Winning the Multichannel Customer

Many companies are failing to take full advantage of the customer return on investment (ROI) possibilities of integrated multichannel marketing, according to the new Customer Prospecting and Retention Report from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). The report, which canvassed over 400 DMA members (including 253 direct marketers), disclosed that online marketing data isn't tracked or measured in the same fashion as direct mail data, which continues to be the top metric for many in the industry. While direct mail is one of the oldest staples of marketing, its role in the future of the field may not be as secure. "Internet and email are growing by leaps and bounds," explains DMA Senior Research Manager Anne Frankel. "At some point, the online channel will catch up with, if not overtake, the offline channel." This implies that more prospects and customers will be reachable via the Web and email than by direct mail, representing a paradigm shift in marketing. Frankel offers one way in which organizations have already begun to adjust their approaches: "It's now a best practice if a database takes into account information from call centers and Web sites so that everything is as current as it can be when speaking to a prospect or customer." Since customers and prospects send real-time signals via their Web-browsing and email behavior, marketing organizations have a more difficult time managing the associated analytics
. Still, the DMA survey reveals that organizations prioritizing online marketing channels enjoy improved customer-conversion and -retention rates. While direct marketers are beginning to wake up to the potential of CRM to shake up customer acquisition and retention, the real action is a little further up the technology curve. "If we're talking newfangled marketing, it's all about social networking, Web 2.0, and automation," explains Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of Beagle Research Group, a CRM consultancy. "The point isn't to just blast out email offers." In other words, while it is definitely time for direct marketers to take advantage of basic email and Internet marketing, the endgame is to achieve one-to-one or personalized marketing a la influential 1993 book by Peppers & Rogers, The One-to-One Future: Building Relationships One Customer At a Time. Sending out and tracking email and Internet offers is only the first step in such a marketing strategy. Pombriant also points out the necessity of the following:
  • Reaching customers online in a completely automated fashion, by using "spiders" and "crawlers" to capture sales and marketing information directly from the Web. Doing so can offset the costs of list rental and in-house database building.
  • Personalizing the customer experience by creating microsites -- landing pages specifically targeted to certain kinds of customers, such as those who click on a particular email offer -- that collect qualifying information in an automated manner before kicking the process over to sales.
These are two of many possible ways in which direct marketers can get more bang out of their email- and Internet-marketing bucks, and there are many vendors -- including Eloqua, Endeca, Manticore, and LucidEra -- that specialize in these forms of advanced demand management. Pombriant, for one, is a firm believer that merely transferring the old broadcast-oriented marketing mentality to the online channel will not work optimally unless organizations adopt more sophisticated and automated versions of online demand management in the service of personalized marketing. "The old-style marketing where you spray and pray has been in the dumps for a long time," he concludes.

Related articles: Gartner Slots Multichannel Campaign Management Vendors SAS Institute, Teradata, and Unica maintain positions as leaders in the space, while Oracle's Siebel Systems gets bumped up. RightNow: Ready with More Multichannel Muscle The vendor's newest release adds emotion detection, sitemap functionality, personalized routing, and a bundle of new chat features. Multichannel Customers Are More Profitable, Analysts Say A majority of retailers reap added benefit by integrating their touch points. How Can We Use CRM to Increase Sales in a Multichannel Environment? Customers are a company's most valuable asset, and keeping them loyal and happy requires more than just delivering a quality product. Viewpoint: Multichannel Customer Service Done Right How to devise a successful multichannel contact-center strategy. Viewpoint: Understanding the Multichannel Customer Integrating marketing channels is where companies will see real results. Secret of My Success: Mastering Multichannel CRM Kent Zimmerman, director of e-commerce at Finish Line, explains how linking the retailer's sales channels improved customer service.
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