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Why a mobile strategy is an omnichannel strategy

By Melinda Krueger

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

1. On a smartphone, all channels co-exist: phone, text, social, email, Web, applications, video.
2. The customer journey is far from linear – it winds back and forth, online and off, mobile and desktop, in-store, at home and out of home.

Stop looking for data to defend or dismiss one channel over another. Do not accept the silos and turf battles as inevitable. Your mobile strategy – your marketing strategy – must be an omnichannel strategy. We need to meet customer needs where, how and when they choose. We must make it as easy as possible for the customer to receive and act on our calls to action. Here is a guide.

1. Start with the customer benefit. While this seems like an obvious recommendation, it is a primary pitfall for most marketers. We are thinking, “How can we get the customer to do X,” rather than “What does the customer want from us?” Tap these resources to inform your overall or seasonal strategy:

• Social media
• Ratings and reviews
• On-site search terms
• Popular site and email content
• Those closest to the customer – sales and customer service

2. Enforce consistent messaging and assets. Once you have defined your customer-centric value proposition and developed copy and imagery to convey it, appoint an enforcer – with teeth – to keep departments and agencies from adding their own spin.

Marketers worry about redundancy, but drastically overestimate consumers’ attention to our messages. Repetition is effective.

3. Reward cross-promotion. Get input from channel experts on how best to convey the customer value proposition via their medium. Require cooperation and reward synergy – a Twitter chat promoted via SMS, a Facebook tab for email opt-in, a home page feature on an app update.

We have come to accept silos as inevitable, but that is not going to work in the omnichannel world. Executives can and must create a compelling context for employees to work together.

4. Connect the dots. Consider the customer data that can be gathered via each channel and aggregated to build a cross-channel profile. You want to recognize a customer whether in your app, visiting your site, responding to email or SMS/push, at your location or on the phone. And you want to be able to use that interaction data to make your marketing communications more relevant.

There are both technology and marketing solutions to achieve this. Marketing examples include using email address as app user name, allowing sweepstakes entrants to select a text notification and site log-in with Facebook.

Consider the value exchange: I will provide personal data if there is a benefit to me. Effective loyalty and rewards programs are often the gateway to pulling it all together.

While technology solutions are not my area of expertise, those that deliver data to customer interaction points create the most seamless experience.

Customers do not understand batch processing. Where are my rewards? Why does this new password not work? Where is the coupon I was promised? Consider how you can bring disparate data streams together in real time.

5. Eliminate friction. One of our greatest challenges is to scale programs for those who are uncommitted to our brands. Yes, it would be ideal if everyone would download the app, but that is just one slice of the pie.

Do not create barriers by requiring uncommitted customers to jump through hoops upfront. Gather data and join when you can. Retailers aim for an endless aisle, where customers can buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere. This idea should carry through to any vertical – allow customers to find you and interact with you on any channel.

6. Ignore the hype and the curmudgeons. Having lived through the dotcom bubble burst, I am bemused by some claims of mobile pundits – We’ll do everything on our phones! No more PCs!

Let us be realistic – there are tasks that will always be easier with a lot of visual context and a full-size keyboard.

Strive to create streamlined mobile executions but also allow customers to remind themselves to pick up certain interactions when they are at their desks or on their tablets.

Beware of the other side of the coin – the “our customers will never” types. They defend their position with the lack of solid data and self-referential anecdotes. Remember that the dot-com bubble burst when the promise of the World Wide Web had only begun to be realized.

7. Learn from the masters. You may be a small business-to-business company but you can learn from companies such as Starbucks and CVS that are taking risks and delivering great omnichannel experiences. Those experiences set the bar for everyone.

We do not forget what it is like to be a consumer when we are at work. Retailers will always lead the way, because they have fierce competition and are adept at measurement. How can you apply the principles you see in action to your customer journey?

OMNICHANNEL MARKETING strategy. It sounds like a daunting task or the latest buzzword. But it is really a matter of making it easy for uncommitted customers to interact with our brands how and when they choose.

Melinda Krueger is Milwaukee, WI-based senior marketing consultant at ExactTarget. Reach her at [email protected].