As digitally empowered customers engage with a growing number of touchpoints, marketing professionals are scrambling ‘to be where the customers are’. The sheer number and variety of channels have increased manifold, pushing the limits of traditional marketing approaches and tactics that are no longer able to ensure higher customer satisfaction, revenue benefits, or an enduring competitive advantage. The future of any customer-centric global organization is now dependent on the marketer’s capability to integrate, measure, and quantify consumer reactions across these mushrooming touchpoints.
The Changing Definition of Marketing
Recent advances in technology, new avenues of engagement, and increasingly sophisticated customer demands have redefined the rules of marketing. Customers have greater control over the whole buying process compared to marketers. With multi-channel customers spending three to four times more than their single-channel counterparts, marketers are looking at mining these newer revenue generation opportunities.
A recent Gartner report highlights how global leaders are already ahead of the curve by adapting their campaigns to the market, and aligning their approaches to the ways customers and prospects want to engage. They are focusing on real-time personalization for multichannel marketing – reaching out to customers at their moment of need, instead of at their own convenience. 64% of marketers are now expected to apply such event-triggered tactics to multichannel retail marketing techniques in the next two years. This involves honing advanced capabilities such as audience persona management development, predictive analytics, and real-time decision making, to truly understand and cater to their customers.
The Marketers’ Conundrum
The challenges for marketers include management of what is the ‘new normal’ in customer experience.The herculean task at hand is that of integrating and accommodating new channels, while keeping in mind individual customer contexts and delivering tailored, relevant experiences. The marketers must also measure the outcomes of multichannel engagements while dedicating themselves to continuous innovation so as to test, measure, and refine their approaches.
Then, the challenges immediately identifiable in this customer-centric ecosystem are:
- Building capabilities for targeted messaging: The ubiquity of cell phones has resulted in the increase in the number of channels for marketing. Apps, chat bots, augmented reality, etc. have all contributed to the rise of mobile-based customer engagement. The new standards of multi-channel are personalized services and products, same-day delivery, buy online and ship to store, returns, etc. Data hubs are used to integrate the data from various sources so that the information gleaned can be leveraged across marketing layers. In order to define and measure preferred business outcomes, accurate metrics are necessary. Marketers need to deliver the right messages, at the right time, and constantly work towards building on an attentive and receptive customer base.
- Developing and coordinating touchpoints for fluid interactions: Customers today use channels of their choice to interact and do not follow a fixed path to purchase. They may enter and leave the consumer journey at any point. Moreover, they interact with the various touchpoints differently and uniquely. Markets need to map the customer journey across various touch points – and there must be rapid adoption and integration of emerging channels into a multi-channel approach. Extraction of insights through advanced data management is critically important for marketers. Personalization by defining segments is another step in improving the customer pathways. Metrics must be developed for the best measure of outcomes.
- Correct ascription of market responses: Marketers need to be able to recognize the individual channels or touchpoints that contribute to conversions and sales, in order to assess the true value of their marketing campaigns.
We must start analyzing the issue at hand by classifying the key constituents of a multichannel ecosystem into a set of customer experience layers. These layers are:
- Customer profile (focused on the ability to build a complete customer profile)
- Customer engagement (delivers content and services to the end consumer)
- Transaction (the bridge that allows customers to complete transactions)
- Order orchestration (aligns business processes enabling rapid and efficient order fulfillment)
- Customer relationship and advocacy (allows the management of customer relationships in a multi-channel environment)
Once this multichannel marketing strategy is in place, it is important to enumerate its effectiveness by determining what aspects of the strategy must be measured through certain key qualitative metrics (for example, brand affinity/recall, service/product affinity, buying experience, price competitiveness) and quantitative metrics (such as, email open/click through rate, usage of promotional discounts, time spent on website, rate of cart abandonment etc.). This, in turn, can be mapped against measurable business outcomes.
There are certain other considerations that need to be factored in early, when it comes to a globally diversified customer base. Local cultures and needs influence customer experiences – and this is an issue for brands as they need to maintain a consistent brand image worldwide while providing enough flexibility to accommodate local nuances of customer experience. They must work towards creating global brand guidelines that can accommodate the addition of newer markets.
The Next Step
In 2015, Internet advertising revenues in the US jumped 19% year on year in the first six months. This highlights how marketers are laying on online advertising, and the confidence they have in the online channel to serve as a means of engaging customers. Multichannel marketers ranked social media channels near the top at every stage of the buying journey and noted that social media was the most effective channel during the awareness and advocacy stages. Currently, it is the key differentiator influencing various phases of the buying journey – from product/service awareness and purchase, to customer service, demanding appropriate technology investments. Marketers must be enabled to leverage emerging technology tools and address the fragmented nature of their customer experience – delivering a high-quality and consistent multichannel front.