What You Need To Know Before Creating A Cross-Channel Customer Experience
The concept behind cross-channel marketing is simple: reach your people at every channel they’re on. The implementation, on the other hand, isn’t as simple.
It takes a clearly documented customer journey map, a CRM database you can trust, buy-in from people who might not understand or see the value in marketing, and an IT team who knows how to link everything up together so that your data makes sense.
It seems daunting. And that’s a valid feeling, considering it takes a lot of brain (and financial) power to get launched.
21% of marketers feel they lack an understanding of how to run a multi-channel marketing campaign, preventing them from doing so. That’s expected—it’s complex, takes buy-in from multiple stakeholders (all with different goals and KPIs to reach), and requires excellent planning.
We’ll walk you through how to launch your own cross-channel strategy with the resources you have now.
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What is a cross-channel consumer?
A cross-channel consumer is one that hops between your various channels while engaging with your brand.
This could be your email marketing, website and social media channels, but also how they consume the content, for example if they switch from a mobile device to laptop. The list is extensive, depending on how many channels you use to connect with customers.
Cross-channel consumers represent a majority of consumers. Over 73% of consumers use multiple channels in their buying journey.
What is a cross-channel strategy?
A successful cross-channel strategy gives customers a seamless experience across all channels, which means they see content delivered consistently no matter how they are viewing it. The goal is to provide them with relevant information relating to their interests during each visit, pushing them down the funnel and getting them closer to converting.
What does omnichannel marketing mean and how is it different?
Omnichannel marketing is an approach that focuses on providing an integrated and consistent customer experience, when a customer engages with your brand across multiple channels. For example, in eCommerce where you might visit a company’s social media page, their website, and then in a physical store.
A cross-channel strategy refers to the experience a customer is provided across all channels.
How to build a cross-channel customer experience
Creating a good customer experience, no matter what channel your customer visits you from requires some careful planning. We spoke to Emanuel Rotter, an expert in cross-channel marketing and customer experience to get some advice. He broke it down into the following stages:
Run an audit assessment of your marketing channels
You may already be using many channels to engage with your audience, so it’s important to understand exactly how effective they are at helping you achieve more sales.
Emanuel Rotter suggests you ask the following questions in your audit.
How are they used?
Are they used regularly?
Is content fresh and relevant?
Are customers engaging with your messages?
This stage is important in helping you decide which channels you should be focusing your energy on, and how to improve them moving forwards.
Run an audit on your current tech stack
Once you’re clear on how you’re using your marketing channels, the next step is to complete an audit on your marketing technologies.
Like with a channel audit, this is an opportunity to evaluate how well the tools you are using are working for you, and what the gaps are that you need to fill.
This should include tools such as your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool, any social media tools, your blog hosting platform and so on. Any tool that helps deliver customer engagement.
We assembled a list of the the 10 Best Alternative Customer Database Software in 2021 to help you choose the right customer database software.
Check the customer data quality across all of your channels
As well as auditing the tools themselves, you may want to reevaluate the information that they hold.
Wherever there’s data, there’s data cleaning to be done. Data decays, there’s no avoiding it.
In one month, a list of 1000 contacts can decay by 4.5%. On top of this, you’re likely to have accumulated incorrect data through human error (typos or incorrect entry methods), not to mention inactive contacts (when people move jobs, or change email addresses).
Data cleaning is an essential task for a healthy database. It allows you to get your data in shape so you avoid sending email to contacts that don’t exist or using the wrong information to inform your strategy. This could go on to damage your sender reputation and you could waste resources by following incorrect data.
Data enrichment is an important step, especially if you just have a long list of emails or otherwise unorganized data. This helps you get more info on your contacts so you can upsell and have a clearer strategy from the start. When combined with data cleansing, it unlocks the power to send more personalized messages and use segmentation tactics.
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Emanuel says there’s value in “incremental data quality improvements”.
He advises to never ask for too much information from a contact in one go, instead collect little and often as to not overwhelm.
But how can this help you convert more customers?
Many marketers rely on content marketing tactics in order to convert their audience, turning visitors into prospects, into customers.
64% of B2B buyers will read 2-5 pieces of content before making a decision to purchase. In today’s day, you can’t just slap it on your blog and call it a day. That content needs to be delivered in different formats across different channels.
Emanuel recommends that your content marketing is ‘snackable’ at the start of a buyer’s journey, which means “easily digestible (so not too complex or technical), but always bringing value to the consumer.”
He also recommends repurposing your existing content, updating older pieces, or breaking it down into more bite size chunks to make the most of the assets you already have.
Most importantly, it’s about taking what you now know about your channels and your customer behavior. Use this data to inform your content marketing strategy to create or update pieces that are personalized and well suited to each channel to provide customer satisfaction.
Map out a high-level customer experience journey
The next step is drawing out what your typical customer journey looks like. This stage allows you to discover exactly what kind of content or messaging will appeal to your customers at each point in their purchasing process. Emanuel noted “the research part is something that's quite essential. Quite often, it's overlooked”.
The ‘Double Diamond’, a technique usually used in the design process, works as a method for creating problem-solving strategies.
- Discover: a deep dive into the problem we are trying to solve
- Define: synthesizing the information from the discovery phase into a problem definition
- Develop: think up solutions to the problem
- Deliver: pick the best solution and build that
Mapping out your customer journey is the first diamond in the process: ‘discover’ and ‘define’.
Look at your data. It should say what content or channels have been most successful in converting previous customers, so that you can identify what worked, and replicate it. If you don’t have that data yet, you probably aren’t ready for a full-on cross-channel strategy. Equally, you can strip out any part of your buyer’s journey that failed to attract any customers.
Identify your customer touchpoints, and be clear about which channels your audience are engaging with at each stage (e.g. mobile app or browser, Twitter or email marketing).
Take note of what actions were taken during these stages, and where your audience failed to take the next step (this could be a sign that the messaging didn’t align, or it wasn’t clear enough)
Understand any obstacles or pain points in the journey, and when they become a problem (are prospects reaching the end of their journey as soon as they are sent your pricing model?)
Make note of channels that do not drive the customer journey forwards (for example, do people visit your website after seeing a social media post, but fail to engage with the content and never return?)
There are many ways you can map out this journey, depending on your goals. Hubspot talks about different kinds of customer journeys:
Day in the Life
How customers interact with your company in its current state
How customers experience and interact with activities and products in their daily life
How customers might behave or feel in future interactions with your company
Best for: improving the customer journey incrementally
Best for: addressing customer needs before they know they exist
Best for: for conceptualizing a vision
They also mention the ‘Service Blueprint’ style, which involves taking one of the approaches above, and layering business requirements over it, such as services or technologies. This allows you to understand issues or gaps with existing customer journeys
This stage is all about having a superb understanding of what you are currently doing, so that you can spot areas for improvement, or identify new marketing opportunities. It’s common to have multiple customer journeys depending on how many audience types or products you have, so take care to understand the nuances between your customers’ purchasing paths.
Create a proof of concept of your cross-channel strategy and present it to management to get buy-in
Moving onto the ‘develop’ stage in the double-diamond design process, consider what kind of approaches you can take that make sense for your audience and your channels based on your research and the data you have. When it comes to the conception of your strategy, using your data and research is the best way to create a plan that you know will resonate with your customers.
Once you’ve created your plan, getting buy-in is a crucial next step. This is important so that you secure the budget you need from the top, as well as convincing management that you should be getting other teams involved (like sales, IT or customer services).
Build a proof of concept that clearly states where your current customer experience is, and explains what you will do to improve it, based on the research and your data. Having an understanding of the resource, tools and budget required is important to ensure complete buy-in.
Emanuel advised that adding “industry numbers from freely available reports and studies, or relatable use case reports from your competition” is a great way to convince your board, and provide credibility to your ideas.
But, be realistic. Emanuel mentioned that he’s come across many marketing teams that wanted to scale up their approach, but were restricted by the size of their team or ability to process new incoming customers.
In this case, he recommends that you look at the assets you already have, and make the most of your existing content, or well-performing channels already in use. Then, continue to measure, and reevaluate so you can incrementally scale up your strategy at a stable rate.
How to use your current data to a start cross-cultural channel customer experience
Once your data is cleaned up and ready to be used to support your marketing strategy, what can you do with it?
Emanuel Rotter gave us a mini case study example that he has found to be successful in gathering new contacts:
1. Look at what data you have. This is probably made up of first names, last names, address, telephone number, email, and so on. You may also have additional notes or information in your customer database depending on your specific interests that bring a lot of value in segmentation and personalization.
2. Use this data to build a small subset of your ‘ideal campaign audience’. This should be based on a client profile you know to be well aligned with your campaign.
3. Start a Facebook lookalike sponsored campaign. You do this by sending, for example, 500 contacts from your high quality data set to Facebook. Then, Facebook builds a new target group of 50,000 contacts that look very similar.
4. As you run a campaign to collect new contacts, you build a targeting campaign, excluding anyone who you already have in your database
5. You can direct those contacts to valuable content that you know will resonate. Usually to a landing page so you can gather contact data for these new customers.
From there, you have identified contacts via a Facebook channel, and through your website. Making this cross-channel experience a successful one is ensuring consistency and relevancy throughout their journey.
If your #data isn’t in shape yet, you may think building a cross-channel #marketing strategy is way too advanced. You may be better prepared than you think. Here's a guide on how to map out a cross-channel strategy:
Mistakes to avoid when starting a cross-channel strategy
When managing a cross-channel strategy it’s easy to end up with data silos and breakdown of communications across departments.
For a cross-channel strategy to work, it’s all about setting and exceeding customer expectations from the start, which requires all teams to be on the same page.
As you are bringing in other teams to support the effort, like IT or Sales, it’s important that you involve them in the process. Run reviews of the campaign together, so you can collectively reflect on how you are working and what can be improved.
Data silos happen when you don’t have a universal way of capturing information, resulting in a mix of CRM data, lists in your email platform and spreadsheet files. Ensure you have a shared mechanism that all teams are happy with.
Trying to scale too fast
Emanuel states that a common error he sees is “trying to start with too many channels at once without having the staff or resources for it. Which mostly leads to poor content, which ultimately yields poor results.”
Build a strategy that works for the resource and the assets you already have, then make incremental changes to scale up.
Not getting upper buy-in
This is also key to reducing the risk of silos, “If management doesn't buy in, they can't direct your IT department and other departments too to follow through with the channel strategy that you built.”
But getting buy-in isn’t always straightforward. You need to convince your management that any budget or resource you require will result in objectives being met. You have to provide evidence that you’ve done your homework, and your proposal will work based on evidence and research.
To summarize, a good cross-channel marketing strategy provides a customer experience that resonates with the user. It provides content that they want to see at the right place and the right time. Omnichannel marketing means making these experiences smooth for the user, and consistent, so their expectations are met whether they’re on mobile, laptop, on your social media channels or reading an email.
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