Digital marketing is the promotion of brands, products and services through channels of electronic or internet-connected media. These include websites, mobile applications, search engines, IoT devices, social media and the still-vibrant predecessor of digital marketing channels, email.

HubSpot, a leading provider of digital marketing services and training, defines the concept simply as “any form of marketing that exists online.” By contrast, traditional marketing encompasses print channels like magazines and newspapers, broadcast channels like television and radio, direct mail, telephone, and outdoor media including billboards and fliers.

Learn more about educational opportunities such as the University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s online MBA in Marketing program.

Is Digital Marketing More Effective Than Traditional Marketing?

Electronic channels differ from traditional channels in that the internet-connectivity provides several key advantages that make digital marketing highly cost-effective:

  • It allows precise monitoring and measuring of campaigns and ROI, and because it can be executed in a calculated manner, conversion ratios and ROI tend to be stronger.
  • It supports relationship-building through interaction and dialogue, rather than the traditional, impersonal broadcast or monologues.
  • Companies using digital marketing are able to receive and track customer feedback.
  • Meaningful data can be collected and synthesized in increasingly complex ways to help businesses satisfy the needs and wants of prospects and customers.
  • Mistakes can usually be corrected, and outdated information can be updated.
  • It is easier to segment customers into more specific groups, and therefore, to send more specific and compelling messages.
  • Marketers can use “pull” and “outbound” techniques which draw in prospects who have searched for information about a product or service, or who have discussed relevant topics on social platforms. Conventional marketing tactics do not provide this capability.
  • Marketing automation is simplifying many of the tasks involved in executing digital marketing campaigns, including the delivery of emails, social media posting, and campaign tracking and reporting.

Digital marketing is the present and the future of marketing. In 2018, it accounted for 40.8 percent of U.S. Total Media Ad Spending Share (as of November 2018). The percentage of spending has been rising steadily since 2014, and projects to continue through 2020, at which time it should account for 44.9 percent of spending.

Conventional marketing has, and will likely continue to have, an important role in marketing because it offers unique advantages of its own, including uninterrupted messaging. Without a feedback loop, the audience can absorb the full message, precisely in the way the advertiser intends and plans. Traditional marketing also benefits from many more years of application and experience; it is tried and true. Finally, the audiences for traditional channels including TV and radio have grown, though print audiences have shrunk as users have shown increasing preference for digital and mobile access.

It should be pointed out that online and offline channels are gradually merging. For example, much of the content that has traditionally been consumed on TV is now available through online services.

A Look at Digital Marketing Channels and Tactics

Since the term “digital marketing” was first used to describe “Archie,” the first search engine in 1990, marketers have used a growing array of digital channels. Channels include websites, social media channels, online content and earned online media coverage. Digital marketing tactics leverage these channels to achieve specific marketing objectives in support of overarching goals. Here are a few examples of how marketers use these tactics and channels:

Search Engine Optimization: This is the process of generating free or “organic” traffic from search results on search engines, through optimization of online content. The channels that benefit from this tactic include websites, microsites and blogs.

Email Marketing: Email still rules in enabling businesses to reach prospects and customers, promote content or offers, and direct recipients to the business’s website for additional calls to action. Common types of emails include product and sale promotions, e-newsletters, and nurture stream tips.

Content Marketing: This is the creation of informational and non-promotional assets to be used to guide prospects from awareness to purchasing to becoming loyal customers. The assets employed commonly include blogs, whitepapers, infographics and reports, which can be leveraged on websites, social platforms and online portals such as Yahoo to drive traffic to a website.

Paid Search or Pay-Per-Click Advertising: Businesses drive website traffic by paying for each ad “click.” These may be delivered through banners on niche websites or sponsored ads following specific search engine queries. Google Adwords, Facebook paid ads, and promoted Tweets are all ways to ensure that digital messages reach their intended audiences and invite engagement.

Social Media Marketing: Brands are promoted on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube to engage audiences, drive traffic to a website, generate leads or raise brand awareness. What makes social media so effective is that it leverages the voices of consumers so that people learn about products and services through the experiences of peers. It then allows these peers to engage with one another, as well as the company.

Mobile Applications: Marketing possibilities are limitless for applications on android and Apple devices, and we are in the nascent stage of IoT device applications. Apps deliver customized content and targeted advertising; they provide avenues of engagement and delivery of real value (such as Google maps).

If you are interested in employing these channels and tactics in your career, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s specialized marketing MBA and the Digital Marketing and Social Media elective course will deepen your expertise for a leadership role in digital marketing.

Learn more about the University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s online MBA with a Concentration in Marketing program.


Marketo: What Is Digital Marketing?

HubSpot: What Is Digital Marketing?

Snap: How Much Should You Spend on Digital Marketing in 2018?

Lyfe Marketing: Digital Marketing vs Traditional Marketing: Which Produces Better ROI?