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The Multi Channel Customer

Article By Ari Buchwald January, 2001

You’ve heard the buzzwords: Bricks and Clicks, mobile wireless, smart card technology, collaborative filtering.

In today’s high tech environment of multi-channel communication, identifying the customer and communicating relevantly is more important than ever. Consumers are bombarded with marketing, messaging, advertisements and commercials. As technology changes marketing approaches from mass distribution to targeting and from push to pull, the consumer has started to adapt as well, using technology to make purchasing faster, smarter and more efficient.

How often have you heard stories of people utilizing bricks and clicks to research products, establish important features, fair prices, and then perform the surgical strike at the retail store to make a quick and educated purchase? This is the giant road sign pointing to the information highway telling us that customers are reducing the sales cycle by utilizing and optimizing accessibility to information from multiple channels.

What does this mean to today’s savvy marketer and executive concerned with their company’s performance and growth? Well, first off, staking e-territory with a website is no longer enough. All channels need to be integrated to give the customer a uniform experience, just like providing a consistent brand.

Products, services, competitive advantages and a means to communicate with the seller are integral to educating the customer. Customers are looking for information; so don’t be afraid to give it away. The more informed a customer is when they walk through the door, pick up the phone or click on the website, the lower cost and involvement is for closing the sale.

Likewise, the more hassle negotiating a website is, the less likely that a customer will continue with a purchase from that vendor or store. Keep in mind that the prospect of voicemail jail frustrates us all – the same goes for the web or when searching the aisles of a store for an educated customer service rep.

As the customer’s research and buying habits change, companies must change their paradigms. Companies and employees must take ownership of the customer experience. Systems to focus on the customer should be implemented.

While the delivery mechanisms become more complex, the simple rules of business still apply. Ask basic questions to gain an understanding of the customer –

Who, What, Where, When, How?

  • Who are our customers? Use all contact points to collect data and develop profiles of your best and worst customers. Don’t let bad experiences fall through the cracks and risk losing future business. Additionally, modeling, segmentation as well as demographic and psychographic data appends can add descriptive information to current customer profiles. This information will aid in identifying and understanding the customer and their behavior groups.
  • What do our customers buy? Collect transactional data and customer requests/complaints in order to find out more about what customers like and don’t like. Access to product and item level data for additional trends. Look to inventory history to see what sold well and what is clogging the shelves. Sometimes a successful sale is only a matter of putting the right product together with the right customer. Ideally, a central marketing database should be in place to leverage all channel purchases, analyze item level detail and marketing campaign history.
  • Where do our customers like to buy? What cross channel purchasing occurs now and what can be leveraged to increase utilization, communication and sales? How can floor space, catalog and ad inches or website navigation be affected by testing and analyzing successful or unsuccessful trends that will ultimately affect a customers’ profitability? Use a combination of marketing and operational reporting to monitor, analyze and drive profitability!
  • When have we talked to our customers? Campaign management is critical in measuring promotion success, tracking response to marketing and in developing a one to one relationship with the customer. Campaign management, list management, program set up and response tracking should be in place to manage, monitor and control the messages moving back and forth between the company and the customer. Additionally, a data steward should be identified to own the data and manage communications to customers and prospects, thus preventing conflicting messages, or drowning customers.
  • How much do customers spend? Is lifetime value calculated? Is a loyalty or reward system in place to encourage retention among the best customer segments? By understanding the customer and their needs, by responding appropriately to customer signals, customer spending can grow. The alternative is to lose customers, and watch churn affect the bottom line profitability.

Consider the position your company is in when asking these questions. Where can efforts be made to improve the customer’s view of the company, or the operations behind delivering information or products? Who owns the information and processes and are there customers slipping through the cracks?

Remember that in today’s high tech environment, if you do not provide the right message your competitor is just a click or a call away.

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