Multi-Channel Marketing: How to Get It Right
A few weeks back, I wrote a blog for entrepreneurs about how to go from shopper marketing to omni-channel marketing. I have found that there are many marketing concepts out there that all seem the same as omni-channel marketing. Examples include total experience marketing, multi-channel marketing, and cross-channel marketing. As I have just written a blog about total experience marketing, I will not address this concept in this blog. I will first explain the difference between multi-channel marketing, omni-channel marketing, and cross-channel marketing for you. Then, I will focus on multi-channel marketing and list tips for a good strategy.
What is multi-channel marketing and why is it important?
According to Sas, multichannel marketing refers to “the practice of interacting with customers, using a combination of indirect and direct communication channels (websites, retail stores, mail order catalogs, direct mail, email, mobile, etc.) and enabling customers to take action in response using the channel of their choice. In the most simplistic terms, multichannel marketing is all about choice.”
Sas thinks multichannel marketing is important for the simple reason that you must be where your customers are, which is everywhere. Sas also claims that “multi-channel customers spend three to four times more than single-channel customers do. There is no doubt that customers today have much more control over the buying process than marketers do. Thanks to the proliferation of available channels, customers have more choices than ever when it comes to how they want to get information. Today there are more ways to reach customers – in terms of both number and variety of channels – than we could have imagined not so long ago. As the number of channels continues to rise, the need to embrace multichannel marketing becomes a critical notion.”
The difference between multi-channel marketing and omni-channel marketing
With the advent of the internet, Econtent says, consumers can browse, research, and purchase online. Nevertheless, the evolution has not ended there. Enter laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Consumers have multiple options to satisfy their shopping needs. More options mean more opportunities for marketers to connect with and engage their markets. However, it also means a great deal more complexity. Keeping interactions consistent across multiple channels and ensuring a seamless experience for consumers is the new challenge. It is the challenge of omni-channel marketing, and it looks more similar to a spider web than a racetrack.
“The difference between multi-channel and omni-channel really comes down to a company’s approach to digital channels,” says Stacy Schwartz. “Companies that focus on maximizing the performance of each channel have a multichannel strategy. They likely structure their organization into ‘swim lanes’ focused on each channel, each with their own reporting structure and revenue goals.” The result is competition, which sometimes serves the greater good and other times generates friction and misaligned incentives. That is where an omnichannel approach comes in. “An omnichannel approach puts the customer, not corporate silos, at the center of its strategy,” Schwartz says. “It acknowledges that mobile and social have enabled customers to not only quickly switch between channels but actually use channels simultaneously.”
In essence, omnichannel marketing recognizes that customers engage with companies or brands in many different ways, across multiple platforms, and grasps the inherent challenge this creates in terms of ensuring consistent experiences. Darr Gerscovich says “Interpersonal relationships are ingrained so deeply into our social fabric that a customer will view your entire brand as a singular relationship. Omni-channel marketing ensures that customers receive a personalized conversation with your brand.” He also says that while multi-channel tends to be based on an inside-out approach, omnichannel is more outside in, a consideration of the customer experience from his perspective.
Brenna Holmes believes that the distinction between multi-channel and omnichannel marketing is based on a tactical versus a strategic approach, with multichannel reflecting a tactical effort. She claims that most marketers still tend to focus primarily on tactical multi-channel initiatives, but they are making baby steps toward omnichannel marketing.
The difference between multi-channel marketing and cross-channel marketing
According to AdMedia, multi-channel means having a presence on more than one channel or platform. Cross-channel, on the other hand, means that you are using multiple channels seamlessly and interchangeably to market, sell, and interact with customers. Cross-channel takes multi-channel to the next level so that the customer gets a seamless and consistent brand experience no matter what device or platform they are using. This sounds a lot like omnichannel marketing to me!
Even marketers have not mastered multi-channel marketing yet
As eMarketer says, marketers may not be getting the support they need to implement multichannel marketing strategy, despite recognition from upper levels—86% of respondents in a June 2015 study by Lewis PR said senior leaders at their organizations endorsed multichannel marketing, and 25% were using it because of pressure from the board.
When asked about the biggest challenges to multichannel marketing, nearly a quarter of respondents said they lacked the time and resources to develop and execute multichannel campaigns, and the same percentage struggled to get buy-in at the board level. Similarly, other issues related to a lack of investment in tools needed to manage multichannel campaigns as well as a limited understanding about the process as a whole.
Room for improvement
Room for improvement is needed in measurement and analytics too. While 38% measured multichannel campaigns throughout their cycle to continuously identify what was working and refine strategy and channel investment—allowing them to drive the most optimal results—this left more than six in 10 respondents who tracked campaigns throughout the cycle merely for reporting purposes (35%) or evaluated results post-campaign just to report on return on investment (27%).
eMarketer has found an April 2015 research by The Relevancy Group that found similar issues in terms of resources, measurement and lack of coordination. When asked about the greatest challenges to developing multichannel campaigns, US marketing executives cited issues with analyzing campaign results across channels, coordinating strategy and marketing across channels and departments, knowing how much effort and spending to put against each channel, and limited staffing and budgets, to name a few.
Three steps to get multi-channel marketing right
Luckily, Sas lists 3 steps for how to get multi-channel marketing right.
1) Create and maintain a single view of the customer
Having a single view of the customer is critical. That is because today’s customers often interact with your brand in a variety of ways that involve more than one touch point. It is vital that you understand how your customers behave across all channels, at every touch point, and that you understand each customer’s value to you. To get that single customer view, it may help to establish a centralized marketing data mart that consolidates all customer data in one place regardless of source. When creating and maintaining a single view of the customer, keep these points in mind:
- Having many customer data is not the same as having a single view of the customer.
- Your customer view must evolve as customers and businesses change.
2) Establish a multichannel marketing platform
A multichannel marketing platform allows you to integrate traditional and emerging channels. You will also greatly simplify the creation and execution of cross-channel campaigns by enabling marketers to replicate a single campaign across various channels. All this puts the holy grail of marketing within your grasp – reaching the right person with the right offer through the right channel at the right time, while reducing costs and improving the effectiveness and performance of your marketing efforts. A multichannel marketing platform includes processes and technology to support:
- Campaign management
- Advanced analytics
- Advanced execution
- Response attribution
- Digital marketing
3) Create consistent customer experiences across all channels
Customer experience is one of the most powerful competitive differentiators. While the quality of the customer experience is important, consistency is equally important. That is because your customers experience your brand as a whole, whether their interactions with you are online, in a store, over the phone, or some combination of these.
Multi-channel turns multi-generational
Remember that your customer view has to evolve as customers and businesses change? Liane Dietrich illustrates this. Cross-device behavior is often seen as being associated with Millennials. This young, tech-savvy demographic group of digital natives is known for using multiple platforms to connect with brands, research, and shop for products. However, we should not forget that Millennials are not the only demographic driving multi-channel.
In fact, there is a rise in multi-platform usage across demographics. Recent research from ComScore has found that people of all different age demographics are becoming increasingly multi-platform. US consumers of all ages used an average of 3.3 devices last year. Interestingly, the segment of people over age 55 is currently the fastest-growing segment of multi-platform users, increasing to 68 percent in 2014 from 57 percent in 2013.
6 steps for a dynamic multi-channel marketing strategy for startups
Gideon Kimbrell has thought about how to get a good strategy for multi-channel marketing for startups specifically, and he lists six steps for them to adopt a successful dynamic multichannel marketing strategy:
- Leverage industry influencers
Brands that captivate industry leaders earn visibility and ROI. Some do it by offering them shares, hiring them as consultants or using other creative means of engagement.
- Use tracking tools
Brands need to know where every single click, download, and install was earned.
- Promote multichannel engagement
Users value having control over how they interact with brands.
- Establish an effective CRM your way
Many startups miss out on marketing opportunities because they are using third-party CRM systems that are out-of-sync with their needs rather than smart, efficient systems.
- Assess customer value
Successful companies distinguish between paying users, qualified users, and potential users to determine how much time and money to invest in each type.
- Show appreciation
Building delight into every aspect of the customer relationship earns companies user loyalty and great word-of-mouth marketing.
I think these steps do not just come in handy for startups only; we can all use them as a checklist to see where we stand.
What can I do for you regarding multi-channel marketing?
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