Unlocking the Multi-Channel Consumer

6/08/2009 11:42:00 AM


14 years ago, ecommerce became a household word and retailers set up separate P&Ls, executives and infrastructure to cash in. By 2004, it was becoming clear that eCommerce had potential to be the "growth engine" and was rapidly becoming the jewel in a retailer's revenue portfolio. This led multi-channel retailers in different directions. Some brought their .com's under corporate management and created a single reporting structure with accountability to a single marketing department.

Others, the majority, have continued to run the ecommerce businesses separately with some accountability to corporate marketing. This second scenario has created one of the most inhibiting paths to success with the consumer.

In the second scenario, corporate marketing remains disconnected from its website and hasn't learned to interpret its gold mine of consumer intentions data or obtain experience optimizing its digital assets for the highest potential sales success both online and in stores.

As a result, this has led corporate marketing to rely on agencies to inform corporate digital marketing strategy. The ecommerce team continues to either manage digital marketing themselves or hires a second agency to manage ecommerce marketing. In either scenario, the parties can be optimizing for different, but potentially competing outcomes. Most damaging is that the key insights to helping consumers "buy" are locked in silos with the agencies having half the picture and the digital side of the corporation holding the other half.

This has the potential to create a dichotomy within organizations with those who “know” digital and those who rely on the agency. In some cases, the .com marketing team is given fewer resources and less influence on overall marketing strategy even though it holds powerful behavioral and purchase intent information to unlock value and loyalty from the in-store shopper.

While this structure of agencies, corporate marketing and .com can be optimized, it can never be optimal unless data is broken free from silos, jointly analyzed and used to establish a common framework that delivers results (sales, engagement, loyalty, etc.) for the retailer. This leads me to a second critical point.

Everything in the digital environment starts with the website. Consumer behavioral data (analytics) must inform the marketing strategy that drives online and in-store sales.

It is now common knowledge that stores and websites work together. Customers visit a website to inform their purchase decisions, research assortment, colors, sizes, prices, reviews and purchase. It’s important to remember that it happens in that order of frequency as well, with purchasing being the smallest percentage of website activity. 98% of visitors to a website are doing something else other than buying online. The questions for a multi-channel retailer to be laser focused on are: Why did they come and what did they do once they left?

The answer to unlocking the multi-channel customer centric shopping experience is to break down the silos between agencies, corporate marketing and .com. All these entities must share consumer insights data and consider an internship or rotation program for employees and their agencies so that everyone gains an understanding of how traditional and web analytics data can be used to drive optimal site traffic, online conversions and in-store purchases.

Once retailers understand how customers use the website, they can begin to optimize their media mix around a single outcome…sales, no matter where or how they happen.

Advertising is designed to connect, but, only a website is capable of sharing information back about the most valuable connections you make as marketers. Interpreting and leveraging that behavior, is the key to delighting the customer.


Daio said...

You've brought across great points: cross channel intel on conversion rates of browse/buy & the intent factors, purchasing & decision enablers is potentially a killer app. However it is challenging without a common 'id' across the purchase & consumption channels. However is there a statistical way to derive the relationship without compromising privacy?