A new report on cross-channel marketing has determined that while this approach is being embraced by marketers, there are still many problems that keep it from being a completely successful venture.
The report, "The Key to Successful Cross-Channel Marketing," was commissioned by Exact Target, an email marketing and cross-channel interactive marketing software-as-a-service solutions company. It was compiled by Forrester Consulting between June and July 2012.
Perception Differs From Reality
Cross-channel marketing, or the coordination of multiple, currently siloed marketing channels, such as email, direct mail and social media channels, has started to grow. In a survey of 211 professionals about their skills and thoughts, the study found that the results were quite varied, even though half of those polled said that cross-channel marketing was important to their business and 75 percent initially thought they were well-prepared.
According to the report, in cross-channel marketing, there are four skill levels that range from level one to level four. The skill level is based on how knowledgeable and how technically equipped marketers and their teams are.
Level one marketers were “extremely unprepared for cross-channel marketing” and suffered from a lack of supplies that include limited knowledge, technology, data and staff. Those at level four, a small five percent, tend to come from larger companies who are able to properly train and fund the marketing sector. They are “tenured interactive marketers that are already integrating all of the channels that apply,” and the problems they faced tend to be based less on being able to engage with their customers and more on how their marketing campaigns are faring.
Most of those polled for the study were in one of the middle stages (34 percent of those in the study were in level three, while 37 percent were in level 2). Despite most of the 211 participants being either somewhat or adequately prepared, there are still challenges, as not many of them were at a level four skill level.
Some of these issues include: inability to respond to customers promptly, having controlling marketing project budgets that are dependent on IT collaboration, with the top two issues being understanding customer behaviour and trouble managing a multi-channel execution. Forty nine percent of those surveyed said that being understaffed was an organizational problem while 42 percent identified a lack of technical expertise needed to monitor the platform properly.
Challenges Spell Poor Engagement
Due to these issues, businesses aren't able to properly engage customers across a wide range of channels -- which is a key part of the marketing system.
“Customers don’t care that a marketer is organized by channels,” said Jim Roemmer, senior director of the addressable media team at Gap Direct. “They want the marketer to stitch the whole multi-channel experience together."
Staff is either overworked, understaffed or aren't trained properly for their jobs and half of the respondents said their sector own less than 10 percent of their companies overall technology budget. This lack of resources can lead to the bigger problems that were mentioned, as for example, being understaffed can lead to problems of not being able to properly manage channel platforms, therefore being unable to coordinate marketing efforts and missing out on potential opportunities to engage customers.
Even though some marketers, like those in larger companies, are able to overcome minor issues and have sufficient resources, they can still run into problems. The report says that there are three key lessons that all marketers should keep in mind.
- Adopt an integrated technology platform: To avoid any issues while improving the customer experience and ROI, marketers should adopt a tool, such as a marketing suite to help manage their cross-channel marketing.
- Lobby for a larger technology budget: As was mentioned, one of the issues that many marketing departments suffer from is a lack of funding. The report says that campaigning for more funding will enable even those at level one to not only improve their skills, but afford the technology needed for this task.
- Organize for collaboration: Staff should be organized to manage specific channels and tasks, making the team more structured, which in turn allows for a more collaborative effort.
The study also notes when using these lessons, marketers should also use a variety of interactive tools, learn at a gradual pace so that they are able to learn more efficiently and consider outsourcing support so that the operation can run more smoothly, without the main members of the team being overworked.
Overall, cross-channel marketing sounds simple, yet is a complicated procedure. It might just be the promotion of a product, but requires a lot of effort, technology and skills that many marketing teams just don’t have. Even those that do have the skills and technology face problems, showing that the system isn't yet foolproof.