Assessing an organization's multichannel maturity

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Brian Dames
Brian Dames

It is a virtual certainty that we will continue to see a proliferation of new commerce and communication channels. The challenge for marketers is figuring out how to embrace new channels while maintaining performance in existing ones.

Success depends on understanding consumer channel preferences and how they change over time. This understanding requires a healthful dose of analytics and insight. While marketers feel the pressure to keep pace, most don't understand how much to invest (and where) and how quickly to move on their customer data integration and integrated marketing efforts across channels. Many marketers are asking, how far behind am I?

A Multichannel Assessment

To gain a comprehensive understanding of an organization's various multichannel processes, and its current multichannel aptitude and maturity level, five areas must be measured and scored: 1) strategy, 2) insights, 3) communication and execution, 4) performance and 5) enablement.  (See chart 1.)  In addressing these five areas, a brand should determine whether or not it has the following in place: strategies for planning and migrating to multichannel competencies; a holistic view and understanding of customers in order to apply insights into action-oriented, ROI-driven initiatives; coordinated approaches to ensure a consistent and targeted customer experience across all interaction points; approaches to manage and optimize integrated campaign execution, fulfillment and sale channel activities; standardized metrics, processes and enterprise-wide tools to capture and apply measurement insights; and, enablers (integrated technologies and data, and vendor coordination) for supporting the multichannel vision.

Click each chart for larger size
Getting to Multichannel Maturity

Multichannel marketing is not the marketing department's problem to solve. While marketing may in fact lead the discussions, our experience shows that all areas within an organization must be aligned if the company is to connect the dots between consumers who are spending money and which channels they are using. By completing an assessment, a marketing team, and an entire organization, can truly achieve the creation of marketing roadmaps to connect the dots between problems and solutions; establishment of priorities, in what order should challenges and opportunities be bridged; and seeds planted for the immediate and next appropriate marketing efforts.  

One important output of a multichannel assessment is an understanding of exactly where an organization fits in what we call the “Multichannel Maturity Continuum” (see Chart 2). As an example, a recent assessment conducted by one client organization revealed a blended score of between 3 and 5, on a scale from 1 to 5.  The true value of the Multichannel Maturity Continuum is that it helps answer the questions brands couldn't answer before and suggests not only where an organization sits today, but also what the opportunities are for improvement through the subsequent creation of a multichannel marketing roadmap.

A multichannel marketer's success isn't based upon on the performance of individual tools — it's based upon the collective effect those tools have, working in tandem, and the insight gained on customers from interactions with various channels. The goal is better performance and better multichannel marketing – not multichannel for multichannel's sake — and a roadmap to design and implement a unified marketing plan, across channels.

Brian Dames is group managing director of database marketing at Harte-Hanks. He can be reached at, or (410) 412-1759.

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