Larisa Bedgood
Larisa Bedgood 4 February 2016
Categories Data & Analytics

The Marketer's Guide to Cross-Channel Marketing

Many marketers have a fairly good idea of what it means, but there is still a shroud of mystery about what it takes to join the ranks of “cross-channel marketing.”

According to a new study by Forbes and Turn, 64% of executives surveyed “strongly agree” that data-driven marketing is crucial to success in a hyper-competitive global economy. 

Data drives all aspects of marketing and without doubt is the most valuable resource for marketers today. Today’s consumers are moving faster than ever before and data is a critical ingredient for driving meaningful and personalized communications with consumers across multiple channels. Here’s a short guide to cross-channel marketing and how data drives success in the age of the connected consumer.

What Exactly is Cross-Channel Marketing?

Cross-channel marketing is a term that is often thrown about left and right. And while many marketers have a fairly good idea of what it means, there is still a shroud of mystery about what it takes to join the ranks of “cross-channel marketing.”

Many marketers confuse the terms multi-channel and cross-channel. Multi-channel marketing means you have a presence across multiple channels and can interact with consumers through any of these platforms. This may be a print ad, catalog, website or digital advertisement.

Cross-channel marketing is an extension of multi-channel marketing. You not only have a presence across multiple channels, but each channel is integrated so consumers can be targeted with the same message and according to their preferences as they move from channel to channel. Cross-channel targeting is dependent on knowing who your customers are – the right message at the right time and through the right channel. Insights that can only be achieved with data.

Multi-channel vs. cross-channel

cross-channels, brands

Integrate Your Customer Data

Many marketers struggle to use their data to create a unified view of consumers. A study by Signal found that only 6% of marketers say they have established a single customer view to support their cross-channel marketing strategies.

However, without an integrated customer database to support a singular customer view, how can you consistently target consumers across channels? The answer is you can’t. If your email database is stored in a separate system from your direct mail database or customer service records, you will have different pieces of crucial information in different systems. Your email records may show that Jane Smith is a customer, but if your direct mail database hasn’t been updated, Jane Smith may show up as a prospect and worse, her name may be misspelled. In this scenario, we are only taking into account the information stored in two systems. When you consider that most companies have ten or more sources of customer information in separate systems, keeping track of customer data can be daunting. The good news is that a variety of technologies exist so each of these sources of customer data can be pulled together into one unified system for a complete, 360-degree customer view.

Understand Your Target Audience

cross channel marketing

Marketers must start thinking like their customer in order to target them with the most relevant messages. With your customer data integrated into one database, you can apply analytics to understand your customers and prospects.  Traditional 360-degre views encompass a range of demographics and lifestyle information. For example, Jane Smith is married with two children, owns a house, is an outdoor enthusiast, and made three purchases from your store last month.

As consumers become more digitally focused, this 360-degree view must be expanded to include a customer’s digital choices and behaviors as well. Jane also has browsed your website but has abandoned items in her cart. She called customer service with a complaint and posted a question to your Facebook page.  Each of these touchpoints provides additional insights into Jane’s channel preferences, likes and dislikes, and real time indicators of purchase intent.

Third-party data should also be appended to your file to fill in any missing information such as email address, phone number and demographic or firmographic data elements. Some examples of third-party enhancements include:

  • Email append - Add consumer and business email addresses to your database or names and postal addresses to your email file with reverse email append
  • Demographic append - Enhance your database with business and consumer demographics and lifestyle information
  • Phone append – Enhance your phone contact data with services such as forward append, reverse append, and new connects for consumer and business listings

consistent branding message

Coordinate Your Messages Across Channels

Consumers not only shop and research across channels, they move from channel to channel when making a single purchase. According to research by PWC, 65% of consumers shop across at least two channels, while 21% are using four or five channels to shop. Marketers need to understand the customer journey as consumers move across each of these channels.  From initial awareness to final purchase, consumers have different channel preferences and want to be able to communicate in the way they prefer and at the time of their choosing.

In order to provide this seamless experience, consumer data must be available across channels. The same information on Jane should be available in an email system, customer service center, POS system, and any other communication channel. Just as important, every consumer touchpoint should be integrated into these systems in real-time.

Take the example of Jane. She was shopping on an ecommerce site but abandoned her shopping cart after placing several items in it. By capturing and integrating this information with other channel systems, Jane can be targeted with an abandoned cart email with a link to her items. The email can also contain a phone number for customer service (who has information on Jane’s items) as an alternate way for Jane to place her order.

Cross-channel marketing does not happen overnight. When deciding which channels to integrate, choose two or three and add others into your mix over time. MarketingSherpa surveyed consumers on their channel preferences. The overwhelming majority of consumers (72%) prefer email as the way they prefer companies to communicate with them.

channel preferences

When deciding which channels to integrate campaigns across, email is an ideal place to start. Your marketing channel mix can be expanded across channels such as websites, direct mail, social, mobile, content marketing, and so forth. Channel preference will vary from industry to industry and business to business so be sure you know which channels your customers use most often when prioritizing channel mix.

At the end of the day, a positive cross-channel customer experience may just be the deciding factor when the choice comes down to you or a competitor. And considering that before long, the customer experience will outweigh product or price, now is the time to get on board with integrated and customer-centric channel strategies.

To learn how to implement these highly successful strategies used by today’s top data-driven marketers, download this free eBook.

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