How to Tap Into Multichannel Shopping

The multichannel approach will do for marketing what the remote control did for television. Remote controls have broadened our viewing behavior and made the experience more personal and rewarding. If done correctly, multichannel marketing will involve your customers more, increase the time they spend with you, and ultimately, it will increase the value of the relationship.

If marketing is simply about finding a way to connect with an interested consumer, then the more ways you have to connect, the higher your opportunity is for success. Consumers surf television channels to find a program that interests them at that particular time and on that day. They will likely surf your sales channels as well to find the best way to buy from you at that particular time, on that day.

Most consumers are avid shoppers, using a variety of venues to make their purchases: in the mall, walking downtown, through catalogs, over the phone or on the Internet.

At one time or another, most consumers will try all of these outlets, and it’s the job of marketers entering the 21st century to be there for their customers, regardless of their customers’ choice of shopping venue.

Offering your customers the opportunity to purchase through a variety of channels will allow you to capture a higher percentage of their shopping dollars for two reasons. First, it is more convenient for your customer to shop their way. Second, multiple channels give you more ways to proactively communicate with your customers.

Channel Strengths and Weaknesses

Many of today’s catalog marketers have expanded their business by creating multiple sales channels to generate sales, including postal mailings, Web sites, e-mail and retail. Each of these channels has certain strengths and weaknesses that should be considered when developing an integration plan.

While every channel has sales as an objective, some are better than others at achieving a transaction. At the same time, catalogers know there is more to maximizing lifetime customer value than an individual sale. Therefore, savvy marketers will use their channels in ways that are especially effective. Based on the objective, integrating the channels will help them achieve an optimal result.

Channel Integration

While each of these channels should be successful independently, there are tremendous gains possible from integration. Based on your objective, the following examples may help you optimize results:

Educate your customers about your product:

• E-mail your customer list with a link to your Web site or the location of your nearest store.

• In your direct mail offers, highlight your Web address or nearest store location.

• Within your Web site, describe product quality features in detail and reference this fact in print publications.

Grow prospecting file:

• Ask for e-mail and postal addresses from consumers visiting your Web site or retail locations.

• Make a soft offer in your mailing piece that can be obtained by providing an e-mail address at your Web site.

• Put a paper catalog request form on your Web site.

Increase short-term sales:

• Increase your budget for e-mail and direct mail vs. Web site and retail.

• Promote the same special offer across all channels for maximum consumer convenience.

• Use e-mail to recommend an add-on product to a purchase made through catalog and retail channels.

Increase brand awareness:

• Emphasize a unique selling proposition across all channels.

• Provide detailed brand information on your Web site and through retail locations.

• Use consistent logo and service descriptions across all channels.

Promote cross-channel utilization:

• Collect e-mail addresses during telephone orders and in retail stores.

• Collect postal addresses of those registering on your Web site or responding to your e-mail.

• Use e-mail for order confirmations and thank you notes for orders placed through all channels.

• Create product offers only available through one channel and promote them on the other channels.

Improve customer service:

• Confirm order status from any channel via e-mail.

• Allow for returns from direct mail or Internet purchases to retail stores.

• Add customer service telephone and e-mail addresses to all marketing materials, Web site and retail receipts.

While some catalog marketers have been using a multichannel approach for years, the Internet is turning almost every marketer into a multichannel operator. This makes it essential for direct marketers to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each channel and plan accordingly when developing a marketing strategy.

Letting your customers and prospects surf your channels will only increase your opportunity for increased sales. At the same time, these multiple exposures give you more opportunities to increase brand awareness, educate your audience, and improve the overall lifetime value of your customers.

Keith Wardell is president of, Fairfax, VA.

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