Digital Marketing vs Traditional Marketing: Which One Should You Choose?


A solid marketing strategy is important for any business to promote their products and services to their target audience. Large companies spend millions of dollars to convert their audience into paying customers. But, this is not possible for a small or medium-sized company. The two most common marketing choices companies have are – digital and traditional marketing.

While the budget is not a big issue for larger firms, and they spend in both traditional and digital marketing channels, a small business has a limited budget and has to invest in the right strategy. For making the right decision, any company should have clarity on the digital marketing vs traditional marketing debate. 

Let us learn more about them.

What is Traditional Marketing?

Traditional marketing is a conventional marketing strategy that uses various offline promotional and advertising methods to reach customers. It is the oldest form of marketing and is tried & tested by many companies. Until the emergence of the internet in the 1990s, this was the only marketing strategy in use.

We come across different forms of traditional marketing every day, such as newspaper ads and billboards. Thus, this is a fantastic way to reach local audiences who don’t use the web. The major categories of traditional marketing are –

  • Print ads in newspapers, magazines, books, leaflets, pamphlets, brochures, etc.
  • Outdoor ads such as billboards and flyers
  • Broadcast ads in TV and radio
  • Direct mail – catalogs and postcards
  • Telemarketing –  SMS marketing, calling customers from an existing database and even cold calling
  • Face to face marketing via sales personnel

Advantages of traditional marketing

  • An engaging TV commercial or a colorful billboard ad is easy to understand and remain in the customer’s mind for a long time
  • Putting ads in local newspapers, FM radio stations and flyers or pamphlets are very effective for attracting local customers
  • The hard copy of the ad – such as a magazine or a flyer- will stay with the customer until recycled

Disadvantages of traditional marketing

  • No direct customer interaction with the masses. You won’t be sure as to how the customer will react to your ads or campaigns
  • Posting ads on TV, newspapers, billboards and magazines are often expensive
  • Unlike digital marketing, there are no ways to analyze the success of your marketing campaigns

What is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing refers to all the marketing strategies that are executed online on various electronic devices. It is currently the most popular marketing strategy adopted by large, small and medium-sized companies across the globe. It is expected that in 2020, the USA will spend around $110 billion in digital marketing.  

As the internet is perhaps the most common form of technology used by people, digital marketing can be used to connect to millions of potential customers worldwide. According to IBM, more than 55% of customers research on social media platforms before buying anything online. Learn more about digital marketing tutorial.

As per another research, more than 73% of e-commerce sales will be from smartphones by 2021. No wonder companies are looking for every opportunity to market their products online! The demand for digital marketing is clearly visible on the digital marketing salary in India.

The major types of digital marketing are as follows –

Read: Digital Marketing Project Ideas

Advantages of digital marketing

  • The interaction with your customers is high. If you launch an ad campaign on a social media platform, you can see what everyone thinks about your brand through their comments, shares, likes, etc.
  • You can easily measure the effectiveness of your campaigns through tools like Google Analytics. This will help you see what is working for you and what is not, all in real-time
  • Although you have to pay for some online ads, it is still way cheaper than print ads and TV commercials

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Disadvantages of digital marketing

  • Digital ads, emails and social media ads are not permanent. They can be ignored and the user does not have any copy of it. If you fail to grab their attention, they will scroll away to something else
  • Some ads may seem annoying to customers and they may deliberately ignore it, hide it or remove it
  • Creating, launching and managing online campaigns is a time-consuming job. Plus, your entire marketing strategy is dependent on the internet

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Digital Marketing vs Traditional Marketing: Head to head comparison

To understand the best marketing strategy for your company, you have to compare digital marketing and traditional marketing. Here is digital marketing vs traditional marketing comparison –

Customer engagement

In traditional marketing, you release an ad in the local newspaper or a highway billboard, hoping your target audience will look at it. While some may take a look, some might not pay heed to it at all. You cannot directly stay connected to your customers. 

But in digital marketing, once you launch an ad on social media or in a YouTube video, you can assure yourself that at least some people will at least look at it, even if they ignore or skip/scroll it. You can interact with them using online surveys, webinars, and also read their comments on social media. This way, you can also solve customer issues quickly.

Learn more: Why Switch to Digital Marketing from Senior Conventional

Reaching customers 

Large companies may create ads in magazines or launch TV commercials that are viewed by people around the world. But, this may not be possible for a small company, due to the cost of these expensive ads. As a result, smaller companies cannot reach customers beyond local boundaries.

But, using digital marketing techniques such as mobile marketing, email marketing and social media marketing techniques, you can reach customers in any corner of the globe with a small budget. Within seconds, you can reach millions of customers worldwide and start selling your products right away.

Measuring ROI (Return on investments)

When you distribute flyers, brochures, or print ads in a daily newspaper, you are not absolutely sure how many customers will look into it. Some customers will definitely pay attention to your ads, but they may not be interested to pay for your products and services. You will remain in dark and can only hope that your campaign works out.

Digital marketing tools such as Google Analytics allow you to analyze your marketing campaign in real-time. This tool lets you see the number of visits on your site, the number of clicks, the source of your customer traffic, and the number of people who are converting to buyers. Based on the results, you can tweak your digital campaign to make the most out of it.

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Digital Marketing vs Traditional Marketing: Which one to choose?

Choosing between digital or traditional marketing boils down to your requirements and objectives. If you are looking to fetch some local customers fast, who do not use the internet, traditional marketing using flyers will work well. Or, if you want to target the older generation, TV or radio commercials are effective as they are more inclined towards the television or radio than the youngsters.

But to target the Millenials or the youngsters, or a set of customers outside your local boundaries, you have to go digital. If you are a small startup looking to make it big, digital marketing is the best. It will allow you to invest your funds wisely and reach a lot of customers in no time. 

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What Next?

If you wish to explore more about Digital Marketing vs Traditional Marketing and become an expert in Digital Marketing, check out MICA and upGrad’s Advanced Certificate in Digital Marketing & Communication. Become an expert in social media marketing, content marketing, branding, marketing analysis and PR.

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What is traditional marketing?

Traditional or outbound marketing deals with creating or building awareness of your organization's products and services using tools and techniques such as telemarketing, television or magazine advertising, newsletters, billboard signs, etc. Therefore, it can also be said that traditional marketing deals with interruption marketing.

In short, traditional marketing is a type of offline marketing that companies use to promote their products and services.

What is the difference between traditional and digital marketing?

Traditional marketing is the conventional mode of marketing, while digital or online marketing is the marketing model of the global village.

Traditional marketing uses mediums such as television, newspaper, and radio ads that are pretty costly. Digital marketing, on the other hand, employs cost-effective mediums like the various social media platforms. Moreover, accurate data is hard to acquire in traditional marketing, and it is also difficult to calculate engagement. But in the case of digital marketing, the complete data of reach, engagement, activities, interest, and actions taken by the users are readily available.

What is customer engagement?

Customer engagement is the tools, avenues, and strategies used for ongoing communication with customers across all touchpoints they have with your business. For marketers, this means not just reaching your target audience but offering compelling and valuable content to capture their attention and keep you top of mind at every stage across the customer journey.

So, your customer engagement strategy needs to incorporate all marketing channels like email, social media, web, and mobile messages. Each of these channels needs to be used effectively.

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