Developing Channel Consistency in the Digital Age

Posted on October 31, 2012 by admin

While the proliferation of digital channels brings increased opportunity to connect with customers on a personal level, companies must ensure each medium conveys a consistent, relevant message in line with their overall mission.

The digital age has arrived, bringing with it an array of new ways to connect with customers. Whether via email or social media, companies now have the opportunity to deliver relevant messages and encourage engagement on an individualized level. However, to cultivate loyal customer relationships, companies must seek consistent messaging across channels to sustain their reliable reputation.

Just as companies must come together to understand, develop, and maintain a consistent message, digital and traditional media must merge, not battle. We are not looking at a time of old versus new, but a time of convergence instead. Companies are beginning to embrace the digital space by integrating these new interactive technologies with traditional tactics.

In fact, according to Capgemini’s Digital Shopper Relevancy study, 60 percent of digital shoppers expect a unified shopping experience to become mainstream and expect seamless integration across online, social media, mobile, and physical stores by 2014. In fact, the study reveals that more than half of digital shoppers are likely to spend more money in a physical store if they have used digital channels to research products beforehand. An Experian Digital Trends report also shows that 91 percent of adults use social media regularly and are more likely to use brands that are active in the social space.

However, with the continued looming threat of showrooming, companies must quickly jump at the chance to use mobile to their advantage. With Google at people’s fingertips 24/7, it’s easy for customers to enter a store, explore the available products, and then conduct a search online to find a competitor offering the same item or service at a lower price. To combat this obstacle, companies are beginning to incorporate interactive technologies, such as QR codes, to engage customers within their brick-and-mortar stores and regain the attention of that wandering eye.

Yet, while respondents to the Digital Shopper Relevancy survey predict physical stores will become showrooms to select and order products by 2020, there’s no reason why anyone should count these traditional channels out just yet, says Jay Henderson, strategy program director with IBM’s Enterprise Marketing Management Group. “It’s important to remember that, when channels proliferate, the old channels don’t typically go away,” he says. “A classic example is when ATMs were first introduced, pundits were predicting the death of the branch. Yet decades later, there are more bank branches than ever.”

Channels don’t disappear-they evolve. And companies must exert their greatest efforts to make sure old and new collide in a way that promotes engagement and fosters loyalty.

Understand your customers’ behavior

Marketers and customer service professionals are flocking to these digital outlets in an effort to stay ahead of the curve. While traditional channels, such as print media and brick-and-mortar stores, have their advantages and appeal, companies that fight the transition to digital will only encounter struggles along the way. Instead, businesses must seek an even balance that blends all relevant channels in an engaging manner while maintaining consistent messaging along the way.

“Consumers have become more and more numb to traditional marketing and advertising efforts where they’re being talked at,” says Kim Martin, director of marketing for Voxeo. “Now, with the ubiquity of digital channels, people are growing more accustomed to engaging with companies and brands and being part of the conversation as opposed to simply being the target of it.”

Before businesses can cultivate consistency, they must first understand what channels their customers frequent most. As Brian Girouard, leader of the global consumer products and retail sector at Capgemini, highlights, the typical shopping journey goes through stages-awareness, choosing, transacting, delivering, and after sales care. In order to support the “all-channel” experience, companies must observe customer history so they may sense and respond to their needs consistently on an individualized scale.

By engaging across this journey, companies can develop conversations with customers in both traditional and digital channels, giving the average consumer a voice that would have otherwise gone unheard in the past. Customers provide candid feedback, helping companies to improve their strategy and increase satisfaction. It is only by listening to these voices that companies can begin to assess which channels are right for their client base.

By understanding the types of customers, their channel preferences, and how their preferences change over time, companies are bound to garner a better response across both digital and traditional channels. With so many channels begging for attention, companies must know where to put their focus so they don’t spread the reach too thin by becoming irrelevant and unreliable.

Henderson adds, “Just a few years ago, marketers would push out the same big campaign to everybody. Now with digital channels, there’s a greater opportunity to provide a more refined message to a smaller audience.”

By Anna Papachristos | Published 09/10/2012 in 1to1 Magazine