Cross-channel marketing sounds simple enough; engage with your customers across different channels. Personalize your message; adapt it to your customers’ intentions, behavior and thoughts. Although in theory this sounds simple, in practice it’s nothing more than a revolution.

The challenge is that to truly do cross-channel marketing, the focus should be on the customer, not on your product or content. The customer should be the center point of attention, and organizations, processes and technology need to radically adapt to realize this.

Hail to the King

For years we have powered our websites using web content management systems, which inherently use content as the basis of your communication. Content was king.

Now, the customer is more and more in control. Personalization is the norm, not the exception. Customers switch websites, use social media, use mobile phones and expect an integrated experience. What is needed is not putting the content in control, but the customer. Content is not king anymore; the customer is king, and content is his queen. Content should wrap around the customer like a blanket, be there where and when the customer wants it, on the channel he or she prefers. This is what cross-channel marketing is all about.

Here is a nice fact that states the above. Forrester just published a new report, the WCM wave, and adjusted the name WCM (web content management) to CXM (customer experience management). What is significant here? Content is not in the title anymore, but the word customer is!

Effects of a New Paradigm

This new paradigm, cross-channel marketing, creates all sorts of challenges. When content is not in control anymore, but should just “be there,” content should have excellent metadata and be channel independent, to get picked up at the right moment and served to the right customer on the right channel.

Customer information and preferences therefore should be stored centrally. As the enterprise creates more and more separate silos of customer data per channel (read more about this in my previous article), this will be a problem for the future. The enterprise institutional memory and knowledge of the customer is now shattered across those silos, which is the opposite of what is needed to serve the customer the right content at the right time at the right channel: centralized customer knowledge.

Organizations should focus on the customer, not on content, and think in persona’s and segments. They should work on customer journey scenarios and look at channel-switching behavior. Because larger organizations are still organized by their various channels, and customers are getting more and more used to channel switching, this will introduce problems. For example, does a customer have the same experience when he switches from the website to the Facebook page of a company? Or, even harder, does a customer have the same experience when he switches from the website to the physical store?

Technology should also be evaluated for this new paradigm. Is your CRM system open enough to integrate with other customer data silos? Is your WCM ready for excellent metadata management and channel independent storage and retrieval? Can your analytics tool work cross-channel? Can email campaign management software be integrated in the other channels?

Acceleration of Channels

The trend is irreversible, and will only accelerate. New channels are arriving all the time and customers are increasingly getting used to switching channels to use the channel that suits them best at that very moment, and expect relevant content wherever they are. That’s why every organization that works with customers should prepare themselves and start creating relevant and timely conversations with customers across all channels. The ones that will do this best will be the future market leaders. Are you ready for cross-channel marketing?

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