We’ve all watched as consumers have become the undisputed owners of their brand relationships. In fact, people have been empowered on that front for the better part of the last decade — and that’s never been as true as it is today. Two key trends have contributed to the shift from brands driving the relationship to consumer as king: The ubiquity of smartphones has enabled people to easily text, tweet, email, check in, research and shop. Also, the consumer’s voice has become louder over the last several years through social media platforms and a resulting ability to make positive or negative comments about a brand at will.
On the marketing side, so many of the tools that we’ve used for years to connect with consumers are focused on a channel — whether that’s email, mobile, catalog or web. The big challenge for marketers is that message delivery within channels almost always happens via disparate platforms, and, as a result, outreach to consumers is uncoordinated. This disconnect is confusing for consumers, and expensive and cumbersome for brands.
These dynamics have brought brands to a crossroads because, quite simply, consumers have gotten way ahead of the systems we use to communicate with them. The good news for marketers is that there’s an emerging solution to help solve for this problem: the cross-channel marketing platform.
In a nutshell, a cross-channel marketing platform:
• Integrates consumer information that comes in from various channels into a single view
• Gives marketers the ability to understand how consumers interact in different channels — and what their channel preferences are
• Identifies how marketing efforts in various channels impact sales
• Groups customers together to enable “triggered” marketing outreach
• Interacts with customers across multiple channels in both a batched-based and real-time fashion
• Manages all marketing campaigns across channels in one system
Smart marketers are moving quickly from traditional database marketing to these new, nimble cross-channel platforms. Before diving into this trend, let’s look at marketing’s evolution over the last 20 or so years. Not that long ago, we engaged in mass marketing — everyone got the same message on the same direct-mail piece. Eventually, marketers got more targeted — we realized that only certain people will actually make a purchase, so we started mailing to segmented groups based on likelihood — or propensity — to buy. Then we saw that within a likely-to-buy group, there were certain products that were the most popular, so we tweaked messaging to account for that important insight.
Defining customer personas
More recently, we have started examining personas based on the behaviors of consumers versus affinities for particular products. Now a persona can be applied to the group, helping us further determine the most effective marketing messages and channels.
To help explain this further, let’s look at people’s shopping habits and how those influence the development of personas. On the one hand, you have “Dana” who might be a heavy mobile user when researching products, but her preferred channel for purchase is a website. “Debbie” might be someone who likes to sit on the couch and thumb through a catalog, then head into the retail store to purchase. By grouping these women into personas by shopping habits, past purchase behaviors and other layers of consumer data and insights, marketers can get much more precise around messaging and targeting.
Turning cross-channel insights into action
Data, analytics and insight are what enable a cross-channel marketing platform, but what makes it sing is that the consumer information living on the platform can be put into action via triggered marketing outreach. For example, typically a marketer will send an email with links that direct a recipient to the brand’s website. Oftentimes the recipient will reach a landing page that extends the email’s call to action (i.e., 50 percent off, free shipping, etc.). Usually, the marketer will know what the individual has done in this chain of events — opened the email; visited a landing page and; hopefully, made a purchase. However, what the recipient also might be doing around the brand, say on their mobile device or in the store, is unknown; it’s totally disconnected from the email process.
One platform, endless possibilities
Imagine if all of these interactions and touch-points could be managed on one platform? The marketer would have invaluable insights that they could apply to various interactions — maybe a visit to the landing page triggers a special hero graphic, a mobile phone coupon or an online display ad. A variety of marketing actions could occur in a coordinated fashion, all enabled by pre-set rules that trigger real-time messages.
Taking it a step further, a cross-channel marketing platform can even connect with Twitter and Facebook application program interfaces (APIs) so that brands can post to fan pages, send emails through Facebook, respond to tweets and posts, and conduct sentiment analysis.