There was a time, in the not-too-distant-past, when marketing to current and potential customers involved a very limited number of ‘tools’ required to communicate your company’s message, and raise awareness of your brand.
But just as the age of the horse and buggy gave way to the complexities of modern transportation—including an interstate highway system—so too have the traditional marketing methods morphed into a complex series of what is now referred to as “multi-channel marketing”; this modern method of reaching customers relies on both digital and traditional forms of communications.
“In 2018, a successful multi-channel marketing strategy utilizes multiple avenues—both direct and indirect—to interact with customers,” explains Sarah Smith, Marketing Operations Manager for Rakuten Super Logistics (RSL). “Direct marketing can include everything from physical retail stores to direct mail, mail order catalogs, use of websites, as well as email marketing. By contrast, indirect marketing ranges from tradeshows to online social media, corporate blogging and public relations.
“To succeed, whichever marketing methods are utilized, both direct and indirect marketing channels must be fully aligned to ensure that the company is promoting a consistent message.”
The Rise of Digital in a Unified Marketing Strategy
As with almost every other aspect of modern business, the marketing profession has had to significantly change its methodologies to adapt to technological advances. Of course, at the heart of these changes is the Internet—and most of these marketing changes have been driven by the success of ecommerce.
As traditional advertising methods, such as print media and television, gave way to websites, social media, and the ever-expanding universe of apps, digital marketing has become an exceptionally popular form of reaching customers. That’s not surprising, considering the fact that some surveys have shown that digital marketing can be approximately 70 percent more effective than some traditional ‘direct’ marketing channels, such as retail stores or catalogs.
“Today’s consumers have a greater degree of control over their buying process than marketers, and so it becomes extremely important for companies to leverage multi-channel marketing to reach their customers,” explains Carolina Cano-Espinoza, RSL Marketing Specialist. “In traditional marketing, the marketers had a greater degree of control over where consumers viewed their ads and promotions. Today, consumers have far greater control where those ads are seen—and how often they’re viewed. “For example, technology such as desktop, tablet and smartphone Adblockers allow consumers to choose whether or not they even view some advertising.”
Indeed, technology has been the spark that lit the fuse of change in the way marketers have adapted to this new era of multi-channel and omni-channel marketing.
“As an industry leader in the fulfillment sector, we utilize a marketing automation platform—in conjunction with both a robust website analytics platform and social media reporting platform—as part of multi-channel marketing campaign,” explains RSL’s Sarah Smith. “These systems integrate with our customer relationship marketing (CRM) system, thereby allowing us to track leads to conversions, and determine our return on investment (ROI).
“In the case of our social media platform, it’s utilized to schedule our online posts. and provide valuable reporting; in addition, a marketing automation platform tracks our advertising, and conveys that data to our CRM. Information is the doorway to our success—and technology provides the key to that door.”
Multi-Channel Marketing Principles for Long-Term Success
Of course, each ecommerce business confronts unique challenges when marketing to their customers and potential customers. Still, there are some universal principles that play a vital role in achieving multi-channel marketing strategy success. These principles include:
1. Marketing Visibility
It’s critically important that your multi-channel marketing strategy be seen by customers and potential customers; after all, if customers don’t see/hear the majority of your marketing efforts, it’s only logical that the chances for success are minimal. As noted previously, full integration of various marketing channels (including social media, CRM, etc.) is vitally important in ensuring your marketing is seen by as many customers as possible. In addition, these days, customers frequently change their devices, going from computer to smart phone and beyond. Ensuring that your ecommerce marketing is viewed—no matter what device a customer might be using—is critically important.
2. Measuring Success
Having the ability to understand what marketing tools are working (and which ones are not) is also very important, and in order for that to happen, companies must utilize measuring tools that will provide accurate data as to how well their marketing efforts are succeeding in reaching the targeted audience. Fortunately, technology provides a wide range of CRM tools, and while not perfect, they are essential in providing the requisite information to delineate successful multi-channel marketing strategy, from those that did not reach their goals.
3. Personalize Your Multi-Channel Marketing System
An Adobe study of professional marketers found that ‘personalization’ is one of the keys to multi-channel marketing strategy success. According to the study, more than one-third of marketers surveyed said the ability to personalize the multi-channel marketing sent to customers is vital; the segmentation of the consuming public, and the high expectations of ecommerce customers, means that now more than ever marketers have to be able to offer marketing that “speaks directly” to individual current (or potential) customers.
4. Optimizing/Integrating All Marketing
It may well be a cliché to say that “information is power”, but in the complex and challenging universe of multi-channel marketing, that cliché has never been truer. To achieve optimal multi-channel marketing results, as an example, email marketing efforts have to be fully aligned with social media efforts; understanding who is visiting your website, and which products/services are most successful at driving traffic to the site, is another example of information that’s critical in order for multi-channel marketing to succeed. Put another way, all your company’s ‘marketing oars’ should be aligned–and ‘pulling’ in the same direction in order to achieve success.
Thought Leadership & Corporate Communications: Valuable Marketing Tools
Two other forms of multi-channel marketing that have been proven to add value often involves corporate communication and corporate “Thought Leadership.”
Forbes Magazine defines a ‘thought leader’ as an individual or firm that is recognized “as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization—resulting in his/her being the ‘go-to’ individual for that expertise.” Successful marketers have come to realize the multitude of benefits to being a ‘thought leader’; for one, customers like to be ‘associated’ with successful businesses that are both perceived to be—and are in fact—industry leaders. Utilizing the depth of skills and expertise of company staff—particularly a business’ senior management—can help a company establish itself in a position of industry leadership, and add value to the business’ other multi-channel marketing efforts.
“As with most leading companies in other industries, it’s been our experience within the ecommerce fulfillment space that a wide range of communication-oriented marketing efforts—including case studies, White Papers, e-books and proactive media relations—all add value to our other corporate marketing channels, by both raising our company’s profile, as well as familiarizing targeted stakeholders with our brand and services,” RSL’s Sarah Smith explained. “Leveraging specific marketing channels, including display ads, as well as social media and retail publications, all contribute to the ultimate goal of Thought Leadership and brand recognition.”
The Road Ahead: Corporate Prosperity May Well Require Multi-Channel Marketing
Going forward, the importance of your multi-channel marketing strategy is likely to grow exponentially.
A Wharton School of Business study confirmed that multi-channel shopping—defined as consumers using more than one channel all or most of the time when shopping—has become the norm for the majority of shoppers. The study also confirmed that one-third of consumers alternate between two channels to make a purchase, and that only one out of three shoppers consistently exhibit “mono-channel’ behavior, using only one channel to complete a purchase.
In addition, within the ecommerce space, customers who shop on more than one channel have a 30 percent higher lifetime value, than those who shop on only one.
Given the continuing advances in technology, the evolving shopping habits of the modern consumer—particularly in the ecommerce space—and the sheer volume of information available to the average consumer, developing and implementing a successful multi-channel marketing strategy has transitioned from being a worthy option—to a necessity for any successful ecommerce business.