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3 More Digital Marketing and E-commerce Fundamentals You Must Know

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The pace of change

I’m traveling in Shanghai this week. It’s my first time in Shanghai (or China proper, for that matter), and I’ve got to say, I’m smitten with the place. It’s both very similar to, and very different from, many other major cities I’ve visited around the world. Fashionable young men and women stroll along the city’s streets in designer jeans and skirts, athletic shoes and knee-high boots — I’ll leave it to you to figure which goes with which — much like you’d see in New York, London, Frankfurt, or Tokyo. Chairman Mao is pictured on the currency, yet I stepped outside my hotel this evening, walked to the 7-11 across the street (around the corner from the Subway sandwich shop) and bought some M&M’s and a Diet Coke.

To get to the city from the airport (whose food court features both KFC and traditional noodle shops), I rode Shanghai’s awesome maglev train (that’s magnetic frickin’ levitation, for those of you not into this stuff). This technological marvel covers 30 kilometers — about 19 miles — in 7 minutes. Seven. Minutes. Imagine traveling the length of Manhattan, from Washington Heights to Battery Park and back, in 7 minutes. That’s essentially what we’re talking about. The image attached to this post is the train’s publicly-displayed speedometer topping out at 431 km/hour, or roughly 270 miles per hour. (Sorry for the blurry image; it’s awfully tough to hold a zoomed-in camera phone steady while going one-third the speed of sound).

Which leads me to the point of today’s post: the pace of change and what’s driving it. Shanghai is clearly evolving at a rapid pace, in some ways leading other world cities into the 21st Century, in some ways following. And much like the city’s astounding maglev train, these changes continue to accelerate. Last week I highlighted 4 fundamental truths about the future of e-commerce and 4 e-commerce changes worth watching. Well let me add these three thoughts equally important to digital marketing and e-commerce:

  • In this business, change is constant. The Shanghai of 2013 is not the Shanghai of 2010. Or 2007. Or 2004. Literally. According to one of my friends here in the city, Shanghai essentially reinvents itself every 3-4 years, due to population shifts, construction, gentrification, and the other assorted changes common to modern cities around the world. You can’t expect to continue doing what you’ve always done as the world around you changes. Techniques and tactics that worked two years ago might not work as well any longer. And the market may have matured to the point that ideas that failed in the past may now achieve fantastic results. This isn’t a mandate to change for its own sake. But it’s imperative to understand the changes going on in your world and, more importantly, your customers’ — but more on that in a moment.
  • Your competition is as likely to be around the world as across the street. “Competitor” is a funny word. To many in business, it means the guy across the street, the one whose business looks and acts and talks and markets itself just like yours, only a little different. While that’s a definition of your competition, it’s an incomplete one. Your customer has a problem to solve. Any product/service that helps them solve their issues faster, cheaper, better than yours presents a potential competitor. When I selected my Diet Coke in the 7-11 across the street, everyone knows I could have selected a Diet Pepsi. But I also just as easily could have selected green tea, a locally-marketed lemon-flavored carbonated water, or any other beverage that met my three requirements: thirst quenching, a little bit sweet, relatively few calories. E-commerce and digital marketing put brands and businesses that offer viable alternatives in front of your customer, no matter where they’re located or, how directly the product/service matches your own. Your digital marketing and e-commerce efforts then have to do a great job explaining to your customers why your offering best meets their needs.
  • Your customers aren’t always who you think they are. Shanghai has far surpassed my expectations. It is a world-class city in every sense of the word. It’s also different from what I expected, more modern and Western, while still essentially Chinese. Of course, to say that all of China is like Shanghai is to suggest that Shanghai is just like New York or Tokyo or Frankfurt. The realities your customers face each day tend to be distinct to the individual or, more typically, their persona. And to say that their needs will remain the same, forever, is just plain silly. Meeting your customers’ changing needs online requires continually listening, continually learning, and continually adapting to the your customers as they change.

I’m looking forward to the rest of my stay here in Shanghai, as well as future visits to this magnificent city. I’ve learned a lot in the short time I’ve been here. And I’m eager to see what else I learn before I leave.

Interested in more? Sign up for our free newsletter and get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy. And, if you’ve got a minute, you might enjoy some of our past coverage of developing the right e-commerce and digital marketing strategy for your business:

If you’re looking to learn even more about how changing guest behavior shapes hospitality marketing, e-commerce, and distribution, be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also want to take a moment to review the slides from my recent seminar, “Digital Marketing Directions 2016: The Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your hotel, including:

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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