP, and Siebel to re-think their business models. They followed Salesforce’s lead and made the jump to web-based software rather than seeing the internet as just another communication channel.

2000s: Market Automation – By the mid-2000s the general population of consumers had the knowledge, technical skill and resources to be able to research products themselves. Users digital behavior shifted the power dynamic between buyer and seller dramatically. Consumers began to make purchasing decisions before ever talking to a salesperson. Marketers found themselves in uncharted waters and were struggling to make sense of this new behavior.

In 2007, marketing companies came up with a solution to this conundrum ‘Marketing Automation’. The new model enabled marketers to launch multi-channel campaigns, segment their audiences, and serve up highly personalized content. Marketo, Pardot, and Act On were some of the first businesses to offer this as a service. It was also groundbreaking, in that, it was the first digital based technology that was built by marketers for marketers.

2000s: Social Media – Marketing Automation was an important development but the Internet was evolving quickly and the social web was being formed. Marketers and businesses were slow on the uptake and couldn’t adapt fast enough to the exponential evolution of consumer channels and devices.  Social media was still in its infancy but Marketing Automation had not foreseen or planned for social to emerge as the leading marketing platform.

Highly-specialized software companies began popping up to meet the needs of channel specific marketing and by the end of the decade, the marketing technology landscape mushroomed. By 2010, there were many software solutions available for social, mobile, search, and analytics.

2010s: Seamless Technology & New Marketing – Over the past decade, consumers have become dependent on technology and now expect a seamless Pathwwway Gambling based user experience from big and small brands alike and across every device and digital channel.

New marketing technology companies continue to appear in the space every day finding solutions for the younger digital marketing subcategories of video, social, search, paid ads, influencer marketing and content management.