LONDON/CHICAGO: While all marketers are having to understand how to engage with consumers in the digital era, the industry has been here before and there are lessons that can be learned from the 1980s, a leading industry figure has argued.

Susan Whiting is the former vice chair at research firm Nielsen and now an executive adviser at Moxie Software. Writing in The Guardian, she pointed to how the TV market fractured when the cable networks took off.

Cable TV, rather like digital channels today, gave consumers a plethora of choice and marketers had to make the best use of data and analytics to reach them.

However, even with more than 500 TV channels on offer, it emerged that viewers became selective in their viewing habits and they consistently watched only 12 to 14 channels on average.

Although digital has made matters more complicated for today's generation of marketers, Whiting said that many of the measurement techniques used to identify the right television audience are still valid today.

"Mobile interactivity means that companies must now use data and analytics to deliver the best possible experience, not just to determine the audience for their marketing messages," she said.

"Effective digital customer engagement requires that we leverage understanding of customer behaviour to offer not just contextually relevant information, but contextually relevant assistance that helps the customer through the online buying experience," she added.

She advised that anticipating these new customer needs can help companies to engage shoppers with digital channels to boost sales and build customer loyalty.

However, marketers should remember that existing techniques for understanding consumer behaviour can still deliver for today's mobile consumers.

"The growth of mobile has radically changed life for all of us, but companies do not have to regard the advent of the mobile consumer as some brand new animal that cannot be easily understood or approached."

Data sourced from The Guardian; additional content by Warc staff