By adaptive - August 6th, 2014

Reaching the customer in their domain, no matter where it may be…

Late October 2013, John Lewis releases a report that says 40% of their digital traffic was through mobile devices with 30% of sales generated online, and the kicker is that 40% of online orders were collected in-store.

The customer is not just in the physical shop or on the high street, or sitting on a mobile phone or surfing social media – they are using every avenue at their convenience and personalisation must be streamlined across all marketing channels in order to be effective.

“Every channel is different, but it needs to deliver a similar goal so stick to yours,” says Estelle Nagel, Head or PR for Gumtree in South Africa. “We always keep asking ourselves the same questions: How does this get people onto our site? How does this get people to buy and sell online? These are the same questions whether we are talking PR, social media, customer service or product development.”

Traditional tools, such as CRM systems, are not so much obsolete as insufficient. Today the customer touches points across the entire marketing mix and engagement has to be ready. Customers leap from channel to channel with social being a powerful sales channel, but also one that make lasting commercial connections with masses of consumers.

Brands now have a plethora of platforms upon which they can interact with their consumers and this can be used to their advantage. There is, of course, the flip side where brands need to be prepared to handle this level of interaction, understand the role that they play, and build solutions that can capitalise on it.

Fran Muiños, Social Media Manager at STD-Multiopción says: “We have regular meetings with all the departments that we work with on the direction of the company, marketing and customer service. It helps us understand how the company operates and what campaigns are in the pipeline. We can then work on protocols to achieve maximum efficiency and impact.”

The customers who use STD-Multiopción have a variety of different needs – some prefer stepping-stone plans, which gives them clear control, some prefer more flexibility and the company works hard to ensure they can deliver on these with strategies that work for both the business and the customers.

Why do corporations need to look at every marketing channel? What’s the maths?

The Direct Marketing 2014 Fact Book has some startling numbers that may surprise the enterprise:

  • In direct mail 56% of postcards are read making them the most likely to catch customer attention.
  • 108 million people in the USA bought something online in 2013.
  • Email is the preferred communication method between retailers and consumers.
  • Nearly two-thirds of commercial email messages were opened on mobile devices in December 2013.

Entering the Omni-Channel

Sounding not unlike the name of a robot in a bad science-fiction movie, the omni-channel experience is exactly what is happening right now on the customer frontier. And corporations need it to meet the needs of both their customers and take advantage of evolving technology.

The difference between the multi-channel and the omni-channel is that the latter is integrated – all channels are connected and open to the consumer. In-store, online, mobile, desktop, print, direct mail – these are linked together in one cohesive system that delivers on context, need and brand.

Research undertaken by Neustar and Multichannel Merchant in a study ‘Optimize Omichannel Engagement with Actionable Consumer Insights’ points out some interesting facts:

  • 78% of respondents realise or expect a sales lift with an integrated omni-channel marketing strategy.
  • Delivering personalised and satisfying customer experiences is the top data and predictive analytics strategy and priority.
  • 38% don’t have a strategy or plan to implement one across the omni-channel.
  • The top five identifiers are email address, mobile phone, online cookie, home address, IP address and landline number.

Omni-channel marketing

“Making your customer-centric service a seamless event across all marketing channels will take a strategy that needs to be carried out through all levels of the business,” says Emma Lovell, Director of Lovellly Communications and Digital Media Manager at TLC Publicity. “From management, to production and process to sales – all areas of the business have to be on board with what is to be delivered to the customer.”

Ask the questions:

  1. What need are you fulfilling?
  2. Why do they use your business?
  3. What do they want?
  4. Which social media channels are they using?

As Lovell points out, one of the first steps to take when taking advantage of the omni-channel and creating personalised customer interaction is to ensure that it is consistent and contextual.

If your customer is visiting you on Twitter, use the format of the social platform to engage with them, as that’s their preference. If they prefer a phone call, have the systems in place that allow for them to feel recognised by the brand.

“Brands need to have a human element in the relationship and the customer can easily see through the attempt to be seen as a customer centric organisation,” says Veli Ngubane, Creative Director at Avatar. “The move to being a customer centric organisation needs to be authentic and, furthermore, for it to work, it needs to be adopted as the culture of the organisation.”

From the telemarketer to the social media guru to the marketer who creates the postcards and mail drops – the messaging needs to adhere to the principles of personalisation (see Part 02 of our series here) [ and it needs to be authentic.

In November 2013, Zendesk commissioned research into the omni-channel customer service gap that revealed some fantastic results:

  • 67% of online shoppers purchased across multiple channels over the six months prior to the report’s release.
  • 73% think brands pay more attention to generating sales rather than to providing seamless customer service experiences.
  • 45% of customers say they will try any channel open to them and will wait until their problems or questions are resolved.
  • 87% think brands need to work harder to create a seamless experience for customers.

“People don’t live in a single channel,” says Nagel. “There are perceptions and influences, and they have little to do with what people read, view or discuss. It comes down to speaking in a way that people feel shows an interest in what they have to say.”

There is a lot of choice and the customer is the one making the decisions, not your corporation. Preparing an omni-channel strategy that can offer an authentic, rich, seamless, integrated and personalised level of interaction with the customer will take advantage of the multitude of benefits and potentially keep your brand and business at the front of the queue.

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