Drive Traffic to Your Brand, Not a Channel

According to some industry estimates, in three years, nearly half of all catalog sales will be made using your website. This isn’t surprising, given the strength of the Internet as a medium of convenience for consumers. But this shift has created a new environment for the traditional catalog marketers who, by a recent USPS study, are finding 30% of their new customers via the web. It’s time to think about marketing your brand vs. a specific channel.

The multichannel consumer sees your retail organization as a single entity; the channel is transparent and becomes secondary to the brand. There is a brand relationship, but only a channel preference. The growth of sales and marketing channels offers consumers new shopping choices, but it makes reaching consumers ever more difficult. Consumers are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages daily with their attention divided across an ever-expanding array of media including TV, radio, the Internet, print catalogs, newspaper and magazine ads. And consumer attention is now fragmented more discretely by time of day and activity. Consequently, retailers must leverage each of their channels to support brand awareness and drive cross-channel sales.

To successfully build sales, multichannel retailers need to create a communication strategy that leverages knowledge of their target customer. Retailers must combine their value-based segmentations with customer segmentation by channel, media and, if they have stores, proximity to a store. Each segment requires a unique contact strategy that includes a specific offer that supports the brand and is actionable across channels. As an example, if planning for an end-of-season sale, they can approach these segments uniquely:

  • For customers within a store trade area, the retailer should test a mix of sending a post card, e-mail, and a clearance catalog with an insert, all announcing the sale and even an additional discount for loyal customers.
  • For customers who don’t live in a store trade area, retailers should test a mix of e-mail and clearance catalogs with an invitation to shop on-line or via phone.

The customer should see and experience a consistent brand through creative, message, and offer, and should be able to act upon the offer in what ever channel they choose to shop.

Regardless of communication strategy, the organizational challenge to driving brand traffic requires significant change in the way the business views marketing investments. Marketing will need to be coordinated across all channels that require that channel silos need to be dismantled and reorganized around the brand. In addition, to measure the effectiveness of customer segmentation and marketing campaigns, a process of cross-channel response analysis should be established. Many organizations already use multichannel response analysis but often to vie for credit of a sale to justify their channel specific marketing investment.

This approach needs to be replaced by a cross-channel response process that focuses on understanding customer behavior that supports more effective communication in the future. The customer reacts to an offer from the retail brand in whatever channel is most convenient for her. The future of successful multichannel retailing is dependent on honoring her choice and building a strong brand relationship that will keep her coming back.

Marc Fanelli is vice president, Decision Sciences, for Experian Marketing Solutions

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