How to manage the multichannel surfer

12th Dec 2011

Ingrid Froelich explains the rise of the multichannel customer and how to successfully catch them surfing.

The term 'surfing channels' used to refer to those couch potatoes who stared at the TV, slack jawed and glazed, flicking from channel to channel. The modern-day channel changer however, is a different beast altogether.
This channel-changer swoops dexterously from place to place with practiced grace and puts a completely new connotation to the word 'surfer'. These customers are fundamentally cross channel when it comes to information, search, socialising, interaction, communication, purchasing and entertaining.
Mapping the journey - it’s a multichannel life
Email, social media, mobile, online and offline interaction are all part of the epic customer journey and have a profound effect on content, process, relevance, usability, touch points, channels and strategy. To have an impact on the journey, we first need to know how customers behave so that we can respond proactively. This means that a holistic approach to marketing is required.  
They come to you
These active cross-channel customers have fundamentally changed marketers’ approach and priorities. We’ve left the era of just push, tell and show approaches. Customers now seek us out - with or without our help. If we don’t manage to interact with them effectively, they will go to somewhere else or listen to someone with a more compelling offer.
The key to an effective cross-channel scenario is the ability to let the customer initiate their next interaction. It is then important to respond by offering, relevant, personalised content – which provides a significant, value-added customer proposition.
Surf’s up!
Unlike the TV surfer who endlessly receives the messages you choose, the new customer-centric, cross-channel approach requires much more listening - analytics data, messages and feedback. Incoming data from email, web forms or online behaviour, provide cross-channel feedback to help you discover how your different channels support one another. This enables you to prioritise channels and streamline the journey.
From multiple channels to multiple devices
In addition to supporting multiple channels (where people get information), the number of different devices (smartphones, tables, application options) is also growing. Marketers who understand these environments can better adapt their message and usability for what customers actually do, on what device and where they use it.
Fighting the silo inside out
While the advantages of a cross-channel approach are clear, many organisations still use a siloed approach to their tactics, with specific web teams, social media, email teams, PR and more. These silos often initially emerge when organisations focus on new mediums in an effort to 'get a handle on' what it can do for them.
This often also relates to corporate culture and performance indicators that often serve to reinforce siloed approaches, with little regard to how different mediums actually influence the effectiveness of others. Unfortunately, this type of internal, tactic orientation keeps marketers from focusing on customer journey, since instead they focus on a single channel in the overall journey.
The ability for people within organisations to work together is more crucial than ever and this includes web editors, email marketers, internet marketers, social media personnel, PR, sales, customer support, human resources and more. This calls for truly integrated processes to creating effective dialog with customers as well as for tools that make this internal interaction as easy as possible.
Catching the wave… choosing the best solution
Creating an integrated cross-channel experience has never been so important. Customers look for a single experience, regardless of channel, and their journey should be as smooth as possible, enabling them to act on your offer and message. But when you throw translations, localised content, multiple departments, multimedia content and the specific requirements of each channel into the mix, the task has never seemed so daunting.
Organisations now recognise the need to create a truly cross-channel brand experience. Most customers use (and expect to use) their medium of choice when researching, selecting and purchasing products, as well as when seeking support later. It’s about impact, relevance and engagement. To create a truly effective multichannel experience, you must provide your customers with a choice of channel, consistent messages and seamless movement from one channel to another.
  • Break down your internal silos
  • Focus on your customer rather than the channel
  • Define the value of the channel and create task-based interaction, aligning channel capabilities with customer wishes and behaviour
  • Apply branding, messaging and brand experience across channels consistently
  • Provide cross-channel opportunity at every juncture: email>web>social media>mobile etc.
  • Measure, test and refine social media data, web analytics and transactions per channel
  • Integrate your customer intelligence in your web content management system to maximise effectiveness

Ingrid Froelich at SDL Web Content Management Solutions.


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