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In the past, the local shops had all the power in a customer-seller relationship. You’d have to drive an hour or two just to get a chance to buy something. And often, you would end up being turned around because they were already sold out. Multi-channel marketing didn’t make sense because sellers got results without going the extra mile.
Now, the whole relationship is reversed. Customers have all the power and sellers are constantly trying to one-up each other just so that a customer will consider them when buying.
To adapt to this reality, businesses have to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy something from them. They appear on different channels familiar to potential customers so that they have a higher chance of netting a sale. They have to embrace multi-channel marketing if the want to make a dent in the market.
This post is a part of a series of articles on selling online we co-prepared with The Chat Shop.
What is multi-channel marketing
Multi-channel marketing is a marketing strategy based around the idea that customers are more likely to buy when they can use their favorite channel. For example, a shop may offer both online and offline options for different customers to maximize the number of sales.
Your multi-channel marketing strategy can include channels like your website, social media, email, live chat but also sales from your offline stores, catalogs and phone orders. In multi-channel marketing, all these options are equally viable if they all lead to sales.
Multi-channel marketing is about choice. Customers can pick the channel they want to use. It also about the cooperation of the channels. Potential customers should have an easy way to switch to a different channel and they shouldn’t have to start the entire process from scratch when they do.
Why your business needs multi-channel marketing
Multi-channel marketing allows you to get a bigger slice of the sales pie. You get to reach more customers on channels where they are the most likely to make a purchase.
Apart from more sales, you also get more customer feedback. It will allow you to make more informed product development decisions and quickly fix any problems that come up.
Multi-channel marketing can be a goldmine of information if you have systems in place that allow you to track customer movement from channel to channel, the conversion rates on different channels and allow you to gather the valuable feedback.
The extra data will allow you to make smarter pitches in the future and shows you where you should direct particular customers to increase the chance of netting a sale.
How to start a multi-channel marketing strategy
To get your very own multi-channel marketing strategy started, you should keep in mind that there are a few requirements and conditions you need to fulfill to make it a success.
Below you can find a few ideas on what to expect and how you should react when setting up a multi-channel marketing strategy.
1. Channels should cooperate with each other
First off, multi-channel marketing is not just about making several sales channels available. If you start by setting up a ton of different channels and then just hope that they will bring extra revenue, you will end up doing a lot more work and not seeing a great return on your investment.
The trick is to have several different channels working together. You want to make it really easy for potential customers to move from channel to channel. The sooner they can reach their favorite channel, the greater the chances of you getting another sale.
To make easy switching possible, make sure that there’s always an alternative route available. For example, you can include a phone number or an email address in you catalog. In the same way, you can offer live chat in your online store. This way, customers have several options to choose from when wanting to get something from you.
2. Multi-channel campaigns
Since it takes a few contacts, or touches, with your business to make a sale, you should make sure that all your channels advertise your product in a similar way. If they all run completely different campaigns, your customers may see them as several different products instead of a single product advertised across several channels.
Make sure that feeling of familiarity is present. Customers who see your campaign should go “Oh, I saw that already in TV/email/catalogue” when spotting your website advertisement. Score a couple of ‘Ohs’ like that and you will get a sale.
IKEA is a great example of a company that keeps a very unified look in their marketing. No matter if it’s their website, their catalogs or their ads, you always can tell that it’s IKEA by the unique font, the art direction or the characteristic cardboard elements.
3. Start small and start smart
You don’t have to go for absolutely all channels. If you know that very few of your customers would like to call you to order something, you can skip phone as a channel and focus on more lucrative alternatives.
Talk to your customers and see which channels they use the most. Preparing a simple Google Forms survey will take 5 minutes of your time and will give you a lot of information on the channel preferences of your customers. You can start with the 3-4 most popular channels and build your way up from that. When you feel confident that your presence is well established on a channel, you can move to another.
4. Know who you’re selling to
Knowing who to pitch to is as important as knowing where to pitch. You need to know who you are addressing. This is why it’s smart to create ‘buyer personas’ – the customers you might run into when selling on various channels. These buyer personas represent different group of customers interested in your product. By tailoring your message appropriately to those groups, you can increase your chances of making a sale.
Keep in mind that the ‘core’ of the campaign should remain the same across different channels. You don’t want to sacrifice the familiarity effect. You should make small adjustments to the way you tell the message, but the message itself should stay the same.
Here's an example survey you can put together in a couple of minutes:
5. Tools that will help you better understand your customers
You will need to do two things to make that happen: keep track of your customers and see which actions drives sales.
For the first part, you will need to have a CRM system in place. CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and it’s a tool that allows you to keep track of all the interactions your company has with a customer. When picking up a CRM tool, make sure that you would have the ability to connect all your channels to the CRM so that no interaction goes unrecorded.
For the second part, you will need analytics tool that will allow you to look at the way customers are moving through your website to make a purchase. Using this information, you can optimize those paths and improve your sales conversion.
You can’t have multi-channel marketing without multi-channel customer service
When selling on multiple channels, you also need to be ready to answer customer service questions on those channels. You can’t simply start selling on 10 different channels and wish for the best when customers start asking questions.
The help option should always be available and, preferably, it shouldn’t require switching to a different channel. When doing multi-channel customer service, you have a number of channels to work with:
- email (cheap and fairly reliable but tends to be slow),
- phone (much faster than email, but takes a lot of manpower),
- live chat (as fast as phone and you can have several conversations at a time,
- help desk (good when email is not enough and you need to organize)
- social media (not optimal but you need to be ready to answer customer service questions here)
- self-service (the most scalable form of help that doesn’t require an agent).
Are you already selling on multiple platforms? What are your experiences with multi-channel marketing so far? Feel free to share your successful and failed experiments in the comments!
Photo courtesy of Gareth Hannaford via Creative Commons.