Ever since marketers have gone cross-channel, they’ve been pondering the notion of cross-channel integration. A quest for smooth coordination in the face of complexity is a natural reflex for marketers – practically a job requirement. Driven by an ambitious desire to market products and services and engage the attention of customers and prospects, with as little opportunity left behind as possible, we all somehow know that opportunity slipping through the cracks of uncoordinated channels is possible – and it would be wasteful.
Therefore, the larger long-term assignment can and should be a well orchestrated and integrated effort, driving reduced spend or increased response, across and within each channel for an overall maximized return. But, even with this coordination fixation as the focus, there are still a number of scenarios where practicality and potential benefit dictate a single channel focus.
A Look Back at the Origins of Our Quest
When multi-channel meant TV, radio, mail, telephone, and in-store, all you needed was a name and address (maybe phone), and by direct or population geo-based identification, you could easily tie channels together. And, in fact, about the time marketers were adopting databases and getting comfortable with this sense of integrated multi-channel marketing, along came interactive marketing.
Suddenly, it was easy to capture data streams generated by email and engagement via websites, so there was a sense that combining data and operating across channels was vital. But, just as suddenly, marketers realized the data drawn across these new channels was very hard to connect between one another, much less back to the offline databases, unless the customers themselves provided the key information to do so. A registration, or opt-in, linked to each channel seemed like the missing piece.
Flash Forward to Opportunity Realized but It’s Not What You Think
Now, as once again our digital channels expand to include desktop, mobile apps, mobile ad marketing, Web, interactive TV, wired automobiles, and so many other touch points, there is again a rush to connect all channels, not just in delivery, and loyal customer engagement, but also in prospecting and awareness advertising.
This may shock you – but I advocate considering abandoning a cross-channel approach and adopting instead channel-unique strategies. To be clear, “opt-in” is the determining factor.
There is a time and place for well-connected channels. Customers express time and again the satisfaction gained when a brand is able to deliver a great cross-channel experience, especially when personalized and tailored to their needs. And, analysis shows brands benefit with measurably increased revenue and customer lifetime values when they invest in creating these integrated channel relationships. But the key to making it work well on both sides is a customer opting in to the equation, providing the information that allows the brand or marketer to tie it all together.
When you are operating in the arena of advertising and unsolicited customer engagement, and there is no opt-in of any type; your ability to do anything cross-channel – evaluate or measure reach, deliver a multi-channel experience, coordinate message delivery, or measure or attribute results – relies on the linking of data. This is obvious in theory, and often challenging in practice.
So, why not ask the questions: should I be trying to integrate my efforts in this channel or maximize my efforts in this channel?
If the customer has opted in, your number one goal should be to create a seamless experience across every channel you offer or in which the consumer has indicated interest. And, this has got to include mobile, given its prominence in consumer daily life today. Additionally, given the fairly easy opportunity to do so, it makes sense to integrate the reach and delivery of your outbound communications and offers to your known customers.
On the other hand, when you are prospecting, delivering awareness messages, or promoting unsolicited engagement, the challenges of understanding the impact of technical limitations and opportunities, as well as rapidly evolving customer adoption patterns are really complex. Consequently, it makes much less sense to further complicate the channel maximization opportunity by also trying to integrate across other non opt-in channels at the same time.
Additionally, there is a lot to be said for waiting until the customer “asks” for an integrated experience (by way of opt-in). If in fact there is real or perceived customer value in coordinated channels, the customer will provide the data to allow the marketer to do so. Until that time, the marketer’s unsolicited syncing efforts could even be experienced as privacy intrusive – which not only negates but also can actually damage the intended advertising goal.
So, in non-customer opt-in scenarios, I say excuse yourself from the hard and yet to be proven channel integration aim, and focus on channel maximization. OK, how?
1. Create the Best Possible Experience for That Particular Channel
Mobile highlights the importance of this strategy. We’ve all heard or said mobile is personal, but what does that mean, or what opportunity does that provide? First, it means that because we are leveraging someone’s very important and personal device, we should be respectful and engage in a way and at times the consumer indicates receptivity.
Secondly, it’s real time, so make it worth the time – yours and the consumer’s. While you aim to take advantage of the opportunity to create a great in-hand, in-the-moment, individual experience, know that you have the more likely chance of creating an annoying experience, so be selective and beneficial. Lean on your agency and your partners to put forth your best efforts in this regard.
2. Exploit the Channel’s Unique Data and Technology to Maximize Performance
Mobile again highlights the importance and the potential fruits of this strategy. Consumers have multiple mobile devices, and they have very specific ways in which they use those devices, including if and how they’re willing or perceived able to consume both pursued and unsolicited content. Of course, these patterns of use, as well as tolerance for advertising, will continue to rapidly evolve, and with a seemingly ever-growing centralization around smartphones.
Mobile as an advertising channel also creates new targeting opportunities. Think location targeting, for example. Desktop allowed you to retarget a person based on a site they previously visited; mobile allows you to retarget a person based on a physical store they’ve previously visited. Of course, depending on the person, such a tactic may or may not be a good strategy. It may depend on that person’s level of adoption, which of the vastly different mobile device activities they may be engaged in at the time, or varied based on their current physical activity or location.
We appreciate that it quickly becomes a lot of information to digest. However, when thoughtfully executed, mobile campaigns can actually take advantage of the data tied to these trends and individual consumption patterns, thus helping maximize outcomes, whether aimed at awareness, engagement, or sales.
Given that much of this data is unique to the mobile channel, and often not easily linked to other channels, we can’t help but notice at this stage in the mobile evolution, it makes more sense to maximize within the channel versus trying to connect it to others.
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