Multi-channel customer management demands enhanced harmonisation

25th Jun 2010

As customers are increasingly using multiple channels to interact with brands, it is becoming more and more crucial that retailers provide consistent and harmonised marketing messages across all of them.

These are the findings of a study undertaken among 145 enterprises by Aberdeen Group and entitled 'Cross Channel Retail Marketing'. The report revealed that, although many retailers ignored the causal link between customer channel preferences and their purchasing behaviour, such short-sightedness was counter-productive.
Therefore, cross-channel integration had now become a must to ensure that multi-channel marketing activities were effective. The biggest barrier to such activity at the moment, however, was an inability to measure the success of campaigns in emerging channels such as social media and user-generated content such as feedback forums and blogs.
Business-to-consumer based enterprises in particular lacked the necessary tools to track and measure their programmes and so were unable to calculate marketing return on investment (ROI) figures and other benefits that could be used as the basis for future activities. Nearly two thirds of organisations of all types said that they were currently failing to track response rates to multi-channel marketing initiatives, however.
But Aberdeen suggested various ways to help. First, it recommended that organisations deploy a marketing database in order to use customer information currently held in CRM systems to generate personalised direct mail and email-based communications. Such communications could then be sent out across all sales and service channels.
Secondly, it advised developing a centralised database to provide staff in multiple departments and teams with a single view of the customer. Such a move would also help the marketing function to create personalised, integrated marketing plans. As a first step in this direction, Aberdeen said that organisations should purge their CRM systems of duplicate records and consolidate all brand interactions into a single repository.
Thirdly, enterprises should measure consumer channel preferences via mechanisms such as feedback surveys, customer web site profiles and customer analytics tools in order to understand where and how customers interact with their brand. The introduction of a unified marketing platform that handled planning, implementation and analytics could help here.
Lastly, organisations needed to invest in social media monitoring tools to track their brand, maintain its integrity and measure ROI.

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By decisionlobe
27th Jun 2010 20:13


Cross channel message harmonisation is important and generally, the lower cost of online acquisition is often factored into online pricing; which frequently differs from retail or contact centre offerings. Some offerings are not available online, others are only available online etc.  In my experience, most businesses seemed to do a fairly good job of managing the contention between channel strategies. Whilst harmonisation is important; channel integration is also worthy of mention.  Prior/recent web behaviour typically means nothing to a customer services agent and vice versa. One’s online experience remains unaltered following an enquiry from a different channel. In fact, it could be the case that a customer was clearly researching a recently launched product before placing a call about something else altogether.  If they were integrated, it would make sound business sense - in specific cases - to modify the online content in real-time and change the structure/scripting of the inbound call (also in real-time) to effectively harmonise the experience – not just the messages.  Businesses often push customers from one channel to another; they pitch online and then drive them to a call centre instead of providing online fulfillment.  Agents may pitch on a call, only for it to be transferred.   Both of these can be a root cause for the inability to measure success. Underlying systems are commonly unconnected in cases like these. Subsequently, along with this comes data incompatibilities and the requirement for an intermediate solution to address the issue.  Unfortunately – this gap, this lack of data for the measurement of success, coupled by a potentially degraded customer service is not enough to stop businesses having a pop at it. I suspect the measurement of success on social media channels will be a subjective debate for some time to come.  Frankly, if it were up to me, I would invest more time and effort in addressing the fundamental building blocks of channel integration - for better customer management. To my mind, the measurement of social media success is akin to measuring the impact of ATL advertising, yet many attempt to compare it to established online advertising metrics.  By definition, social media has no direct response mechanisms built-in; so this comparison is futile.  The kind of measurements on the social media channels that are worth investing in, are those that help gauge positive and negative impacts on brand, product and customer experience. Even with a wealth of this kind of data, it would be treated much in the same way as the results of a survey i.e. fairly generic and indicative.

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By Etienne Viellard
28th Jun 2010 18:58

The Aberdeen research, concluding that multi-channel campaigns need to be harmonised, should bring no surprises to professional marketers in larger enterprises. Customers rightly expect that a brand’s communications are coherent across channels, that their channel preferences are respected and that communications are relevant to them.

A central marketing single customer view, rather than a bunch of siloed campaign databases, gives distributed marketing organisations a near real-time view of customer communications/customer responses, regardless of channel. With the right marketing technology, this enables personalised, relevant and interactive customer conversations to be orchestrated, perhaps via several channels simultaneously (e.g. email, social, SMS, personalised website pages, call centre) whilst also allowing centralised control over aspects such as frequency, type of campaigns permitted and brand identity.

All this can be automated (indeed must be when you’ve tens/hundreds of thousands/millions of customers) – which leaves marketers to focus on strategy and creative campaign ideas, rather than how on earth to manually manage customer communications over an ever expanding array of channels.

By choosing the right ‘cross-channel’ enterprise marketing automation technology, marketers can manage campaigns and measure reactivity in all channels from a central point, allowing an holistic figure to be put on marketing campaign costs vs returns. With clear return on marketing investment figures, marketers can judge campaign effectiveness objectively and make assertive business cases to senior management for the campaign strategies they formulate.

If I might cite a customer example on behalf of my company (We are well known in the marketing automation space)….then consider Mornay financial services. It takes an innovative cross channel approach to its insurance policy marketing. It has trialled an online digital assistant or avatar named ‘Julie’ to guide customers and registered prospects through seeking the right product for their needs. Her voice delivered content, like the firm’s email, call centre conversations and direct mail is One-to-One personalised to the profile of individual. Trials so far show that simply by switching from multi-channel to cross-channel marketing they increased sales conversions by 50%. By adding ‘Julie’ to the mix, they increased sales conversions by 300%!  

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