The 3 Paradigm Shifts in Business That Changed Marketing Forever

How personalization, real-time decisions, and measurement have impacted marketing

Time to read: 4 minutes

The world of marketing is always changing. It has to. As buyer expectations shift while technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, marketing cannot stand still.

If you’re in marketing, think about your career for a minute. When your career started, could you have predicted you’d be doing what you’re doing now? Did your job even exist several years ago?

There are many ways that marketing has evolved over the years. However, the most significant changes have been driven by three key paradigm shifts. Here’s what they were, and how they have changed the ways companies and customers communicate.

The first shift: personalized marketing

Historically, marketing was all about reaching the largest audience possible with the same experience. To achieve this, the mass marketers of the past successfully employed such tactics as TV ads, print ads, and billboards.

When the internet arrived, a new dream of individualized marketing came with it. In the early 1990s, Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D. published the landmark book The One to One Future, in which they predicted that “using new media of the one-to-one future, you will be able to communicate directly with consumers, individually, rather than shouting at them, in groups.” Unfortunately, technology didn’t allow for this quite yet. Each online experience was the same, just as it was for a television or print ad.

Now, over two decades later, the technology finally exists to deliver individualized experiences. Netflix and Spotify recommend what we should watch and listen to based on our preferences. E-commerce sites do the same, and help us make shopping online quick and efficient. By learning about us as we use their services, today’s businesses can deliver relevant and engaging digital experiences.

Beyond these common examples of digital personalization, there are also many more subtle ways marketers are delivering relevant experiences today across websites, mobile apps, email campaigns, online chat, and digital ads — along with in-person channels like stores or branch locations.

Marketers are finally able to speak to their customers and prospects as the unique individuals they are — they no longer need to “shout at them in groups.” This is a hugely exciting paradigm shift for marketers and consumers alike.

The second shift: real-time decision-making

In 2008, Patric Timmermans, then the Director of CRM at Infor, wrote a white paper reflecting on how marketing had changed since Peppers and Rogers first published The One to One Future. In it, he shared the following thought about real-time analytics:
"Companies used to cheer about having updated data every six weeks. Then they felt great about updating customer data every week. Now we’ve progressed to the point where companies can have constantly updated customer information, but I don’t think enough companies understand exactly how important real-time customer information can be."

If marketers weren’t clear on the value of real-time data in 2008, they definitely know how valuable it is today. In the last decade, we’ve made huge advances in big data processing. Now, any delay in data processing is seen as a massive inconvenience, and real-time data is the industry standard.

Today, you can monitor campaign performance in real time and make decisions quickly if a campaign isn’t performing as well as you’d hoped. You can respond to customers in the moment if they’re experiencing a problem. And you can understand and react to different things as you learn about customers or prospects in the moment.

That last point ties back into the first paradigm shift: personalized marketing. Personalized experiences are always great in theory, but they’re no good if they arrive too late. The ability to take in information and act on it to personalize an experience in real time is certainly possible with today’s technology, and it’s something that marketers must take advantage of.

The third shift: testing and measurement

Think back to the so-called “golden age of advertising” — the 1960s–1970s setting of Mad Men, for example. When those marketers had to decide how to allocate their budgets or which creative to select for an ad, how did they choose? They likely relied on something that worked in the past or made a decision based on what an executive wanted . . . or they went with their “gut.” Then, they might have been able to roughly measure the results at a later time to conclude if the decision paid off. But there was no way to know for sure if another approach would have produced better results, because there were no good ways to measure results or test different approaches.

Today, marketing has a heavy focus on testing and measuring to find the best approach. This is also called “optimization.” If your team can’t decide between two different website homepage designs, you simply set up an A/B test to tell you for sure which one produces the best results. And unlike the ad men in Mad Men, most successful marketers in the modern era are never satisfied that they have everything figured out. They know there is always a way to improve, so they are always iterating on their successes.

These days, testing is evolving even further, blending into personalized marketing. The focus of traditional A/B testing is on finding the best experience for everyone, but marketers have moved from focusing on one-size-fits-all experiences to individualized communication. A/B testing and experimentation don’t go away in a personalized world — they help marketers find the optimal experience for each segment or individual, rather than a mass audience.

Final thoughts

Marketing has seen a lot of change over the years, but one thing has never changed: marketers have always strived to reach buyers where they are, and they always will. Today, there are many more ways to reach those same buyers than in the past. Technological advances have sparked paradigm shifts in marketing in the form of individualized communication, real-time analytics and action, and experimentation and measurement.

To learn more about how Marketing Cloud Personalization can help you create relevant, real-time marketing — and measure and test it too — request a demo today.


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