The future: Omni-channel or overwhelming? | DMA

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The future: Omni-channel or overwhelming?


The ability to stretch the picture of your customer from how they transact to how they interact with you through hundreds of touch-points; the complete journey of seeing, thinking and doing that leads to that final purchase (and repurchase) and where they might abandon, is a fascinating prospect.

Put simply, the term omni-channel means a focus on a seamless approach to the customer experience, using all available customer-facing channels. How a customer engages with a brand is equally as important as the channel interactions they make – and this is the challenge that omni-channel presents for marketeers.

New technology creates new ways of serving targeted offers to specific points in the customer journey; in-store micro-location offers, and HTML 5 dynamic banners serving personalised messages across all devices and browsers mean that the Place and Promotion elements of your marketing mix are more advanced and exciting than ever before.

But with excitement and rapid progression comes the potential for meltdown; where either the mass of data created cannot be processed or becomes expensive to understand, and the resulting offers served are no more relevant or targeted than before.

At worst marketers excited by new data sources and technology communicate to the customer through multiple channels, only to leave the customer tired and desperate to get away from the noise created by multiple brands bombarding them with irrelevant messages. This can result in disengagement not only from communications, but also from the brand altogether.

The key to a win-win scenario for both marketers and consumers is the ability to intelligently target the right messages top customers; millennials in particular are happy to provide data to brands, but this comes with the expectation they won’t be served irrelevant messages. You must deliver on that expectation or risk losing the customers who would have given you the most insight. This includes the placement of the message as well as the content.

Customer focused technology

It’s easy to get carried away by the sales messages of a technology firm and an ever-increasing wish-list for investment. Step back and think about which new technology is the best match for your customers. Some transactional technology, such as Near Field Communications (NFC), has been successful in some cultures and not others. Ultimately, technology has to fit with your business proposition - what engages one business’s customer might have the opposite effect on others.

Location technology dominates the loyalty press at the moment. Start by thinking about your ultimate objective and what you already know about your customers:

Are you trying to measure on-site activity in order to answer strategic questions (passive detection from wifi will be suitable)? Or, are you trying to specifically understand each customer’s on-site behaviour in which case they need to be identifiable?

Are they strong users of apps? In which case low-energy-bluetooth technology (e.g. Apple’s iBeacon) could drive significant sales and enhance the customer experience,

Bear in mind that ‘Cards in Wallet’ prioritisation is quickly being replaced with ‘apps on phone’. Do you have a compelling enough proposition for customers to download your app and keep it there (even apps in the top 1000 of Apple’s App Store have an average life of 26 days

An alternative method of enriching the physical retail experience via mobile channels is through the use of reactive websites. Reactive websites adapt to optimise the user experience depending on the device used, resizing without losing any content. A good example of this is where key navigation features are optimised irrespective of the channel. Unless your app proposition is particularly compelling, utilising smartphone specific features such as the camera, a better future-proofed investment might be to look at ways to incorporate content in a reactive website.

Will your customers want to identify themselves to you? This is a key challenge with social integration technology – users may want their social channels to remain anonymous from brands and there is likely to be a selection effect in those that do opt in. The same is true with asking customers to interact with your in-store technology.

Practically, how will your customers respond to being targeted in store – either on their mobile or by a member of sales staff, who recognise that they purchased a coat last week and want to show them the co-ordinating shoes? This will be a perfect match for some brand propositions but perhaps not for others.

What is your biggest loyalty opportunity – is it to stretch spend or drive footfall? Micro-location is usually focused on the former, relying on email, direct mail and SMS to drive the latter. If your business is all about driving web sales then technology combining real time loyalty data with dynamic personalised banner ads might be where investment should be made.

Remember that the fundamentals of marketing haven’t changed, the options open to you have increased. Getting a personalised offer on-site is nothing new – the Boots advantage card kiosks have been with us for over 15 years. Whether you ask people to visit a kiosk, download an app, tap an NFC tag or scan a QR code, each channel needs to be enabled to provide a consistent customer experience. Ultimately, it’s about where in the transactional process you have the best chance to influence purchasing in an easy and attractive way for your customer while creating a seamless experience.

Targeting: Back to basics

It’s easy to lose sight of the fundamentals in the high paced world of marketing. Traditional marketing methodology, which might have been discarded as super low-cost communications, negated the need to target but now has a new role as a tool to ensure customer response is optimised without risking disengagement.

Technology means that targeting and segmentation can be applied in real-time, and this empowers a brand to deliver the most relevant and timely communications to drive their customers to spend more, spend more often, whilst remaining engaged.

The tradition Recency, Frequency, Monetary Value (RFM) model works on the assumption that the most recent, highest value, most frequent shoppers are the easiest to influence to spend again and should be targeted. While this underlying assumption still holds, intelligent layers can enhance the model to target specific segments with the same characteristics.

‘Engagement’ now replaces the ‘Recency’ and ‘Frequency’ measures – this is bespoke modelling dependent on customer behaviour, but typically assigns a score to measure their loyalty over time and engagement through multiple channels.

Product targeting is another possible layer to enhance RFM. Understanding product journeys and sending ‘stretch’ product offers that are relevant to the right customers allows you to give a generous offer to those most likely to respond, leaving the remaining group to receive a more suitable or less costly offer.

Look-a-like identification also takes on a new role – to ensure the channel is right as well as the message. Once you can understand the type of customer attracted to personalised offers in store you know how to identify look-a-likes and factor this in to your targeting model. The same can also be applied to finding customers who are likely to browse online and buy in-store, or shop via mobile.

The list goes on – there are endless exciting insight and targeting opportunities which will drive massive value, but it all comes back to knowing your customer and setting out a clear vision of the behaviour you are going to drive.

Embrace the pace

In an omni-channel, low-cost communications world there are so many marketing opportunities available that significant resource can be invested in researching, scoping and testing every new development. All the while the huge opportunities from data-driven insight are neglected. Embracing omni-channel will allow you to unify the experience your customers receive each time they engage with your brand,

Truly skilled marketeers are those that keep close to what excites their customers, and what annoys them. These marketeers can cut through these opportunities embracing those that make for an exciting and engaging experience while maintaining focus on the fundamentals of intelligent targeting, which still deliver significant, measurable value for both the organisation and the customer.

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