One bright spot of the 2009 economy is that poor economies force us to become more efficient with our resources. We need to get the most out of what we have at our fingertips. For a lot of businesses, hunting down their customers across channels is a good place to start.
Over the past few years, multichannel retailers have been forced to purchase systems to help optimize their channels. One system manages e-mail, another manages direct mail, a third manages your Web data and a fourth manages your search engine optimization and search engine marketing tactics. In the end, we have a number of disparate operations that have no understanding of the big picture in your marketing strategy. Now is the time to consolidate those efforts into a single source of truth.
For those of you who market across multiple channels, integrating the full customer view is key to understanding how well you’re doing — or not. Take, for example, search engine marketing. Using just the data that you get from Google or your Web Analytics team, you can determine which search terms drive the most traffic or the most conversions and continue to invest down that path. But, is this really the right investment? A search term may drive more traffic, but is it the most desirable traffic that you are seeking, and what percent of offline transactions are affected by the search engine marketing? Now, if you were able to overlay the search information into the marketing database, you can see how many offline transactions were affected by search and apply lifetime value and profitability analysis to the keywords to make a more informed decision.
Tracking all of this customer activity across channels has created a lot of opportunity — and questions. But technology has joined in the hunt. As customer interaction channels have proliferated, there has also been an explosion in integration technologies such as SOAP (simple object access protocol) -based Web services to underpin our ability to pull together these new channels. The vendor community has done a pretty stellar job of using Web services to create application programmatic interfaces (APIs) to aid in the integration effort. Now is the time to apply your energy and efforts to using those capabilities to create a comprehensive view of your customer and your marketing activities around that customer.
For those of you with IT departments to handle this opportunity, congratulations and consider yourself lucky. Those of you without that luxury might be considering outsourcing to a solid marketing automation provider that offers a good hosting option. You’ll want a database structure that supports online and offline channels as well as an extensive capability to integrate with downstream execution engines such as email, behavioral targeting, point of sale and call center applications. Your goal? A single source to manage your entire marketing eco-system — consolidation that can cut your marketing infrastructure budget by 35% to 50%.
In the end, this economy is forcing organizations to adopt new ways to become more efficient. Often, this is best done by adopting new technologies to help consolidate decisions and effort into one source. The upside of 2009’s challenging economy may be that it helps to usher in a new era that empowers marketers to make better, more cost-efficient decisions as they hunt for the true picture of their customers across all their channels.
Jeff Hassemer is VP of product management at Entiera.