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Learn How Consumers are Taking Control Through Digital Tools

Written by Charlie Chung
3 minute read
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With the proliferation of products and services enabled by technology, consumers can feel bewildered. But there is also the potential for consumers to play a more active in the marketplace, thanks to new digital tools like 3D printing. Class Central interviewed Dr. Aric Rindfleisch, Professor of Business Administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Executive Director of the Illinois MakerLab. He is teaching a free online course on Coursera, Marketing in a Digital World, which is starting now. It is the first course in the Digital Marketing Specialization. Below is an edited transcript of an interview with Prof. Rindfleisch.

Aric Rindfleisch

Who are the target learners for this online course?
Prof. Rindfleisch: The main target for this course is consumers. Our goal is to illustrate how new digital tools such as the Internet, Smartphone, and 3D Printing are enabling them to take a more active role in the marketing process.

In addition, we also discuss why firms (both large and small) should care about this transformation and how they should adapt their marketing practices accordingly.

Is it modeled on a college course?
Prof. Rindfleisch: Not really. This is course has been uniquely designed for Coursera and is quite different from most typical digital marketing courses. The roots of this course trace back to a number of different courses that I have taught over the past few years at a number of different institutions, including the University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, and Korea University.

What are the new tools that you see making a big impact?
Prof. Rindfleisch: This course focuses on digital tools such as the Internet, Smartphone and 3D Printer. We view these tools as having the ability to democratize the marketing landscape by shifting the balance of power from firms to consumers. Consumers can now engage more actively in the Four P’s of marketing (Product, Promotion, Placement, and Price). For example, by using a 3D Printer, a consumer can create their own products, such as a smartphone case.

What are companies with sophisticated marketing departments not doing or missing with respect to digital marketing?
Prof. Rindfleisch: I think what most companies miss is that that digital marketing is as much about democratization as it is about digital. Because of this, firms are losing control over their messages and their marketing in general–and firms don’t like the idea of losing control. Most companies are already doing a pretty good job with social media marketing efforts. However, take the case of 3D printing, which is still a new domain for most firms. This technology blurs the divide between the physical and the digital by enabling individuals to transform their ideas into objects and their objects into ideas. By making greater use of 3D Printing, firms should be able to lower their manufacturing, distribution, and marketing costs. We believe that this technology will help usher in a new industrial revolution!

What are ways that people can stay up to date with the constant changes and trends in digital marketing?
Prof. Rindfleisch: By enrolling in our Digital Marketing Specialization! Also, the course includes a set of recommended websites and readings. People can check out our MakerLab in the College of Business at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, explore and contribute to the community at MakerBot’s Thingverse, or get your 3D printing designs printed at Shapeways.

If you are interested in learning more, you can take Prof. Rindfleisch’s Marketing in a Digital World, which is starting this week.