Jeffrey L. Cohen
The marketing landscape continues to change as consumer behavior evolves across multiple devices and channels. Desktops, smartphones, and tablets play a role in discovery, education, and purchase decisions. And consumers expect brands to keep up as they move across that landscape. Ninety percent of consumers expect a consistent experience as they move across channels and devices.
You can look around your organization and try to explain why your website doesn’t talk to your in-store point of sale system or why your emails don’t look like your social channels, but guess what? Consumers don’t care. And they are right.
Cross-channel marketing succeeds when those excuses fade into the background and the customer experience takes center stage.
Here are four key principles to focus on when implementing cross channel marketing:
1. Online versus Offline
Asking for an email receipt is not an opt-in.
While cross-channel marketing often refers to sending messages in multiple channels, for example, email, SMS, push notifications from apps, and social channels, it is just as important to think about online versus offline.
We all have examples where we fell in love with a brand online, yet the in-person experience just didn’t match it. The brand tone was perfect online, but it just didn’t translate out of the digital world. Maybe a salesperson, server, or clerk was tired, or they didn’t speak in the brand voice. Maybe they weren’t trained or didn’t have all the necessary information.
The same is true in the opposite direction. You went to a great store and they followed up with an email receipt that just didn’t have the same feel. And they automatically opted you in to their email communications. That should never be done. Asking for an email receipt is not an opt-in.
It doesn’t matter if there are technology barriers or organizational ones, the best way to solve this disconnect is with communication. Break down the silos by sharing plans, promotions, offers across teams. And share with partners and distributors too. Do store associates know what emails go out? Do front desk clerks know about a double points promotion? And do reservation agents know the details about the credit card offer that the flight attendants hand out on all domestic flights?
Do you begin your emails with the greeting “Dear [firstname]?” This is not personalization. This is showing you can do a mail merge.
In many instances, data from outside sources, or third-party data, no longer meets privacy standards.
Many people confuse personalization with identification. Personalization is showing your customers that you know who they are. You know what items they looked at online. You know what they bought in store. You know what coupons they used. You know information about them based on what they have explicitly shared with you and through their customer actions. This is first-party data. As the focus on privacy increases – through both legislation and consumer awareness – marketers’ reliance on first-party data becomes more important. In many instances, data from outside sources, or third-party data, no longer meets privacy standards.
Consider personalization beyond email, and how it works across channels. Every touch point with a customer yields a data point that lets you communicate with more relevant information, but there is a point of diminishing returns. As you segment communications based on more and more data points, you need creative assets that support each of those segments. Focus on the customers most likely to respond with an action.
How do you know if your cross-channel efforts are working? It starts with setting baseline performances of each channel. If you were to send only email, what do your opens, clicks, and conversions look like? Tracking store traffic and sales are almost certainly done as part of regular retail reporting. The web group pays attention to its page views, visitors, and sales. And there’s a team somewhere that counts app downloads and mobile sales pushed through that channel.
Even if all of those metrics get rolled up to one report, that is still not a measure of cross-channel marketing success. Create cross-channel campaigns that use multiple channels and compare the results to the individual baselines of each channel. If the channels working together drive better outcomes than the channels did individually, that is a sign of cross-channel success.
No customer will ever say that they want to be marketed to, but they do have marketing and brand expectations.
It is easier to pay attention to the brand experience or customer experience when implementing cross-channel marketing, but if your goal is to increase sales, reservations, orders, or any other customer transaction that involves payment, you cannot measure your incremental changes and be done. Optimizing is another key step in the process.
You can either look at each channel individually and try to improve its performance and impact on other channels, or you can focus on one top-performing channel and improve that. Maybe you want to generate more email subscribers from in-store customers. You can start with a small sign at all the registers and see how that increases sign-ups. You can add bigger signs with an incentive or you can have the sales associates mention the email sign-up as customers check out. You can even have the associate sign them up. With permission, of course.
Each one of those tactics – whether they work or not – is about optimizing your cross-channel marketing to improve your results.
No customer will ever say that they want to be marketed to, but they do have marketing and brand expectations. They expect brands to be consistent, to know who they are, and to treat them the same whether they visit a physical or digital location. Marketers need to meet or exceed those expectations.
Jeffrey L. Cohen is the director of content strategy at Cheetah Digital, where he creates entertaining and educational thought leadership content to grow the brand. He’s an award-winning marketer, strategist, and author (The B2B Social Media Book) with a 25-plus year marketing career.