Multichannel Marketing Challenges, Part 1

Recently, I talked with someone I’ll call “Artie.” Artie works for a mass-market retailer, a brand everyone’s familiar with. He told me his company uses two sets of product names and descriptions. Thus, a product in both the on- and offline stores can have two different names.

Need I describe the chaos that erupts when an online visitor comes into the brick-and-mortar store and requests a specific product she saw online?

Another company’s offline sales forces carries so much clout in the organization, it sabotaged aspects of the Web site’s online selling process to funnel more leads to the offline sales team.

How many online sales opportunities has it wasted?

The age of multichannel marketing and sales efforts has created many new opportunities, but it’s also created new problems:

  • Missed sales opportunities
  • Inconsistent customer experience across channels
  • Consistent irrelevance across channels

Missed Opportunities

Whether a company fears channel cannibalization, struggles with channel integration, or is just asleep at the wheel, results are the same: missed sales.

Early in’s life, Barnes & Noble squandered an opportunity to leverage its brand with a multichannel strategy. B&N should have been a pioneer in this area. It could have lead the pack in in-store pickup, online/in-store wish lists, and so on. Back then, there was nothing Amazon could do that B&N couldn’t; it could have stunted Amazon’s growth. Now, B&N is rinky-dink, and Amazon is a 2,000-pound gorilla.

On the positive side, one of our conversion analysts was shopping with his girlfriend at a Gap store. The girlfriend found a pair of shorts she had her heart set on wasn’t available in her size (at least, not within a 20-mile radius). Here’s what followed:

GapGirl smiles, as she knows the pure delight that’s about to follow. If you’d like, she explains, I can place the order for you right now, at the same price we’re offering in store. In fact, you can even pay for them with your in-store purchases, all at the same time, on the same receipt. Since you’re placing the order from the store, we’re even happy to pick up the shipping for you. Would you like them delivered Tuesday AM or PM?

Is your company missing opportunities like this?

Inconsistent Customer Experiences

Another problem multichannel channel efforts create is tunnel, or “channel,” vision.

Many multichannel marketing efforts are disjointed and inconsistent. They can fatally undermine your company’s branding efforts, particularly if the channels create distinctly different customer experiences.

Say a customer receives the Eddie Bauer catalog by snail mail. She flips through it, double-checks price and availability online, then decides to purchase the product on her next mall excursion. A good or bad experience with any one of the three channels will color her perception of the entire company.

Multichannel efforts are becoming more sophisticated. Segregating channel responsibility increases the likelihood of inconsistencies in presentation, messaging, brand voice, even offer details. The likelihood increases more when channel divisions are motivated to compete with and outperform each other.

People may shop one of your channels exclusively, but do they shop a channel or your brand?

Bad Marketing Across All Channels

Some companies do a great job of being consistent across all brand touch points. But what happens if the messaging is irrelevant or not persuasive? This may be the worst problem of all.

Use Personas Across Multiple Channels

The solution is to map your personas to several or all of your marketing channels. With a robust set of personas to empathize with, a large company with several teams and several channels can focus energy in one direction by:

  • Interacting with personas, their needs, and motivations and uncovering new selling opportunities. Learning how, when, and why they shop and make decisions in your category.
  • Walking through all the channels and touch points with the personas to ensure a great, consistent experience with the brand.
  • Writing and speaking to the personas’ goals and motivations to keep messaging relevant and consistent company wide.

Next: how to implement persona use at the tactical level.

In the meantime, do you have any multichannel stories to tell, good or bad? Send them along.

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