Multichannel integration: Tracking the incremental

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How much of your e-mail marketing generates incremental benefit? How do you know? How incremental are your search marketing programs? Your affiliates? Your catalog mailings?

Understanding what drives response in today's dynamic, fast-moving multichannel world is challenging. It is too easy to make a poor choice on the basic mechanics of tracking e-mail. It's even easier to make the wrong choice on your method for allocating orders across channels.

Multichannel direct marketing is in its infancy. As an industry we're still developing the necessary tools and the expertise. Retailers, service providers and technology firms need to come together to crack the multichannel puzzle.

In the days before cheap e-mail, direct marketers sent prospects and buyers catalogs or direct mail infrequently. Because the interval between contacts was large - measured in weeks or months - marketers could treat each mailing as independent. It was easy to compare the cost of a mailing to its resulting sales, letting marketers test lists and offers accurately. We could say, "This order was driven by that marketing effort."

In the Age of E-Mail, the interval between contacts is measured in days, not weeks. And channels overlap: prospects and buyers encounter a barrage of e-mails, catalogs and search ads during their consideration cycle. While most marketers have to understand the costs of their various marketing programs, determining which program gets credit for which sale is no longer easy.

How should e-mail marketers respond?

Take the big picture view
Don't evaluate your e-mail program in isolation. Taking e-mail results out of context can lead to bad decisions. For example, one national retailer adopted a strict "last-marketing-contact-gets-credit-for-the-order" order allocation rule.

With weekly e-mail blasts and quarterly catalog mailings, this rule grossly undercounted catalog orders. The retailer shrank circulation and harmed its sales. Another retailer used its tracking to monitor its new multivariable testing platform.

On each visit, the what-did-we-show them tracking code overwrote the where-did- they-come-from tracking code, artificially depressing the results of e-mail. Always evaluate your e-mail in the context of your full marketing efforts.

Encourage your service and technology providers toward integration
Whether your marketing database is outsourced or in-house, smart marketing requires a clear understanding of contacts, costs and sales associated with every buyer and prospect.

Such data demands solid integration between your e-mail provider, e-mail broker, database provider, search agency, list broker and merge-purge house. This isn't easy today. Few marketers understand the interaction of e-mail and catalog in driving sales. Few marketers manage search bids based on the actual lifetime value of the resulting buyers. Few marketers understand the non-incrementalism of their affiliate programs. Few marketers accurately track list rental conversions that occur online.

Such integration will become the norm over the next few years. Gain a competitive edge by partnering with vendors and technology providers already heading down that path.

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