On the weekend of the 9th June, Ghent played host to the WebTomorrow conference which brought together some of most important names in marketing and digital entrepreneurship. A host of talents showcased the skills and concepts which they believe they will come to dominate the industry in the coming years. From Tamara Lohan who presented the story of how her company (Mr and Mrs Smith) transformed from a small guidebook into a website with a global reach and turnover of €70 million thanks to embracing the digital revolution, to IBM’s Jeremy Waite who explained how the future of marketing looks to be increasingly based around artificial intelligence. With such innovation on show, we thought it was important to bring you the top three useful takeaways from the summit for those of you who missed out.
- Gerry McGovern focused on how it is the job of marketers to rebuild trust in the business community as they attempt to reestablish a relationship with their customers that has suffered in recent years as a result of increasingly aggressive sales tactics. He pointed to examples such as AirBnB and Uber as models of what is possible when you allow customers to build their own relationship with a company through the quality of the product or service provided rather than continuously bothering them for repeat business. McGovern went onto explain that a successful business must remodel their online tools to reflect this increasingly hands off approach whether that be cutting the number of web pages a company has so that sales pages take a more prominent role or enhancing the user experience by making features more streamlined. He pointed to the example of HSBC’s mortgage appointment system which went from 2 enquiries week to 180 thanks to a simplification of the form. Small changes in modern marketing can make a big difference.
- Thierry Soubestre spoke of how Facebook despite being a household name within the spheres of marketing and big data is often under appreciated by companies that could utilise its enormous capacity for demographic targeting in order to spearhead their marketing campaigns. He argues that Facebook is an invaluable tool in that the data set can give you exact information on the profiles of everyone that interacts with your brand online. This is crucial when it comes to the ability to conduct market research or create advertising campaigns that link to the specific interests of your potential client base. Facebook has an unrivalled ability to define its users. Soubestre’s talk showed us that social data is not the technology of the future but rather that of the present. There are enormous benefits for companies if they are willing to embrace the digital revolution that is well underway.
- Finally, Thomas Van Halewyck discussed the importance that startups play in the modern economy and how they are the driving force of innovation due to a target based strategy which larger corporations fail to imitate. Halewyck pointed to a return to the trend of corporate venturing (that was seen so prominently during the IT Bubble of the late 90s) whereby corporations acquire startups in order to obtain a new growth outlet and avoid the stagnation that can often be associated with more mature company structures. He uses Ford’s $1 billion investment in Pennsylvania based software company Argo AI as an example of the global push by the largest corporations to use such innovative startups as a mechanism to adapt to the challenges posed by digitalisation. He argues that such investment can yield huge rewards if it is done properly with the independence of the smaller partner being maintained and that this will become an increasingly prominent growth strategy as business leaders prepare for the future.
The common theme that links all the speakers who showcased their ideas at WebTomorrow is the need to innovate in an increasingly competitive and challenging market. From Gerry McGovern demonstrating the small changes that companies can make to significantly improve their online presence to Thomas Van Halewyck who showed the extraordinary multibillion dollar lengths that Fortune 500 companies will go to in order to ensure that they continue to be leaders in their field. There was a clear consensus amongst all the speakers at WebTomorrow, regardless of the industry that they work in. Companies must seek to innovate and challenge the status quo or risk being consigned to the pages of the history books.