Go Beyond the Browser to Keep Up with Customers in a Cross-Channel World

In an era of 24/7 access to information across channels, devices and touchpoints, brand marketers who can seize the day and create compelling customer experiences across them all will be the biggest winners.

Unfortunately, true cross-channel marketing success remains an elusive goal for marketers. Some 85 percent say they’re hampered by inadequate access to data, according to a recent report by the CMO Club and Visual IQ. They are unequipped to develop a comprehensive view of the customer or interact at the most relevant touchpoints or do it fast enough to make a difference.

Optimizing cross-channel experiences for the customer requires the adoption of a framework that is based on a rethinking of how consumer information is collected and managed. It’s time to move beyond the browser – because of all the places where customer behaviors and interactions can be captured these days, it’s increasingly not the browser.

Here are three tips to help marketers construct a framework for successful cross-channel marketing:

1. Expand your data-collection net. Any customer touchpoint needs to be equipped for data collection that enables cross-channel marketing. It’s an expansive world and only growing more so, as customers interact with brands through applications; on mobile devices and websites; and through CRM systems, ad vendors, email programs and more.

Failing to track customers across channels doesn’t just do them a disservice. It means the loss of valuable information about their likes, dislikes, needs and behaviors that leads to smarter, more timely and effective marketing programs.

2. Make sure it’s integrated: online, offline, devices, channels. Collecting that information is only part of the challenge. It’s not just a storage problem that keeps marketers from successful cross-channel marketing. Connecting all that information is critical, and it’s the big picture they need to look at: integrating across channels and across devices, both online and offline.

It’s nice to know that John Doe is on your website. It’s better to know that he’s also on mobile, uses your mobile app three times a week, what he spends on suits or sporting goods, and that he went to a pair of Broadway shows in February. The ability to link information from all those disparate sources – online and offline, anonymous and first-party – puts you in a powerful position to develop meaningful customer insights.

But it’s in the final piece of the puzzle where the real promise of cross-channel marketing is realized.

3. Activate your data, in real time. Collecting customer data across multiple touchpoints is one challenge. Integrating it is even more pressing. The most critical need, though, is to activate all that information – making it actionable. That means finding ways to most effectively push it out across the ecosystem, to all the systems and partners that interact with customers, including retargeting campaigns, creating personalized Web experiences, or offers via e-mail that align with their interests.

What compounds the activation challenge is being able to not just do it in real time, but in real time across multiple channels. Anyone can drive out an offer a week or a month after a customer action. When less than a second elapses between a customer action, when you know about it and when you act on it – that’s real-time marketing. And the ability to do that across channels and devices is what creates the magic.

Building a strong framework on all three of these fronts requires a senior-level, organizational commitment to solving the issues that hinder cross-channel marketing success. It takes careful consideration of infrastructure issues and how effectively integration with third-party vendors can be accomplished, and careful design of the processes that support the framework.

Today’s marketers understand the need and the challenges of building a more holistic understanding of consumers and their behaviors in an increasingly complicated and fragmented environment. Now, they just need to get ahead of the adoption curve to translate it into the delivery of a better customer experience.

Originally published May 15, 2014

Josh Dreller was formerly Director of Product Marketing at Signal.

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