What do you believe are the foundations of an effective multichannel strategy? Does it essentially rely on the quality of your data?

Being multichannel is today’s marketers day-to-day job with an average of more than seven different channels being employed for marketing activities at any one time. 

But when you have to collate, analyse and respond to the trillions of bytes of data from the mobile and social interactions they generate, it can often become a challenging minefield of opportunities and complications to navigate. 

Successful multichannel campaign planning and execution requires insight into all this data to gain a proper 360 degree view of the customer, and ensure the right offer and message can be delivered at the right time and via the right channel. 

So yes, while the quality of the data is important, what I think is vital is the ability to integrate all available customer data and interaction points to create one single version of the truth and deliver consistent messages across all channels.

What systems do businesses need to have in place to be able to integrate disparate data sets and use them across marketing channels?

In order to achieve success and demonstrate return on marketing investment (ROMI), the planning and development of every customer interaction must be optimised and streamlined as much as possible.

This should include budgeting and spend management, campaign planning across all relevant departments and decision makers with defined workflows, deliverables and service level agreements. 

Cloud data technology is perhaps one of the best tools available to brands and retailers, which makes this possible. It enables businesses to upload the various data sets they own, in varying formats, into one centralised system.

This makes it far easier to match different data types together into relatable tables, to gain a fully rounded picture of each customer’s behaviour and preferences both on and offline. Consequently businesses can gain greater control of their data and use it to carry out more targeted and personalised communication campaigns.

We recently carried out research to pinpoint the challenges senior marketers are facing and found that data-driven marketers are more than twice as satisfied with their marketing programs than their counterparts who have not invested in data and technology. But surprisingly two-thirds of those surveyed claimed a lack of convenient measures and the short-term orientation of their marketing departments as their biggest obstacles to success. 

With so many disparate customer touch points, how should marketing teams be structured to ensure that they maintain a consistent brand image and identity?

In order to bring any campaign to market, a clearly defined framework and strong lines of communication are needed. Putting these in place requires the seamless integration of multiple departments, not just across marketing but the entire organisation. 

Marketing operations is a marketing system of record, which enables all departments to track each stage of the campaign.

It takes into account everything from finance and planning, through to content creation, approval and production. It’s all about establishing a fully integrated system which streamlines access to information and the deployment and measurement of creative. 

Is mobile the glue that holds together a multichannel strategy? And in general, how advanced are your clients’ mobile strategies?

I would not say that mobile is the glue that holds a multichannel strategy together, but it is an important one. What is vital to a multichannel strategy is a deep understanding of digital technology and your customer data.  

We are now able to view purchase patterns, social network affinities, website visits and loyalty programs, which, if understood and segmented appropriately, allow the brands and businesses to provide a seamless experience across the consumer journey. 

How does the increasing focus on personalisation impact multichannel marketing? 

The increasing focus on personalisation is making multichannel marketing a pre-requisite for marketing departments. Consumers are expecting tailored communications, and the channels in which they receive those communications are just as important as the message itself. However, you have to be adaptable. 

Don’t silo your customers into specific channels of delivery, or only view the success of your output in single channel form. Just because you email a customer, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will respond in the same channel. They may respond with a tweet, comment on your blog or perhaps not at all, directly.

It’s therefore vital you adopt a fully joined up 360 approach. Lifestyle will dictate how people choose to communicate, but brands and retailers need to be ready to respond accordingly. 

Is it possible to maintain a brand identity across different channels if each customer receives a unique experience?

Absolutely. Just because messages, promotions or information bulletins might differ according to the individual, a business is still able and very much capable of maintaining a strong brand identity. 

By seamlessly co-ordinating digital and traditional channels, using a single integrated platform, businesses can increase the level of personalisation and relevancy of content. As a result, they can target customers directly, identify their preferred channel, run automated dialogue-based campaigns and invest in real-time reporting to generate fine-tuned results. 

This approach removes the possibility of customers getting confused by conflicting messages from online and offline channels and strengthens the customer/brand relationship, while at the same time improving the effectiveness of your internal operations. 

In general, how advanced are your clients’ data and personalisation strategies before you begin working with them?

Clients tend to come to us because they want to and need to improve the effectiveness of their communications and operations. They might have a singular ‘data’ or ‘personalisation’ strategy but they are not exploiting these effectively to deliver meaningful results to the wider business.

Take Halfords for example. It originally focused on a traditional blanket email strategy to interact with customers, but as its online store has grown the retailer recognised a need for a more reactive and engaging approach, which went beyond simply adopting a personalised method.

Rather than using data from their preference centre to create personalised, targeted messages, Halfords was keen to investigate why customers were abandoning their online shopping baskets at various stages of the purchase process and whether these customers could be re-engaged.

With the specific focus on pinpointing the moment that customers were turning away from buying goods online. These lost customers were highlighted as vital targets for a well-crafted automated email campaign.

But the primary aim of these messages remained traditional, driving customers to the online store. In order to do this, Halfords was keen to see whether a targeted email campaign could help to re-engage those lost customers, through relevant offers which would result in increased sales.

Since Halfords upgraded its email strategy to include web analytics software, open rates have risen to over 25%, with click through rates jumping to 8.5%. In terms of sales and overall return on investment, weekly sales revenues typically vary from 80% to 150% of the cost of the initial deployment.

Which companies do you think are most successful at implementing personalisation?

According to our data-driven survey, Telco and IT companies are investing almost 20% of their marketing budget on improving their marketing infrastructure. Retail (17%) and finance (13%) are close followers, but many other sectors such as automotive and publishing are falling behind. Those sectors spending less than the industry average undeniably need to look at upping their investment.

That said, according to a study we carried out earlier this year into the consumer email marketing campaigns of the largest ecommerce companies in the UK (by turnover), 77% are failing to deliver tailored marketing collateral to their customers, both existing and potential, each month. Whilst 84% of them have a regular newsletter, the content is largely generic.

With the inbox becoming ever more crowded and the number of communication channels continuing to proliferate, this is a massive missed opportunity. Especially as personalisation, mobile optimisation and customer experience are becoming increasingly important to both retailers and customers in the rapidly evolving digital market.

With such a high percentage of retailers not sending targeted content to their customers, they are failing to not only incentivise sales but to enhance the customer experience and build positive brand relationships.