It seems like technology is changing the role of the small business marketer almost daily. Marketing professionals not only have to understand branding and communication, but also must be well-versed in technology and the latest trends among a variety of mediums.
Even though customers don’t always see it, technology is influencing almost every marketing material including on-screen graphics (and augmented reality), in displays and on mobile devices, in video and through special deals delivered right to their inboxes.
One of the most obvious signs of technology in marketing is the emergence of digital display boards. Used both along roadways and in stores, these billboards allow for an ever-changing and instantly updated cycle of information. Digital display boards can allow advertisers to showcase daily specials at a restaurant or tell students what’s happening on campus that day. Unlike with traditional billboards, changing the message can be done quickly and in a cost-effective manner.
Printed displays are far from dead. Single-design displays are still the standard for many event promotions and on table tops at eateries. But more often they have interactive parts built into the design, including a QR code or link to a company website or social sharing services. Increasingly clubs and restaurants have table cards, for example, telling patrons to take pictures during events and share them online using a venue-specific hashtag.
Mobile marketing is one of the fastest growing sectors for small business marketing. More than 69 percent of mobile phone users access the Internet daily, according to Google, making it vital for marketers to take advantage of this platform.
Designing for mobile is a must. Marketers can engage customers and take advantage of mobile marketing by incorporating QR codes into printed products such as postcards and posters to encourage people to snap the code and find out more about a product or event or download a specific app.
Another popular mobile trend is the gamification of marketing tools; the number of restaurants using apps to log checkins, for example, is gaining popularity. Customers can earn discounts or badges for visiting or tagging a business through popular social sharing applications, such as Facebook, Foursquare or Twitter.
Images and Augmented Reality
Marketers can take great photos and video without a great deal of expensive equipment or editing tools. From a six-second clip on Vine to a product photo on Instagram, marketers can jump on trends and showcase products with ease.
These tools also allow small businesses to take advantage of augmented reality, which allows for the virtual world to become one with real life. Augmented reality has been used for years as the yellow first-down line during football games on television; it is so commonplace, it almost becomes part of the field. More recently, IKEA has created a mobile app that allows users to see how certain pieces of furniture would look in their own homes by combining users’ photos with store images.
Small business marketers are also using technology to deliver information to the inboxes of customers daily. From sale alerts – mobile notifications and email messages – to coupons and informational videos, email is one of the most popular marketing tools. This same philosophy is quickly expanding to include text messages as well.
For small businesses, emails and texts are inexpensive and offer quantifiable results. Add in location-based tools, and marketers can connect with customers in real time, making it easy to control content and target delivery.
This post is from Brandon Serna, a small business writer working with FASTSIGNS, a leader in signage, digital billboards and many other visual communications around the world.