The Coming Cross-Channel Confusion

More marketers are jumping on the cross-channel bandwagon, launching promotions on e-mail, mobile, Twitter, and Facebook for offers redeemable online, via call centers, and in stores. Single channel marketing is easy; cross channel marketing is hard. The coordination of these cross-channel efforts is manually intensive. Look to the future for technology to make cross-channel coordination easy.

Cross-channel coordination is important and worth striving for. It creates opportunity for a greater connection with your customers and prospects – both helping you reach a wider audience, and deepening your engagement with your existing audience.

Coordinating Multiple Channels for a Single Promotion

Marketers like Sears are executing a single promotional campaign across multiple channels – e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook. In the example below, Sears sent an e-mail for $7 off purchases of $70 or more to their e-mail list in the morning, followed by a Facebook wall post at 3:13 p.m., and a Twitter post at 5:15 p.m. Most likely, the sequencing of the campaign deployment had less to do with strategy and more to do with the limitations of tools and business process to support cross-channel marketing.

Sears E-Mail

Sears Facebook

Sears Twitter

Social is the hot new thing, but…

  • It’s not integrated with other marketing channels.
  • Execution is largely ad-hoc.
  • Posts are managed using separate software, if any software at all.
  • Promotions are not treated like “campaigns.”
  • Calls-to-action are not trackable (and if they are, it’s yet another analytics platform to consolidate).

The big concern with ad hoc processes for multiple channels is that it increases the likelihood that a promotion will “leak” out early. With all this manual process, what happens if one channel lets the cat out of the bag two days early (before stores are ready) because of a broken, manual process? Then all the communications channels and all the purchase channels will need to rapidly adjust.

Today, marketers like Sears use labor to effectively execute cross-channel marketing. Other marketers with less ambition haven’t incorporated Facebook and Twitter into an overall marketing campaign strategy because it’s “too hard to manage.”

Look for technology vendors to make this easier.

Finally, today Facebook is a “blast” channel with little targeting. Facebook has a “targeting” feature today for individuals and I expect this will extend to businesses by year’s end. Once Facebook allows marketers to target consumers, marketing strategists will need to decide when to choose a specific channel to communicate to an individual versus shouting out the message across all available channels. This makes the coordination across channels even more challenging.

Coordinating Channel Preference and Sequence

I have a banking client that allows consumers to select channel preference. For example, a mortgage rate watch might use e-mail for daily or weekly updates and SMS (define) where a target rate is achieved. I haven’t seen travel companies like Orbitz or Expedia do this, but one imagines they will soon.

This channel coordination by consumer selected preference is relatively easy and doesn’t require much cross-channel coordination. But what about more interesting cases where a marketer wants to reach out by e-mail and then follow up with SMS when the customer does (or doesn’t) respond? This requires much more coordination across the channels to trigger the right message, at the right time, via the right channel.

Coordinated Cross-Channel Acquisition

With so many different channels to choose from, one of the additional opportunities is to use one channel to bring subscribers to other channels. Some of the available options are:

  • Capture e-mail from Facebook.

  • Promote Facebook and Twitter via e-mail.

  • Capture e-mail from SMS.

Coordinated Customer Profiles

There’s a lot more work to be done to bring coordinated customer profiles to reality. But whether you get your data directly from Facebook or a third-party like RapLeaf, some day you will segment evangelists and consumers with wide influence (through their circle of friends) differently than you do the rest of your audience.

What’s Next?

Bottom line: getting your digital channels to work together as one offers many opportunities. Push your technology, your business processes, and your staff to start thinking this way. You’ll reap the rewards of more and better relationships with your customers for years to come. Do it well, and you’ll be the envy of your peers.

Ed is off today. This column was originally published on Feb. 4, 2010 on ClickZ.

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