At Madison Design, “digital first” is a strategy woven into every aspect of our work. We see it as a principle that’s no longer optional as we move deeper into the digital age. But what is digital first? Why does it matter? And what about traditional media?

Read on—we’re breaking down all of this and more.


What it means
Digital first is a concept in advertising stating that customers are mostly likely to interact with your brand online before they do anywhere else—and so all your digital touchpoints should be up to snuff. Sounds simple, but it’s about more than just polishing your website. It’s about anticipating behavior and knowing where to meet your potential clients when they gather online. By knowing where to meet them, you can build a strong presence in those spaces.

“A digital-first approach to branding will guarantee brand visibility when consumers turn to the internet to find answers to their questions,” said Melina Miller, M.S., about digital-first marketing. “If a brand lacks visibility when searched, it will result in missed opportunities to engage with its audience. 

So, say it with us: A strong “digital first” presence means not just having a strong website, but also (depending on where your customer shops):

  • Active social media channels
  • E-newsletters
  • Well-placed, eye-catching ads
  • Mobile access
  • A mobile app

Why it matters
Ignoring the importance of a strong digital first presence can mean the difference between an average loss of 10% of your ROI and a 90% higher customer retention rate. That’s because if brands don’t meet shoppers where they gather online, those shoppers will go elsewhere.

Consider someone shopping for a shirt. They find one they like, but it’s out of stock in their size. It’s highly likely they’ll turn to their mobile devices to find it in their size or search for something similar. In fact, 68% of shoppers use their mobile devices while in-store. And when they search, who are they going to go with—your brand, with its strong SEO, visible social ads, and current sale? Or a brand they don’t see because its only online presence is through an ad users can only get on desktop?

But it starts even sooner than that. 81% of people search online before they shop. If they haven’t yet heard of your brand or built brand loyalty, strong digital first strategies mean that when they search for your brand’s keywords, you’ll likely be their first stop. And since 18% of people shop online weekly, and 60% of people shop online at least once a month, it’s critical to be in the types of places they expect to find you.

What about traditional media?
Traditional methods of advertising like direct mail, billboards and magazine ads continue to trend downward in spending—but they’re far from dead. In fact, they can play a valuable role in supplementing digital-first marketing. Postcards or flyers can be a great way to kick off conversations about embedded videos, microsites, QR codes or augmented reality. As long as brands use traditional marketing as a supplement to their digital strategies, and not replace it entirely, it can work fluidly alongside online communication.

In conclusion
In today’s advertising landscape, digital-first marketing is no longer optional. To meet consumers and potential consumers where they are, digital-first must be part of every brand’s strategy.

Not sure where to start? Feeling overwhelmed about your options? That’s what we’re here for. Drop us a line, and let’s chat.