The future of multi-channel marketing

17 Aug 2011  |  Gurdev Singh 
Gurdev Singh

Gurdev Singh, managing director, Communisis, says consumers have become multi-tasking, communication addicts - and if consumers have the ability and inclination to consistently engage with different channels, marketers need to react and become equally adept at multi-tasking...

It could be argued that in recent years marketers have never had it easier. Advancing technologies, emerging media channels and social platforms have created opportunities for brands to communicate and engage with consumers at a scale previously unfathomable, and given them access to a range of in depth consumer data.

As a result, a campaign involving a single TV ad or a one-off email marketing message to grab the attention of an audience no longer cuts it as multi-channelled marketing has begun to dominate. As consumers continue to embrace the new integrated media available to them, marketers could be forgiven for being blinded by choice.

One of the most notable trends of the media landscape is its tendency to change. No sooner does one fad arise, than another comes along to usurp it. Consumer's media preferences change and grow at such an alarming rate, one of the toughest challenges marketers face is simply keeping up.

This is why we are seeing such an increasing emphasis on data collection and analysis, which provides us with an accurate, up-to-date and dynamic view of consumer patterns and behaviour. With the level of competition in every single market so fierce, it is crucial for marketers to keep track of customer patterns to stay ahead of the game.

In 2011 there are reportedly 2000 million internet users, 500 million Facebook users and 65 million tweets posted each day. Furthermore, according to recent research by Ofcom, around a quarter of UK adults own a smart phone.

Consumers have become multi-tasking, communication addicts. It is no longer enough to simply read a newspaper in the morning in the traditional fashion. People want to read their news online or on their phone, post a story they find interesting on Facebook, tweet it, comment on it and engage with other readers from around the world about it.

If consumers have the ability and inclination to consistently engage with these channels, marketers need to react and become equally adept at multi-tasking.

A multi-channelled consumer is worth far more than one with a single channel focus. These consumers interact and invest in a brand via the channel that suits them best at that point in time.

This creates several consumer touch-points for the brand, providing a more encompassing and engaging consumer offering that enhances the opportunity for consumers to interact with, and invest in the brand. Recent research by Royal Mail into the ROI provided by various marketing activities revealed that media channels are complimentary, and that by combining direct mail with other marketing activities, marketers achieved on average a 20% increase in campaign payback.

A strategy involving a Facebook campaign, tied in with a mobile app, which links to a retail page is bound to gather a larger return than a single print ad. Advertisers have the opportunity to infiltrate multiple touch points of people's daily routines; they can make a brand omnipresent, but better still they can achieve this without being intrusive.

People choose to engage with platforms such as Facebook or apps, if marketers remain dedicated to keeping their attention through fun incentives or deals the return is bound to be positive. The growth of mobile marketing in the past had been slow to gain momentum as focus was placed on push communication tactics that were poorly targeted and rarely welcome. Now it is apparent that smart phone users fully welcome the world of apps, they have bypassed their buzz-word phase and thoroughly entered the marketing mainstream.

The app is perhaps one of the most significant developments as it successfully ties in a range of channels, which the customer themselves can then control. The fact that this tool also incorporates location technology, allowing advertisers to target customers according to their proximity to retail outlets, demonstrates the enormity of the potential.

Brands are unveiling new apps on a daily basis from M&S allowing customers to buy their groceries via an app to Channel 4 launching a game purely to gather data on their audiences and customers, perhaps against the odds, are fully embracing it.

The biggest risk to this multichannel marketing utopia however, lies in using all channels simply because they are available. As the unsuccessful ventures many brands have made into social media have shown, a 'me too' attitude can just result in wasted spend and reputational blight.The key to avoiding this pitfall lies, once again in customer insight.

Consumers sit at the absolute centre of this multi-channel, multi-tasking marketplace. Understanding their chosen channel preferences has to take precedence over using all options. Only in this way can it be ensured that brands do not just send their customers information, but target them via the most suitable channel with information and messages they look forward to receiving.

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