There’s so much choice available that customers can pick and choose who they buy from and where, when, and how it happens. They want to discover, research, evaluate, and purchase on their preferred channel. Give them that option, and they’re more likely to choose you. That’s the whole point behind the multi-channel approach.
Multi-channel marketing is a must for brands today, but it doesn’t have to mean operating campaigns in all channels simultaneously.
How to adopt a multi-marketing approach and determining the relevant channels for each stage of the customer sales journey was the subject of a recent webinar by Gartner. The online session looked at influencers and behavioural factors contributing to the need for multi-channel marketing, as well as how marketers can get ahead by adopting different lines of attack.
According to Gartner vice-president and research fellow, Jennifer Beck, multi-channel is an old topic made new by a host of economic and cultural aspects. These include the proliferation of channel choices, more demanding and intelligence buyers, and the consumerisation of IT.
Enterprise customers are also increasingly acting just like consumers, while the rise of the Internet of Things is opening even more possibilities for data and collaboration, and bridging the gap between the physical and virtual world, Gartner research vice-president, Adam Sarner, added.
Gartner defines multichannel marketing as optimising the customer engagement according to the way customers want to talk, shop, buy and obtain services through digital and/or offline channels. The analyst group also claims a multi-channel approach must be orchestrated on ‘ensemble interactions’ that create differentiated and compelling experiences.
“Multi-channel is a combination of integrating those channels of communications and synchronising timing,” Beck told webinar attendees. “The other thing about multi-channel is that it’s really ‘Mychannel’; it’s about them, not us.”
But while multi-channel strategy is vital for organisations trying to better customer experiences and their own bottom line, it doesn’t mean operating in all channels at once, Beck said.
“Think about your goal – what is just enough, and what are the right complementary channels that will accommodate the preferences and purchasing behaviours your particular buyers have?” Beck asked. “I reject the omni-channel notion because it suggests you have to operate across all channels, all the time. I see my clients working way too hard, doing too many things, for the impact they actually have on the business.”
How to get your multichannel orchestration model in order
To help marketers craft a manageable multi-channel strategy, Gartner has devised a multi-channel orchestration model graph. This features the different owned, paid and earned channel choices on one side of an engagement cycle graph, and the five types of customer stages - awareness, intent, desire, action and advocacy - across the top.
Using the graph, Beck then outlined five steps marketers can take to determine which channel is appropriate for what action and at what stage of the purchasing cycle:
- What do you want to do? There are a finite number of goals for a marketer when it comes to campaigning: Cross-selling or upselling current customers; gaining consideration with fence-sitters; finding new buyers; and creating new markets/customers, Beck said. She advised marketers to work out what their goal is at the outset to ensure subsequent efforts are relevant.
- Build the business case: Are you looking to ship additional units, or are you introducing adjacent products and in which markets? Marketers must build their case carefully by looking at the target markets, as well as consider things like inventory of existing assets, budgets, identifying any organisational constraints, and preparing for delivery and customer service, Beck said.
- Build your target profile: Many organisations have information about their customers and potential client base, but a combination of psychographic and demographic information will be more effective in defining and interacting with the target customer, Beck said. Marketers also need to clean the contact database, and run regular testing and piloting activities.
- Map costs and complementary nature of channels: It’s also important to determine timing and synchronisation of activities, Beck said. Using the engagement cycle graph, she suggested an owned channel promotion or paid email campaign may work well for customers already aware of your product category, or with an intent to purchase. Social or earned media, however, may be the best first stage of a campaign to raise awareness or to gain advocates for your product, she said.
- Measure and report: “This is as much about finding out for the marketing organisation what works and what doesn’t, as it is for the executives,” Beck said. “What was the outcome, and did you achieve it in the timeframes you determined?”
Variations in approach
According to Gartner research director, Julie Hopkins, marketers considering multi-channel campaigns should weigh up which channels offer unique opportunities to shine with original content, versus just broadcasting the same content through all channels.
“Do something unique in the channels you can, but sometimes you don’t need to cover off a channel, and sometimes it doesn’t make sense,” she advised. “Allow yourself to not only ask the question about how the campaign plays out in another channel, but also look if it’s possible that it doesn’t play out in a particular channel.”
During the webinar, Hopkins described four multi-channel marketing approaches, providing real brand examples of each. The first, ‘focused multi-channel marketing’, could be applicable if budgets are tight, or the target audience is most likely to engage in a prescribed way. An example of one brand that has achieved this successfully is Jell-O, which launched a Twitter-based campaign and microsite based around reclaiming the #FML (F my life, and usually used to describe first world problems) hashtag as ‘fun my life’.
The second approach, ‘sequenced orchestration’, is about rolling out campaigns sequentially and allowing one or two initial channel activities to build momentum for the rest of your campaign. “Think about how your rollout strategy is one of the strategic levers you can pull for a more effective execution,” Hopkins said.
Her third approach, ‘simultaneous experience’, relies on deeper customer engagement by leveraging a particular event or moment in time. An example could be providing more digital content around a TV program, or social interactions during a live event. This requires clear lifecycle planning, Hopkins said.
“Once your moment of time has passed, make sure you plan for the resolution of your program. Is there a second ad or resolution? You want to address the remaining content from your campaign so it doesn’t create unwanted consumer interaction or consumer confusion over time,” she said.
Hopkin’s final approach to multi-channel marketing was ‘the big bang theory’, which involves telling your brand’s story across channels simultaneously. This approach usually required significant budget and was often used for large product launches, such as new car model from an automotive company.
“The biggest reason to take this approach is when a customer will expect to engage with your message regardless of where the interaction with your brand took place,” she said. Marketers considering this approach should check all the channel boxes if your consumer will sense a disconnect with your presence, she advised.
“An important consideration when you have multiple moving parts in support of the same initiatives, is where the baton hand-offs must occur to carry it across the finish line,” Hopkins added. “Not only do you need to think of operational hurdles, make sure the collateral matches, and that the customer service team is aware of the program running, but also be clear on the measurement strategy you need to support. What are you trying to achieve with the campaign? Have you structured your measurement strategy so that you can track all the things you must measure?
“Whether it’s increased sales, new leads or offers redeemed, understand where you are with baseline performance and then establish metrics approaches to assess impact early, as this is essential.”