Marketing optimization is far from a new concept. For years, marketers have focused their efforts on collecting data, analyzing insights, and improving functions within different channels.
The problem with this approach is that the customer buying journey is evolving, and people interact with your brand through more than just one medium. Before they make a purchase, customers will touch multiple channels—viewing social ads, browsing your website, visiting your online or offline store, signing up for your emails, or downloading an ebook.
You can optimize each channel for a specific engagement or conversion, but unless you create a more holistic marketing experience, you will miss out on important data needed to improve the overall customer experience.
The pandemic is accelerating a trend toward omnichannel marketing that was already in progress. The customer buying journey is changing at a faster pace now, requiring companies to be increasingly agile in how they market and sell. For these reasons, you need to stop optimizing within channels and start optimizing across channels.
Consider the following scenarios:
- Maria has complained to customer support five times this month about one of your products. Your marketing team is unaware of this problem and has been sending her emails pushing her to upgrade to a new version of the product. It’s a communications mismatch; Maria shouldn’t be receiving any messages to spend more money with your company until you’ve resolved her issue.
- Ryan is a return customer, but when he lands on your website, he sees a 20 percent off promotion for new customers. Instead of showing him a promotion he doesn’t qualify for, you could offer him relevant content on how to use the product he has purchased more effectively.
- Your email click-through rates are disappointing, and you set a goal of improving them by 5 percent. You tweak and test new copy, design, and CTAs but see no real results. Then you decide to look at your customer data across all of your marketing channels. You identify a segment of customers who never opens emails but does engage with your mobile app. The solution to increasing engagement is to stop sending these customers emails and instead focus on creating a better, more personalized experience for them in the mobile app.
Why Optimize Across Channels
I find that most marketers want an accurate and holistic view on customer data, but they run into organizational challenges in execution.
With the current challenges companies face, it’s increasingly more important for marketers to speed up cross-channel optimization. Here are a few reasons why:
- Consumer behavior changes quickly.
Do you know when and how your customers like to engage with your brand? Companies able to deliver a seamless and personalized experience across channels increase their effectiveness, leading to higher conversion rates and deeper customer loyalty.
- Companies need to build more agility into their systems.
As buyer behavior evolves, companies have to respond with agility and the ability to switch between channels and business models. Marketers need easy access to comprehensive customer data to make these changes swiftly and consumers expect companies to keep up with their changing needs.
- Unifying data across channels creates cost savings.
Consolidating customer data often reveals duplicate customer profiles, which means marketers have likely overspent on advertising to the same people. Pinpointing these inefficiencies allows marketers to accurately target each segment with the right message.
How To Build A More Holistic Marketing Strategy
Optimizing marketing performance across channels is not a small side project that a few data-driven marketers can take on by themselves. A commitment to build a holistic marketing strategy, with customer data at the center, has to come from the executive level down. At a leadership level, your company must first decide this is a priority and appoint someone with enough seniority to manage conflicting priorities. Then you can assemble a core cross-functional team from marketing, IT, and data science, as well as other stakeholders from product, customer service, and sales, to develop an approach to centralizing customer data from the various source systems.
As you begin this process, I recommend these best practices:
- Locate all the key systems that hold your customer data. Do an inventory of what kind of data you have and what it can tell you about your customers.
- Identify two or three use cases that would benefit from cross-channel optimization. Set a clear goal, and determine which metrics you’ll use to measure success.
- Avoid the “big bang” approach. Don’t try to change your entire marketing strategy all at once. Start by centralizing profiles, and focus on one use case at a time, making gradual changes.
The old way of optimizing within marketing channels was never effective, and now there is even more urgency to move away from it. Create a holistic marketing strategy, based on robust customer data, to better engage your customers—or risk getting left behind.
Editor’s note: The following article first appeared on Forbes.com as part of the Forbes Communications Council series, which you can view here.