For marketers, one channel isn’t enough.
Grabbing people’s attention has always been a marketing challenge — and it’s only gotten more difficult in an always-on world where messages barrage us from every direction, every second. But breaking through the clutter doesn’t mean sending more messages. Rather, it’s about sending messages through more channels: email, direct mail, blogs, telemarketing and social media.
Sixty-five percent of businesses use two or more channels in their marketing campaigns, according to the Direct Marketing Association’s “2015 Response Rate Report.” And 44 percent use three or more.1 “Every company needs a system for sending the right combination of messages while managing customer preferences,” says David Bilodeau, product marketing manager for Pitney Bowes. “You can’t just guess.” Bilodeau says when time-pressed customers see a consistent message across several channels, they are more likely to look at it. “The response rate increases exponentially,” he says.
‘Exponential’ Response Rate
There are many clever ways companies can leverage multiple channels. For example, they can include a direct mail letter with a QR code — a bar code that people scan with their smartphones to go to a website to view more information, receive discounts or coupons, or take part in a contest or sweepstakes.Companies can also use Personalized Interactive Video (PIV). PIV, as its name implies, delivers customer communications through video, with content that’s carefully shaped for each recipient, and flow that can be manipulated by the viewer. PIVs are generally pre-recorded with static content and are akin to a one-size-fits-all broadcast communication approach. Over the past 12 months, however, interest has grown in personalization, with video interactions built in real time and tailored to the individual. “We do this in other channels,” says Jay Bourland, SVP and GM of customer engagement solutions. “It makes sense to personalize in this new, important video channel as well.” Consider this: In 2011, YouTube users watched over one trillion videos, and half of YouTube’s audience watched at least one business-related video each month.
Mixing and Matching
Nearly two in five companies agreed that omni-channel personalization strategies will become a reality this year, according to the “Digital Trends 2015” report from Econsultancy.2 “Messages aren’t just going out to the universe but to a targeted list of specific customers,” says Bourland.
Bilodeau adds that going omni-channel helps companies stay ahead of the curve because customer preferences are continually changing as new channels are developed. “Five years ago, there were two channels: mail or email,” he says. “Now some of my bills arrive through Evernote, which is an app.”
Sending “hybrid” messages, e.g., adding marketing content to invoices and statements, is also a possibility. In 2013, 24 billion statements were mailed to U.S. consumers; typically, over 90 percent of statements are opened and read for two to five minutes at a time. That makes invoices a powerful channel for further dynamic customer interaction.
Nearly a quarter of respondents in the Econsultancy study reported that multi-channel campaign management will be a top priority this year. “The key to success is understanding customer preferences and building that into an automated system,” says Bourland. “You need to know who wants to be contacted by email or telephone and for what reasons. You need to know what kind of coupons they want to receive and whether they want them in a digital or paper format.”
He points out that multi-channel marketing leads to better collaboration in your own marketing department. “When you cross channels, the direct mail team, the Web team and other teams have to be in sync,” he says. “You can be more productive and push out information in a more timely manner.”
For instance, in an ideal world, email and postal mail messages will arrive in customer mailboxes in tandem to create a one-two marketing punch. Tracking when email is opened is relatively simple, and new analytics tools can determine with a high degree of accuracy when physical mail will reach a recipient.
A study from Technology Business Research found that marketers are shifting their spending to advertising technology that helps them plan, execute and optimize digital campaigns across multiple channels. One example is cloud-based services, also known as software-as-a-service, which allows marketers to acquire communications technology inexpensively on an as-needed basis.3
Another important element of a multi-channel campaign is understanding how customers interact with messages on different channels. “Too often, people assume that any marketing message is viewed in the same way as a piece of paper,” says Bilodeau. “But just as websites reconfigure themselves to be viewed more easily on mobile devices, omni-channel marketing requires you to maintain brand consistency while acknowledging that a tablet is different than a laptop or a mobile phone.”
This will only become more pronounced as companies use a growing number of channels and mechanisms to deliver their messages; for example, sending a coupon to consumers’ phones the moment they walk into or by a retail store.
“It’s becoming clear that one channel simply isn’t enough,” Bilodeau says. “You have to not only touch clients through many channels, you also have to augment the experience in those channels to stand out and create a stronger relationship.”
Learn more about the challenges of multi-channel communications, learn the signs when it’s time to re-think the communications technology you use in your organization, and when to consider insourcing vs. outsourcing.
1 “2015 Response Rate Report,” Direct Marketing Association
2 “Digital Trends 2015,” Econsultancy with Adobe
3 “Ad Tech Revenue to Grow by $100 Billion by 2020,” Tyler Loechner, Real-Time Daily, April 8, 2015