Thriving in a Post-Digital World

Forrester/Resonate Webinar Recap

As the 2016 books are closing, marketing teams are crafting their plans for 2017 and diligently working through ways to conquer the evolving marketing challenges that are taking form as the post-digital world rapidly approaches (or is it already here?).

In the webinar, Thriving in a Post-Digital World, Forrester VP and Principal Analyst, Shar VanBoskirk, explored the characteristics of a post-digital world in which marketers will be forced to focus on people versus clicks. To be successful in this new world, VanBoskirk provided actionable advice for how marketers can transform their thinking to successfully navigate this new consumer environment. In addition, Jason Schneider, Chief Revenue Officer at Resonate, dug deeper into the importance of knowing the “human elements” of customers and prospects as people and not just demographic targets, behavioral profiles, or devices.

What is the Post-Digital World?

In this context, VanBoskirk explained that the term, “post-digital” doesn’t imply that digital is going away. Instead, it’s a phrase used to describe the transformation of digital marketing into a new era. This new era exposes the fact that digital marketing does not manage for complex human nature, but simply reduces customers to “targets,” who are expected to respond in a certain way based on a desired performance goal. In a post-digital world, this is not enough.

VanBoskirk identified the following characteristics to explain the evolution into the post-digital world:

  1. Pre-digital: A 1:Many scenario. The objective is broad reach, building awareness, and filling the funnel.
  2. Digital: The 1:1 scenario. This is about driving relevance – sending the right message, to the right person, at the right time, and making sure it was displayed in the right place.
  3. Post-digital: A 1:Moment scenario. Now, marketers must take personalization to the next level and execute. During the customer journey, each customer will approach his/her buying decision from a unique emotional state with varied needs. And each touch point and interaction will be within a varied context. Now, success requires an approach the combines the best of brand marketing, direct marketing, and digital marketing. This integrated approach must deliver the brand promise in an effective way at every moment.

In this new era of customers and marketing, marketers are optimizing their approaches based on the human side of consumers — and anticipating customer needs and emotional states.

Schneider reinforced these ideas during the webinar and explained that to effectively influence consumer purchasing decisions, it is critical for marketers to understand what makes consumers tick – specifically their values, beliefs, motivations and purchase drivers. Referring these to these as “people-based insights,” Schneider emphasized that, for marketers in the post-digital world, understanding the human being on the other side of the device along the brand journey needs to be easier, faster, and presented at a much larger scale than ever before.

Consumer Decision Making

VanBoskirk explained the transformation of consumer purchasing decisions and actions, and demonstrated how traditional marketing practices must quickly adapt to maintain the consumer attention and share of spend.

She noted that, “Today, 86 percent of all marketing investments go toward advertising when…consumers distrust ads and…creating relevant experiences across the customer lifecycle is a better approach for engagement.”

The impact of digital content, the barrage of messages through multiple channels, and the dissolution of the distinction between digital and physical experiences, make buying decisions more complex. This multi-channel impact exposes the need for new, modern marketing strategies to create personalized and well-timed effective consumer experiences.

Because of these factors, marketing in a post-digital world will need to be frictionless, anticipatory, and immersive. Real-time insights will matter more than ever and using people-based insights to decode the complexity of human decision-making will become necessary – and the norm.

The Post-Digital Mindset Shift and Action Plan

With this transformation in mind, it is apparent that marketers will need to actively make a shift in mindset and evolve, to move away from applying mass and digital media marketing strategies (as defined above) to applying post-digital thinking for efficacy in their marketing campaigns.

VanBoskirk emphasized that, this mindset shift will be integral for marketers to ensure that brands keep pace with today’s consumers and that messages continue to resonate throughout the customer lifecycle.

Although the shift may seem like a slow climb, it can happen by following these three rules:

  1. Be Human – be a brand that is authentic, transparent, and empathetic, as well as treats people as people versus targets.
  2. Be Helpful – solve customer problems, don’t just sell a product
  3. Be Handy – continue to improve your offering and show how it matters

These rules coupled with an action plan for adoption (based on company’s capabilities, receptiveness to change, and ability to implement agile marketing strategies) will create the necessary shift.

VanBoskirk noted that each company’s specific action plan will be influenced by these two dimensions:

  1. Urgency – This is about determining how aggressively customers are integrating digital into their physical activities and how quickly competitors are embracing “The Age of the Customer.”
  2. Capability – Not all companies can or will want to move quickly. How able and willing a business is to embrace strategic change must be assessed.

In reference to an action plan, VanBoskirk provided the following recommendations:

  1. Be ready. If there is low urgency and low capability, a company’s digital IQ needs to be sharpened. Rather than just working on executional excellence, it’s about developing digital systems and insights to improve capabilities, so when the optimal time presents itself, post-digital tendencies can easily be developed and executed.
  2. Identify barriers. Marketers who need to move quickly, but have low capability are in a challenging position. In this situation, identify the sticking point. Evaluate the culture, organization, approach to insights and technology, and understand the barriers with the goal of creating strategies to overcome.
  3. Innovate – even if only incrementally. If a business has capability, but low urgency, then innovation can happen now. This can happen by innovating to make it incrementally better than the current approach. Incremental changes over time will eventually lead to an industry disruption.
  4. Focus on a few. If urgency is high and capability is not a barrier, there may be an inclination to experiment with various solutions. Rather than trying everything – just because it’s possible – focus on a few, on-brand post-digital attempts and do them well.

People-Based Insights Are Integral

Schneider reinforced VanBoskirk’s affirmations about the complexities of decision making and explained that people-based insights, which focuses on the motivations, values, actions, and beliefs of consumers in real-time, will empower marketers to make smarter decisions and enable the new world of 1:Moment marketing.

Schneider went on to explain that with the millions spent in media, there still remains a lack in marketers understanding of their customers and prospects. This is partly due to the scale of traditional research methods – they cannot process, handle, and deliver the necessary insights.

However, in Resonate’s 2016 Customer Obsessed Survey, which was distributed to top consumer marketing executives, it was uncovered that:

  • Only 50 percent of marketers felt they understood their current customers
  • Less than 35 percent felt they understood their prospects and targets
  • 41 percent did not trust the demographic data they were using
  • 70 percent wanted better data regarding psychographics, motivations, values and purchase drivers

Resonate is also observing that marketers are facing the following challenges:

From this, Schneider pointed out that there is a better way to streamline, analyze, and activate based on data when data-driven insights are created and implemented in the right ways.

In fact, Schneider stated that, “More useful insights are in the palm of our hands and will help fuel effective business strategies.” He explained that real-time brand and audience analysis data is accessible and when applied, will define the customer journey and the post-digital marketing “moments” when personalized marketing can truly be effective.


In closing, VanBoskirk made some bold predictions about the post-digital world. Her predictions included:

  • Qualitative and quantitative methods will integrate. We will no longer be able to keep this data siloed. Market research combined with people-based insights will be the only way to map a customer journey and identify the best opportunities.
  • The best data scientists will have an anthropology background. These data analysts will be able to provide a more holistic view of a consumer and insights into the why and how of their actions.
  • Algorithms will account for our need for free will. As programs and searches evolve, they will no longer return a group of suggestions or results. Instead, the queries will become more personalized and targeted based on psychographics, experiences, and contextual behaviors.

This post-digital marketing world is here – and it’s exciting! To learn more about how to thrive in the post-digital world and leveraging data and insights, watch the webinar replay of Thriving in a Post-Digital Word.

More Information

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