A marketer’s multi-channel dilemma: everything to everyone, everywhere

Avoiding the trap

In his book Marketing in the 21st Century: Interactive and multi-channel marketing, Marketing Professor Bruce Keillor offers four interrelated components that constitute eCRM campaigns. Firstly, he says, eCRM programs aim to use the Internet to understand the customer. Secondly, eCRM helps marketers to match products with the ‘right’ customers. Thirdly, eCRM sells to customers on – and off – line. The fourth – and the most important – component, according to Keillor, is that eCRM aims to provide customers with the service they need.

Keillor does not mention Mckinsey “’3E’ trap”: Mckinsey Company’s research team coined the term as a warning to marketers – the “’3E’ trap” means trying to offer “everything to everyone, everywhere.”

The ‘3E’ trap has special ramifications concerning marketer’s focus – both strategic and financial.  As the number of marketing channels swells, marketers are faced with an ever-increasing drain on their time and budget. Marketer’s best bet is to work across available channels, leveraging and balancing resources. According to crmbuyer.com “[t]he main purpose of cross-channel marketing is to coordinate efforts across channels to drive a consistent message for a marketing campaign [….]  It ensures enhanced ROI by optimizing the channel usage, ensuring higher interaction among the channels at regular intervals.”

But how can marketers decide where to focus their time, attention and resources for the best return on investment? The answer is to first start by implementing proper measurement across each channel.

Measuring as a subtle art of mix-and-match

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw argued that his tailor was, by far, his most sensible observer – “he took my measurement anew every time he saw me, while all the rest went on with their old measurements and expected them to fit me.”

The same principle should apply when marketers wish to implement channel-specific measurement: on the one hand, a singular metric is required so that the results from each channel can be measured consistently. At the same time – marketers need to be aware that each channel is a unique communication, integration and transaction track.

Channels have addressable, unique identifiers: email has an email address, each mobile has its own telephone number, social sites have account “identity” and websites use cookies – while these are useful identifiers, marketers could clearly benefit from a consistent, centralised identifier that maps customer interactions across multiple channels.

The fusion between profiles – as a consistent metric – and each channel’s unique identifier facilitates the assignment of weightings and values to these profiles, enabling marketers to determine which channels are most effective.
The Internet Encyclopedia defines user profile as “Information that describes a particular user”. It relates to user’s preferences, needs, goals, and expectations. Previously, we have discussed personalisation principles, including the fact that user profiles can be behavioural (“what they do”) and factual (“what they tell us”) and that data may be collected explicitly, through forms, questionnaires, product rankings or surveys filled in by the user, or implicitly – on the client side, through collecting cookies, for example, or on the server side – through log-analysis.

A paper (PDF) discussing techniques involved in the personalisation process, argues that personalisation enables a channel (in this case, a website) to use past knowledge on user behaviour (or behaviour by other users with similar profiles) to make recommendations that are based on past purchases, devise marketing messages that are based on user interests, and adjust prices and products according to user profiles.

Even if no additional information exists, “by simply assuming that user actions in the past are repeated in the future, we can predict a user’s future interactions”. Such predictions can then be fed back into existing user profiles. According to the paper, building a model of the user is “[c]entral to this task of learning to personalize.” Each action taken by the user is done in the context of a specific task, “and the main question is what information is available so that the process of predicting the future can be maximally informed by the past.”

The ability to utilise profiles, to focus on specific user tasks and information from the past, improves a marketer’s ability to identify the most effective channels, and – through personalisation – to improve user experience, preserve precious resources and allocate them more effectively to relevant channels.

#Interactive and multi-channel marketing#3E trap#cross-channel marketing#eCRM#channel-specific measurement#singular metric#personalisation#user profile