A true ‘channel of choice’ experience allows customers to swap between channels based on their needs and personal preferences. When properly integrated, this can help build greater levels of customer engagement and loyalty. But be warned – it’s not always enough.
The customer journey is rapidly evolving and while channel of choice can offer many benefits, today it’s a given in many industries. Consumers want more. They expect more.
The modern customer journey has evolved from a linear model to a dynamic brand experience that is as individual as each customer. This is because the experience is driven by customer behaviour.
In short, to be competitive, today’s brands must empower their customers to shape their own experience.
The importance of multichannel marketing
Multichannel marketing is important for the simple reason that understanding your customers leads to more business. By putting yourself where the customers are, you are far more likely to make a sale, and today, customers are everywhere.
In 2016, customers have more control over the buying process than marketers do. There’s no denying this. Thanks to the proliferation of available channels, customers have more choices than ever when it comes to sourcing information on products of interest. But that also means there’s more ways to reach customers – both in terms of number and variety of channels. And as the number of channels available are continuing to rise, multi-channel marketing is not only important, but critical for any company wanting to see substantial growth.
Why channel of choice might not be enough
For ‘channel of choice’ to be successful, companies need to take a step further. Not every customer buys the same thing, in the same size or style, in the same place or in the same way. Smart companies recognise this and tailor the experience for each customer.
Amazon is a great example of this. Every customer logs in to see a customised homepage based on browsing and purchase history. Other retailers such as JCrew are in on the act too, understanding that if someone has only ever purchased men’s clothing from their store, their catalogue should reflect that.
And then there’s Topshop, whose “Wish You Were At Topshop” campaign connected the retail floor with online space, giving it a total reach of more than 7.5 million. The campaign helped to create an interactive in-store environment and helped drive footfall in retail locations as people were tweeting, blogging and posting messages on Facebook.
The traditional model of brand-centric channels has been turned on its head. New, successful outreach models utilise customer-centric touch points designed to provide relevant brand experiences anytime and anywhere a customer could want them.
Many brands have begun to develop consumer profiles so they can intelligently target customers at every stage of the purchase cycle. Target is one of these, and they’ve gotten so good at analysing purchase behaviour, they can even tell when a customer may be pregnant and can target their interactions accordingly.
Getting past the challenges
All of the above sounds great in theory, but getting past the simple channel of choice experience and delving into something deeper does means getting past some pretty tough challenges. These challenges include:
Many companies have excessive, often ludicrous amounts of data and deciphering it all is a mammoth task that can be costly and time consuming. In order to stop yourself drowning in data, you must clean up the data, consolidating it from different sources and using it to glean intelligent insights about customers.
Assuming that you’ve successfully cleaned and consolidated your data, the question of automation then comes into play. Marketing automation helps to effectively market on multiple channels as well as automate repetitive tasks but you must first understand how to measure customer behaviour to automate an intuitive, highly relevant experience that’s driven by data.
Brands have an obvious obligation to keep their customer data secure and while you want to stand out in your security measures, you can’t afford to be too bold either. Finding this balance is challenging, but it will result in you appearing credible and safe.
While you want your customers to know that you understand them, you don’t want to show you know too much or you’ll come across as creepy. In the above example of Target, the retailers were forced to scale back some of their insight as many customers felt their insight was bordering on privacy invasion.
Customer journeys are about recognising the different stages in a customer lifecycle, from acquisition and onboarding to propensity and churn rates. The experience is about every little interaction a customer has with your brand – so it encompasses call centres, customer care, risk teams, online teams, sales and more. It’s crucial that everyone is on the same page and shares the same goal – that every customer should get the best possible experience.
Customers will choose to communicate via the channel that is the cheapest, the quickest, the most effective or the most painless for them – depending on their age and circumstances. This means carrying out proper research to ensure you have the right channels available. This may sound costly and time consuming, but it’s definitely one case where short-term pain will provide long-term gain.