We’ve all heard it. For years, the industry buzz has been about multichannel marketing. But we may be missing the mark.
While some marketers technically use multiple channels to reach an audience, they are not realizing the real opportunity: to create a better customer experience, unlock a two-way dialogue and measure the results.
How do you do all that?
It starts with a central database. You need this to warehouse all channel activity, whether in-store transactions, online visits or e-mail dialogue.
Some marketers fall into the trap of collecting a lot of data, but then neglect back-end analytics. Or they see it through to the analytics stage, but fail to use that data to improve the customer experience.
Some also fail to use individual channels to the fullest. For example, E-mail is often seen as a key component of multichannel marketing. It is the only channel through which a company can market to a known person and measure individual response to a campaign from start to finish.
But marketers need to develop an e-mail strategy that goes beyond outbound blasting. For one thing, e-mail can serve as an affordable means to test direct mail offers, messaging and even creative. For example, a travel cruise company can send out e-mails promoting new trips and port locations. The firm can then measure click- through rates on various itineraries and use that data to follow up with a highly targeted direct mail campaign.
As continually repeated, customer satisfaction is the key to successful multichannel marketing and business overall. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, companies can boost profits anywhere from 25% to 125% by retaining merely 5% more of their existing customers.
All well and good, you say. But how do you structure—and measure—this kind of effort?
For starters, a company should not silo online vs. offline marketing functions. There should be one direct marketing group, staffed with direct mail, email and other specialists. And direct marketing should be integrated with other marketing disciplines.
Next, channels should be used to initiate and sustain customer dialogue. For example, if the customer is a registered user, then you should have past Web metrics and behavioral information on your database. Leverage that data, create a profile and tailor the customer satisfaction questions to the individual. Were you happy with the golf clubs? Was the checkout easy? What would you have changed about the product or experience? Were you happy with the selections?
E-mail is a fantastic way to collect customer service information, because it is cost-effective and personal, and the results come in much faster than they do with any other type of media. A marketer should then enter the data into the database and ensure communication is fed back to the customer. Whether this is done via the next store purchase or through a direct mail piece or even through another e-mail, it is critical that you do it.
After dialogue is established, then the marketer can start further segmenting the database, and truly maximizing ROI by customer. For example, detailed behavioral and lifestyle profiles may lead to specialized continuity clubs, strategic banner placement and other tactics.
The key reason for going this route is that customer service has a become the most sustainable long-term competitive advantage any company selling any product or service in any market has today.
Companies that fail to manage the customer experience are likely to fail entirely as businesses regardless of product strength, brand, market type or market size.
David Eldridge is CEO of Alterian