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Marketing strategy: Meeting the multichannel marketing challenge

Survival in the digital era means delivering personalized experiences to all customers, across all channels—every time.

Overview

Savvy businesses know that digital is the new normal—and with it—reaching consumers means developing and maintaining an omnichannel presence. With online stores and traditional providers vying for customers’ attention and loyalty, the stakes are higher than ever.

With customers in control and market forces out of their control, businesses need strong multichannel marketing strategies. Yet all too many are falling behind in delivering to their customers unique, personalized experiences across offline, online and mobile channels—experiences that create preference, and keep customers coming back. There are tremendous opportunities for organizations willing to do what it takes—from building new strategies and selecting the right enabling technologies to remaking the marketing function. For many companies, their very survival depends on making such changes.

Background

The need to deliver personalized customer experiences is nothing new. Remember the general store or the shops on Main Street whose owners knew every customer by name? What’s changed is that getting the right product to the right person at the right time has become increasingly complex in the digital marketplace amid new channels, new technologies and new customer expectations.

Despite these complexities, there are a number of online retailers and traditional providers that are forging ahead with convenient and personalized services that differentiate them from the competition. Consider eBay and Amazon in the United States, Taobao in China and Rakuten in Japan. There’s also Nordstrom, Ahold’s Stop & Shop and Whole Foods Market, which are setting the bar in this area with approaches rooted in customer-centered, unique experiences. The problem is that across industries and geographies, companies like these are more the exception than the rule.

Analysis

In the digital world, consumers move seamlessly among offline, online and mobile channels. This blurring of the lines requires organizations to shift their focus from treating digital as a distinct channel to creating an integrated customer experience across all channels.

It is also essential for companies to get more personal with their customers. A one-size-fits-all approach is doomed in a world where consumers are highly heterogeneous and global with very diverse preferences, cultures, technology awareness and socioeconomic backgrounds. Tailoring specific messages to this diverse group requires the granularity of advanced analytics techniques. Companies can then respond quickly to consumer requests with contextually relevant messages and begin to anticipate consumer needs in entirely new ways.

Key Findings

While delivering the power of personalization may seem challenging, it is possible with a well-thought-out road map using an integrated marketing strategy. This road map centers on reaching consumers at the most granular level by making macro marketing programs—circulars, emails, or out-of-home messaging—more personalized and relevant than ever before.

By developing multiple identities of offline and online customers, companies can pursue a proactive marketing approach, enabling real-time responses across multiple touchpoints. It’s no longer about pushing messages and promotions out and hoping some consumers will find them relevant, it is about getting personal with the right strategy, tools and technologies.

Recommendations

To achieve a more relevant customer-centric experience, marketing executives should follow five fundamental steps or stages of development—or risk getting left behind.

  1. Acknowledge the present state. Many companies are at a disadvantage when it comes to customer-centricity because they have siloed departments such as marketing, merchandising, operations and supply chain that are isolated from one another. Moving to a more integrated internal structure is key to sharing data and bridging the gap between product and customer value.

  2. Build an integrated strategy. Companies must look at the overall customer strategy to understand customers in new ways. This integrated, cross-functional approach requires that companies understand customers’ values, behavior, motivations and intent.

  3. Develop an information infrastructure. Taking a complete view of customer data must go beyond this integration. It is about truly understanding and acting on the data.

    Companies need a data infrastructure to support granular customer views so they can understand, anticipate and respond to specific needs.

  1. Select enabling technologies. An agile technical infrastructure that can scale as needs change, harness the potential of data and align with business objective is an essential foundation. Notable priorities are granular data warehouse, real-time data store, next-gen point of sales and customer insights and analytics.

  2. Restructure the marketing function. Creating and implementing a personalized multichannel strategy means radical changes for the marketing organization and its conventional role within the business. Marketing must be infused across the organization—from strategy through customer service—to manage the customer experience as one.

Tomorrow’s winners will be companies that have the commitment and leadership today to take the necessary steps to monetize the personal touch with a proactive and customer-centric marketing environment.