The Ever-Changing Point of Sale

This is the introduction to a series of articles about how to use existing channels to create more-sophisticated marketing communications to boost sales, retention, and response and how to create greater connectivity among channels.

In the 1970s and 1980s, when few firms marketed via more than one channel, catalog databases were measured through recency, frequency, and monetary value (RFM), and corporate marketing practices stayed fairly simple:

  1. Develop product.
  2. Bring product to market through the company’s choice of channel
  3. Measure sales.
  4. Improve the products or the methods of bringing the product to market.

While serving countless firms as a capacity of marketing and site-selection consultant during the era, my company focused on these questions:

  • What was the correct balance of product?
  • Which markets would be most responsive to our products?
  • What marketing campaigns produced the highest lifts in sales?

To answer those questions, we investigated product sales reports and performed campaign response analysis, determining which demographics were most responsive to our client’s marketing campaigns.

Then, in the late 1990s, a shift in the communications paradigm revealed for us opportunities with multichannel and interchannel marketing. Companies that had success in the earlier decades sending product out to the market found they could also have success attracting the market to their products online. The Internet effectively challenged a world that had been unidirectional and opened up a revolutionary new channel that provided consumers an option in how they learned about and could purchase goods.

Technology is allowing marketers to do what we’ve always sought to do: speak to individual customers as if they had truly individual interests in conducting different business transactions in different ways at different times. A century ago we were only beginning to explore how we could develop different products for consumers in the mass market. Fifty years ago we were challenged to provide different products at different times or different locations. A decade ago we couldn’t track a sale or communicate with the customer in a way that would keep a continuous, interconnected record of transactions occurring at different locations. Today we can finally accomplish all these things and have therefore come around to thinking of a more sophisticated framework for working with the customer.

We are ready to customize market communications for each consumer and provide each consumer his choice of point of sale at his preferred time for a sale. The consumer is ready. In most business environs, multichannel businesses will be the only businesses to survive the changes ahead, for consumers have demonstrated that they not only desire but will demand its benefits.

Looking forward, merchants need to leverage multiple customer touchpoints. The marketplace ahead is about choice and relevant communication. The consumer is seeking multiple ways to buy products and services, on terms and at locations that can’t fully be served by a single point of sale. The consumer is being conditioned to expect that the merchant has more intimate knowledge of his needs than ever before. To be successful, merchants must repeatedly demonstrate that they have the knowledge and products/services to offer each consumer a relevant, timely, and competitive relationship.

Larry Daniel is president/CEO Conclusive Strategies, a Austin, TX-based marketing consultancy.

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