I recently attended an event hosted by a mobile application analytics and intelligence company. It was standing room only. The speakers discussed how they are using information from mobile applications to make marketing and product decisions. It all seemed brand new and cutting edge, enabled only through mobile applications. And yet, most of the discussion centered on time-honored direct marketing techniques: test and control strategies, targeting and segmentation, measurement, and how to employ other channels to acquire customers and grow existing customer spend.
Driven by advancements in technology, consumers interact very differently with brands threading digital, social,l and physical interactions together seamlessly. Still, as we prepare for a world in which digital technology automates our lives and connects us to our friends, associates, cars, houses, and appliances we are seeing the basic tenets of direct marketing-a concept defined in 1967-applied.
As Mark Twain wrote we are making "new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all ages."
Fast forward to 1993 when Peppers and Rogers published The One to One Future, which announced a new paradigm for one-to-one production, marketing and communications. Yet, 2015 still saw a number of articles discussing the promise of Big Data and analytics to enable the market of one. The same pieces of colored glass
The advantage today is that data enables us to know our prospects and customers and their needs, preferences, and behaviors offline and online. We are targeting individuals directly based on what we know about them and their likelihood to behave in a particular way.
Communications still include a call-to-action and an analysis of offers while conversations and actions drive what marketers say and do next. This is what digital marketing is about and it is direct marketing.
And yet we are making the same mistakes with digital channels that we have historically made with older direct marketing channels. We aren't taking advantage of the data that exists to help us shape our strategies and tactics. For example, while conducting online research recently, a targeted ad obscured the content with pictures of two products I purchased the previous night inviting me to return to the site. Don't they know that I purchased the item 12 hours ago?
The need to use available data to create relevant conversations and determine what to do or say next has never been more possible and has never been more required. We must take advantage of the data assets currently available to us to further advance the core tenets of direct marketing: test and control strategies, personalization through targeting, and segmentation and measuring.
Wayfair, an online destination for all things home, has spoken publicly about its direct-response approach to marketing and advertising, which focuses on acquiring new customers and seeing a return on their marketing investments, not the next big idea.
Digital interactions happen in milliseconds and consumers leave digital footprints behind. Marketers today have both the time and data to effectively test marketing messages. Wayfair has leveraged usage tests to learn that larger images and less copy yield higher response rates. In the past, direct mail tests could take months. Materials needed to be printed and then mailed, yet digital campaigns can yield enough data in an hour or two to make an intelligent decision.
Digital channels make it easier to personalize messages to the recipient. Small changes such as photographs that are tailored to the individual can result in improved business results.
And we can measure better than ever before. In 2014 Wayfair integrated its line of products on HGTV programming. Through properly timed sales events and Wayfair.com, Wayfair was able to correlate traffic and online sales directly back to HGTV programming integration.
While we may be looking through the same pieces of colored class that we have been since 1967, data now allows us to see through that glass differently. Digital affords us the opportunity to learn from the past mistakes and deliver better experiences for our customers to grow customer spend.
 (Source: Retail Touchpoints, http://www3.retailtouchpoints.com/a/personalization-feature/ )
 Wayfair Partners with HGTV on Comprehensive Program Integration; press release; July 9, 2014; http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/wayfair-partners-with-hgtv-on-comprehensive-program-integration-266413131.html )