Author: Michael Diestelberg, Vice President Marketing & Product at Mapp
In an ideal marketing world, traditional and e-commerce retailers would always know how and when to interact with their target audience to engage them in the best possible way. If there was only one communication channel, it would be a breeze to identify customers, track their activities, and address them in the most appropriate way. But the reality is different: consumers now not only use a wide variety of devices for surfing and online shopping, but also regularly switch between channels such as Facebook, e-mail, and customer apps. The challenge is, therefore, to identify customers across devices and channels in order to gain profound insights about them through data analysis. The new insights gained from this analysis allow a one-to-one customer approach that is appropriate for each channel.
The need for such data analyses is enormous. According to a recent Gartner study, companies are already investing between 6.3 and 8.6 percent of their budgets in analysis measures. At the same time, 61 percent of all companies plan to further increase their spending on marketing analytics in the next three years.
This blog explains how companies can gain valuable customer insights through a stringent cross-channel strategy and use it to their advantage.
A well thought-out data strategy is essential for successful cross-channel marketing. To get a 360-degree view of their customers, retailers and e-commerce providers must first consider what information sources are available to them. Customer data can be collected in three different ways: through direct customer surveys, through indirect customer tracking and by supplementing their own customer information with third-party data. The company’s own CRM, websites, and social media profiles are the most obvious data sources. In principle, all points of contact with the customer can be used as sources.
However, data abundance does not automatically mean that useful insights are gained from it. One of the main obstacles to real customer insights are incomplete customer profiles. The key is to break down data silos with the help of a technology partner and create individual, uniform customer profiles. By closing the gaps and consolidating all fragmented data sources in one central location, target groups can be identified across channels, their preferences recognized, and correlations sounded out. Data from first, second- and third-party customers then helps e-commerce providers and retailers to plan and execute highly personalized marketing activities.
Large data sets also open up an infinite number of possibilities for data evaluation. In order to save resources and work effectively, retailers should define key performance indicators in advance that are geared to the most important corporate goals. For example, if a goal is “20% increase in new customer acquisition”, relevant marketing indicators include newsletter subscriptions and ad click rates. Companies should also ensure that all the data collected meets the needs of the various stakeholders.
The channel mix that a company uses can also be derived from the defined goals. Retailers need to ask themselves where they are most likely to meet their target audiences, which channels are already operating successfully, and which in turn have great potential.
Marketing analytics are the best way to evaluate the data related to different channels. The results reveal how their own customers behave, what marketing measures are being used with the target group, and which products and areas in the online shop work. In order not to overlook any useful information, the data and insights should be prepared in a uniform way. Graphics-based data dashboards enable employees and decision-makers to display key figures in a variety of ways, for example by marketing channel, campaign, content, region or business unit. This allows the entire company to maintain an overview, never lose sight of the common goal and discover additional business opportunities.
In order to establish truly relevant cross-channel communication, it is important to capture the customer journey of each target group. The Customer Journey Mapping method is the way to do this. By visualizing the customer’s points of contact with their own brand and offers, the customer experience becomes tangible. E-commerce providers and retailers view products or service offerings from the customer’s perspective and can more easily identify disruptive factors and opportunities for improvement. However, in customer journey mapping there is no right or wrong. Depending on their own goals, companies should choose their own format. Either large customer groups are examined or very specific buyer personas. Similarly, mapping can focus on a specific marketing channel and constellation (e.g. the customer journey on social media) or it can look directly at the entire journey from initial contact to the conclusion of a sale. The following points should be examined for each phase:
It is particularly important to understand the intentions of the target groups. After all, every customer interaction with one’s own company is based on a certain feeling, which can change during the customer journey. Often there is a problem or a certain interest behind the action. When e-commerce providers and retailers identify these pain points, they gain valuable customer insights –and can thus actively accompany and shape the customer journey.
Once the customer journey and the corresponding data have been prepared, customers can be activated individually and across channels with various measures and messages on the basis of the insights gained. Companies should differentiate between data, analytics, and insights. Data is the raw and unprocessed facts, which are usually available in the form of figures and texts from the various channels. Data is usually stored in databases and Excel files. Analytics, on the other hand, means interpreting data and identifying patterns and trends. Insights describe the added value that results from the analytics findings. Insights are the central basis for developing your own offering and identifying new business opportunities.
However, insight-based customer engagement is also based on AI-supported forecasting models that enable targeted customer interaction with self-optimizing cross-channel campaigns. Automated, customized messages can be sent in the most appropriate marketing channel, at the optimal time and with the right contact frequency. One-to-one personalization is also indispensable in modern cross-channel marketing and allows dynamic customer interaction in real-time. Therefore, each individual end consumer should be treated as an individual segment. Detailed analytics functions are essential for accurate segmentation.
It should be said that anyone who wants to accompany and address customers through several channels in advertising must also take care of the associated opt-in processes. Regardless of whether it’s a newsletter, social media or app: customers must give their consent for the individual channels, otherwise data collection is not legally sound. Since the introduction of the DSGVO at the latest, there have been no exceptions to this rule. If they receive individually tailored and attractive offers, customers are happy to give their consent to receive information. This requires customer confidence that customer data is processed and used responsibly and sensitively. At the same time, retailers and e-commerce brands are well advised to rely on first-party data. Such proprietary and self-generated data can be obtained, among other things, from the company’s own online shops and apps, as well as from comparable marketing channels, with the company having the sole right of access. Amazon, Google, Facebook and Co. are therefore excluded.
Cross-channel marketing means that the channels are linked to each other and not just processed in parallel. The measures are particularly effective if the different customer needs are addressed by an appropriate channel mix and a consistent customer experience is created. So, if you want to run successful cross-channel campaigns, you need to build up knowledge about your own customers, the right channels, tools, functionalities, and data collection and analysis. What may seem like too much of a challenge at first quickly turns out to be a smart investment in the future of the company. Once you have familiarized yourself with the subject matter, you will successfully communicate messages that are precisely targeted and comprehensively coordinated. This results in better customer loyalty – and thus more sales.