Commentary

Mixing Up Multi-Channel Marketing

Email never works in a vacuum. For all of us struggling to blend a true multi channel program across channels, including email, my panel came up with a five question audit to help get us started.

As we prepped for this session, we discovered that Multi Channel means something different to every marketer, even those in the same vertical. We are Sheryl Biesman, Pharmavite (producer of Nature Made vitamins), Matthew Kirsch, Walgreens, Chris Marriott, Acxiom, and myself. We first made an attempt to define "multi channel marketing." How does this sound to you?

  • "Inviting and empowering customer and prospects to engage with brands across locations, media and contact mediums... in the ways they want."

Key phrases for us were "inviting and empowering" as well as "locations, media and contact mediums" as well as, "in the ways THEY want."

That definition became the first part of the audit - it's imperative that the entire organization speak the same language. We also debated the value of choice. "Customers don't think of themselves as multi-channel," Matthew says. "they just know what is convenient."

"We use the customer’s choice of favorite retail location to improve the impact of our offers," Sheryl says. "We only send them co-branded offers if they opt in for Walgreens (or another of 75 retailers), even if we know they live near a Walgreens.

"That is like having two layers of loyalty - to our products and to the retailer," she says.

Chris offered a great multi channel program at Sprint. If you have an online chat with a representative, you are offered the option to have a transcript of that emailed to you. Sprint wraps the text with offers, which perform at much higher rates than typical messages. Chris assured me that this is a onetime message - and does not automatically opt in the customer for Sprint email marketing. (Good job!) Sprint does promote their email program in the wrapper ads, however.

Matthew offered a few examples of how customers use coupons for photo and self serve products, in conjunction with pharmacy purchases. For his business, he's got three dimensions of multi-channel - brands/business units, location (online vs. store) and advertising. "Pharmacy is one of the highest contributors to bottom line revenue, but our margin can be much higher on in-store purchases," he says.

One of the risks of offering multiple channels is that customers may choose to interact in ways that are not always high margin or efficient for the marketer.

"We do a lot of manual processing to get this all to work," Sheryl says. "No one has a large team on email marketing - but this is really important stuff to be doing."

The five question audit:

1. Have you clearly defined what Multi-Channel means to your business? Do you use a consistent language and terminology? 2. are you open to the natural channel conflict? 3. Do you have access to data? Can you manage the data? 4. Do you give customers a choice? 5. Have you optimized the synergy between media channels?

How do you rank on that audit? What other considerations must we include as we aim to optimize the value of the email channel?

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