Integrating multichannel retail via a multi-pronged approach

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Acquiring new customers and managing customer relationships in a multichannel world challenges both large and small retailers. One of the most effective means to navigate the complex world of multichannel retail is to put a multi-pronged communication plan into place. Retailers who make the effort to strategize and develop a plan that best fits their business model will reap the benefits in this competitive market.

The right blend of channels can be the difference in making or breaking the bottom line budget. An effective communications plan can include direct mail catalogs, e-mail newsletters and technology such as e-mail notifications and intelligent shopping toolbars.

Here are some tips on how retailers can use these tools independently and as part of an overall communication plan to build customer reach, create customer loyalty and extend their brand.

Retailers mail direct mail catalogs to their house files and encourage consumers to shop on their Web site through special offers, such as money savings on their first online order and free shipping. This drives traffic to retail Web sites in a defined cost per action model originating from targeted direct mail shoppers.

Retailers extend their consumer communication program by offering a variety of targeted e-mail. These are sent to customers within an opted-in e-house file, again driving traffic to the retailer Web sites in a defined cost per action model.

Additionally, Web site offers such as cash back rebates, special retail deals, comparison-shopping, catalog requests and more help target the customer.

Intelligent shopping toolbars are visible on the consumer's desktop any time the consumer opens a browser window. Toolbars provide immediate and automatic notification of special limited time offers as well as search functionalities focusing on shopping offers. Shoppers don't want to lose the opportunity to shop because they missed an e-mail or it was blocked.

A strategy can't be labeled a success without an effective method of measurement. One strategy that works well is an A/B test.

For example, the retailer can distribute two offers, one that requires Web site registration for a purchase and one that does not. This accomplishes two goals: it allows the merchant to track the loyalty of the group that does register, and provides valuable information for the marketing department about what strategies work for a particular promotion.

With all the opportunities for customer communication available to the direct response retailer, the basic DM tenets haven't really changed. Develop a plan that fits within your business goals, test the components, then test again to beat your controls, and finally test some more. Your customers will let you know how well your plan works.

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